Let’s Talk About Sex [Positivity]

Sex positivity! A wonderful thing!!! And something that I think is fundamental to an effective feminist movement.

What is sex positivity?

Sex positivity (in my own terms) is the belief that safe and consensual sexual activity and experimentation is a good, healthy thing to partake in. 

So, let’s break that down a bit: safety. A safe sexual experience would be one in which all parties involved are informed of–and have consented to–the activities. Safety also means that protection that is desired by one of the parties is mandatory if the activities are to occur. If a party requests a condom, a dental dam, or any other protective measure, then the other parties should respect that wish. If other parties choose to ignore that or lie about STDs/whether they put on a condom or not, that is considered non-consensual sexual activity. The first party only consented to activities under the condition of protection.

Next, consent. The big one. Consent is huge, and often defined incorrectly. Consent is the freely-given (non-coerced), informed, enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity. Silence is not consent. Consent to one activity is not consent to any other. Consent may be taken back–if you said yes and no longer wish to engage, you can say no and should be respected. If you are being threatened, guilted, or forced into sexual activities, that is non-consensual.

So–that brings up the topic of coercion, which I mentioned above. Coercion is being tricked, manipulated, threatened, or guilted into sexual activities. Coercion is not consent. If a party continues to ask for sexual activity after the other party has refused, that is considered coercion. If a party makes another party feel bad or guilty for not participating, that is coercion. Coercion can also take the form of blackmail, drugs, and alcohol.

For more information of consent and coercion, you can click here.

But back to the positive stuff!!

Sex positivity is a movement against slut shaming. Instead of participating in a culture that condemns women for taking control of their sexuality and desires, sex positivity says we should allow people the freedom to make these safe, informed choices without judgment.

It also says that we should support people no matter their sexual choices. From pansexuality to asexuality to demisexuality, from homosexuality to bisexuality to heterosexuality, no matter the gender or genders someone is, they deserve respect and legitimacy for their sexual and romantic choices.

Sex positivity is a movement against patriarchy. Patriarchal ideas dictate that men are sexual actors, sexual aggressors, and women are passive in regards to sexuality. Sex is seen as happening to them, not something over which they can have control. Patriarchal ideas also render non-heterosexual identities and non-cis genders invisible. Sex positivity allows women and people of marginalized identities to have agency in their sexual experiences.

Sex positivity believes cis/het men are more than their sexual desires–they can and should be respectful and respected for their choices and others’ as well. It dictates that their masculinity is not defined by sexual experiences. It believes men are more than animals out to find the next woman to have sex with–that they are emotional and respectful.

Sex positivity says that sexual experiences or lack thereof do not define self-worth. No matter what you do (or don’t do) or who you do it with, that doesn’t define you or your morality. Morality and self-worth come from other things–generosity, kindness, acceptance, respect.

So, what do we do to be more sex-positive?

The first thing we can do is to forgive ourselves. Be gentle with ourselves regarding our sexual experience or non-experience. We try to begin unlearning the shame or guilt we may feel.

Next, we demand legitimization. We demand our partners to respect our wishes and values. We begin to take ownership of our own sexual identities and experiences.

In addition, we support one another. We have to support people who choose to have sex, who choose to be or not be monogamous, who choose to wait until marriage, who choose to not have sex at all. We have to support people with different identities, different genders than our own. We can not slut-shame, we can not be homophobic, biphobic, transphobic, etc. We must be supportive.

That is what sex positivity means to me.

Pizza Rolls, Not Gender Roles

One of the basic tenants of feminism is the rejection of traditional gender norms in society. We all know these norms, as they have been drilled into our heads from the moment we are born. The most basic of them being that women are submissive and inferior to men. Sidenote–sex is biological; gender is a social construct. According to these gender roles, men should be providers, should be tough and aggressive, should attract and have sex with as many women as possible, should not allow themselves to be dominated by women. Women, meanwhile, have the role of child bearer, homemaker, should be dainty and soft-spoken, should attract men but not have sex with them (the virgin-whore dichotomy), and should not dominate men. Gender roles begin from the moment your parents/guardians find our your biological sex. Now the onesies being bought are pink, not blue. There are bows and flowers and dolls, not trucks and LEGOs and firefighter toys. Children’s toys reinforced these roles, put them in children’s heads–as a girl, you should use a play-kitchen and take care of a fake baby. As a boy, you shouldn’t do those things because you should build a spaceship and fight crime. These roles are dangerous because they limit children from the get-go. Increasingly, it’s becoming more okay for a girl to play with boys’ toys (Woohoo! Empowerment!) but it is still a taboo for a boy to care for a baby doll. That’s a woman’s job, still, even though she can play with LEGOs now. (This is a phenomenon similar to women wearing pants but men not being able to wear dresses–women can act like men because being a man is good; men can’t act like women because being a woman is bad. But I digress.) So, anyway, to my point. This morning I was listening to a radio show, a very popular one, in which the hosts were discussing men’s egos. They said the things to do to hurt “your man’s ego” would be to open a door for him and to fix something without asking him to fix it first. For obvious reasons, this is repulsive to say. Ahem, if you’ll allow me to step up on my soapbox here (not that a blog isn’t already a soapbox): OPENING DOORS IS ABOUT BEING POLITE. NOT ABOUT MEN VS. WOMEN. WOMEN CAN OPEN DOORS–WHO KNEW? WOMEN AND MEN CAN BOTH OPEN DOORS FOR EACH OTHER BECAUSE IT’S NICE TO DO SO. GOD. In addition, the hosts said that if a woman opens a door for a man, the “super classy” things to do would be to grab the door and insist she go in first. CHIVALRY ISN’T DEAD, FOLKS. I WAS UNAWARE WE HAD TIME-TRAVELED TO THE 50s. I would roll my eyes like a MOFO if someone took the door I was trying to hold for them and told me to go in first. For God’s sake. Annnnnd the fixing things. Well that is just the kicker, isn’t it? A woman should try not to hurt “her man’s” ego by fixing something. A few problems with that. A) Women can and should know how to fix things. B) How weak is this man’s ego if it is hurt by a woman being able to fix something? C) If this happens, the problem is the man’s, not the woman’s. The dude can get over it. So, in general, my personal problems with traditional gender roles:

  • They reinforce a culture of female dependence, where women’s jobs are to attract males.
  • They reinforce a culture of male rejection of female independence, meaning that a man doesn’t want a woman who is independent.
  • They are heteronormative, meaning they disregard non-heterosexual relationships entirely.
  • They, in addition, reject genders outside of the norm (see this link on the gender spectrum).
  • They encourage women to focus on appearance over intellect, hard work, and other positive qualities in a GODDAMN HUMAN BEING. *clears throat.* Excuse me.
  • They encourage men to be aggressors, to believe they are entitled to sexual favors after “chivalrous activity” (i.e., I paid for your dinner, now you owe me sex) (the Friend Zone–that’s another post entirely); this fosters a culture of violence against women, known as rape culture.

Plus many, many more. So, to those radio hosts, you are teaching your listeners that this type of behavior is acceptable and encouraged. You are in a position of power, and you have the opportunity to use that to progress society along in a positive direction. These roles affect both men and women. I know that many of us tend to fall into these gender roles, even as feminists. I just ask that we all, including myself, analyze our behavior, and encourage ourselves, our friends, our partners, our children to challenge these norms and just be whoever the hell we please.