One of the most common questions I hear is “What do you mean, sex-positive? Doesn’t everyone like sex?” But sex-positivity is much more complex than whether you like sex or not.
Western societies have been influenced by the idea that sex is harmful, shameful, disgusting or sinful for centuries. While allowances have usually been made for certain situations, such as procreation, the idea that pleasure, the body, and sex are (at best) necessary evils has deep roots in many different cultures.
Over the course of the 20th Century, those attitudes shifted somewhat, but in many ways, all that we did was move the boundaries of allowable sex. And yet, many perfectly common forms of sexual expression continue to be placed outside the definition of acceptable sex.
One common way that sex-negativity can manifest is through the Myth of the Normal. When the Myth of the Normal is invoked, we define certain sexual acts or situations as normal, while everything else becomes abnormal/sinful/wrong/shameful. A quick glance at the average sex advice column in the supermarket checkout stand magazines will offer plenty of examples of the ways that we create the Myth of the Normal. Unfortunately, many people whose sexual practices, fantasies, and desires cause no harm to anyone are placed outside “normal,” resulting in shame, secrecy, guilt, and fear.
Making this more complex, many people mistake enthusiasm for sex with sex positivity. However, just as it’s possible to enjoy food and still have a negative relationship with it, it’s quite common for people to enjoy sex and still judge or shame themselves and other people. These sex-negative patterns have a deep impact on how we think about and experience sex. As a sex educator, I strive to help people explore the ways that sex-negativity affects them in order to move towards a more joyous relationship with sexuality.
In my view, sex-positivity is the view that the only relevant measure of a sexual act, practice, or experience is the consent, pleasure, and well-being of the people engaged in it or the people affected by it. In my experience, this is a much more useful way of exploring sexuality because it helps us see past our own triggers and squicks, set aside our judgments, and make room for the diversity of human sexuality. We can build a sex-positive sex of ethics, set and hear boundaries, and discover the sexual expressions that work for us while honoring and celebrating those that work for other people. This is what I see as the path out of sex-negativity.
You’ll find quite a few articles on this site in which I explore sex positivity. I invite you to read through a few and see if anything resonates for you. And if anything does, I always welcome comments on my posts or messages via my contact page.
I am also available for workshops, lectures, and conference presentations on the topic of sex-positivity. I always welcome an opportunity to speak about the many ways in which we can create better relationships to sex and I invite you to get in touch to arrange a presentation.