I like the phrase “sex positive.” It’s important to me and it’s something I live my life by.
But it’s hard to nail down a definition of exactly what this phrase means, because it changes with every person or organization that uses it.
To me, it means feeling fundamentally positive about my own sexuality. It means understanding that sex is a natural part of life for many people, myself included.
It means that my pleasure is important, my comfort is important and my education about my own sexuality is important. It means that none of those things should be ignored.
But it also means being critical about sex in general. Not just of the sex I’m having, whether by myself or with a partner, even though that is a big part of it. It also means being critical about the way sex and our culture are both involved, which is a little more difficult.
I think that we as a culture are unenlightened about sex. We are uneducated. We are irresponsible. And we can be harmful at times.
First of all, we condemn sex. We still prize virginity and equate it with goodness and wholeness. If a young woman has sex she is no longer good or whole. She is damaged goods.
On the other hand, we expect and encourage young men to be sexual, which is something that hurts both men and women.
Women often are told “boys will be boys” when they are victims of sexual aggression or abuse, and male victims of sexual abuse are often discredited or demonized because, hey, men love sex, right?
We also currently have a multi-billion dollar industry that profits off the selling and distributing of sex.
Even though there are people who have chosen voluntarily to be a part of the sex industry, it is still a largely misogynistic, abusive, racist and exploitative industry, and the majority of the people in it did not choose it or do not want to be in it.
Countless young people around the country are driven to sex work, or prostitution, through poverty, lack of education or literal force. Many of these people are women, many also of color and many more are transgender women of color.
The adult film industry is hugely abusive, as well. Many models are raped, verbally and physically abused, pushed past their physical limits, and even tricked or coerced into certain acts during scenes.
The type of pornography in which this behavior is most common is becoming increasingly more popular and easy to obtain, and is not usually the type of production that girls who enjoy their porn careers are cast in.
The porn industry in general is also racist, homophobic and transphobic in nature.
I won’t go into all the details of how terrible the porn industry is, because that’s an entire article by itself. But it most often exploits race, sexual and gender identity and physical appearance, which dehumanizes the people in the shown.
These are only three ways in which our culture views and uses sex in ways that are not positive. There are many more, and if we looked at the entire world instead of just the U.S., there would be even more than that.
So, being sex positive means more than just saying sex is okay. It means being critical of sex in an educated and understanding way.
Sex positivity should be a movement of education and action; we should embrace sex as a positive thing but be critical of the ways in which our culture uses sex in an unhealthy and negative way.
And we that call ourselves sex positive should be actively finding ways in which we can spread the positivity and eradicate the negativity.
That is the kind of sex positivity that I want to be a part of.