J and I have been having a lot of conversations recently about casual versus intimate sex, some deepening sexual interests, BDSM related activities, and other kinks. These conversations have deepened my awareness of and commitment to sex positivity.
What is that exactly? I feel like the phrase “sex positive” is thrown around a lot, without a whole lot of explanation.
Here is Carol Queen’s awesome definition:
“Sex-positive, a term that’s coming into cultural awareness, isn’t a dippy love-child celebration of orgone – it’s a simple yet radical affirmation that we each grow our own passions on a different medium, that instead of having two or three or even half a dozen sexual orientations, we should be thinking in terms of millions. ‘Sex-positive’ respects each of our unique sexual profiles, even as we acknowledge that some of us have been damaged by a culture that tries to eradicate sexual difference and possibility. It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.”
J and I heard Carol Queen on one of his podcasts (Sex Talk Radio), during which she emphasized, too, that sex positivity is about not only respecting your own choices, beliefs, and behaviors around sex, but also respecting and accepting those of others. It’s operating within the framework that even if I do not enjoy a particular sexual behavior, that I can understand that somewhat else does and not place restrictions or judgements on their behavior. I would also add that sex positivity means having non-judgmental and honest communication around safer sex practices and keeping yourself and your partners healthy.
We have also been discussing this in terms of some deepening and flourishing sexual interests that we share. We are both concerned, for various reasons, that it is not something we can just share with anyone, even within our open community. The judgements and larger cultural messages associated with these interests remain unexamined for many people, and it can be difficult to adequately explain our interest in them.
Sex positivity in my mind does not include the following: Slut shaming. Assuming that the way you operate sexually and romantically is the “right” way to be in the world. Pathologizing or demonizing or otherwise “othering” sexual interests you don’t understand. Associating feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment with your body or the bodies of others. Operating by cultural gender and sex-based double standards (he’s a stud, she’s a slut). (Of course, many of these things are perpetuated by a larger sex-negative culture. But I am of the mind that once you recognize that a view or action is sex-negative, you have the power to address your once unchallenged beliefs and choose to operate in a more sex-positive way. I have myself gone through this process a number of times since J and I opened up and actually started talking about sex. I went through this process around anal play, BDSM relationships and behaviors, and even stripping.)
I yearn for a culture and world where sex positivity is the paradigm that guides education and relationship structures and families. I do believe, as Carol Queen suggests, that there are millions of sexual orientations, and I want all of them to be respected and given space. And in using the phrase “sexual orientations,” I mean not only who you are interested in, but the behaviors you want to engage in and how. Relationship orientations I also believe are just as diverse and I wish they, too, could be understood and accepted in a broader and healthier way.