Sex Positive

A few years ago I was introduced to feminism. When this happened, I realised a whole movement existed that held beliefs I had always held but never fully articulated. I recently discovered the sex positive movement and felt a similar feeling.

From my experience of Sex Positive, I would loosely define it as a movement that embraces sexuality as a gift we’re blessed with, as something to be experienced to its full and enjoyed. Something which, contrary to what most cultures have taught in some way or another, is not something to be ashamed of. Sex positive encourages an open minded discussion of sex and sexuality. Similarly, wikipedia defines sex positive as: ‘an ideology which promotes and embraces open sexuality with few limits beyond an emphasis on safe sex and the importance of informed consent. Sex positivity is “an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation. The sex-positive movement is a social and philosophical movement that advocates these attitudes. The sex-positive movement advocates sex education and safer sex as part of its campaign.”[1] The movement makes no moral distinctions among types of sexual activities, regarding these choices as matters of personal preference.’.

Problems With Sex Positive

Of course just like feminism, or any other social movement, sex positive has its inherent flaws, and more prominently; people who define themselves as sex positive but embrace or express ideas that are not in keeping with the ideals of sex positive. Namely, what I personally loved about sex positive in the beginning was the freedom inherent within it. I found it to simply be a movement that said ‘whoever you are, and whatever your sexual preferences are, what’s most important is that you enjoy your sexuality and are comfortable with it’. That unlike other schools of thought on sexuality, such as the more pure/hetereosexual/monogamous values traditionally embraced by religious movements and conservatives, or the loose/sexually promiscuous values embraced by highly liberal movements; sex positive didn’t impose any standing on sexuality but your own. This was captured perfectly in a quote on Sex Positive’s wikipedia page by Carol Queen:

‘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.’[6]

However, one flaw I have come to find with the sex positive movement is that the more sexually free some of these people feel, the more they impose these values on other people. This feeling was perfectly captured in a recent article published by Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon.com entitled ‘What’s wrong with Vanilla?’ :

‘They’re not always that progressive. For all our bluster about sexual liberty and choice, there is a sense in some corners that certain freedoms are freer. I’ve come across a surprising number of supposed radicals who subscribe to a sex-positive hierarchy, with private monogamy at the very bottom and public poly-whatever-y at the tippy top. My unwillingness to make out with a female friend or participate in an orgy has been greeted on numerous occasions with, “You’re the most prudish sex writer I’ve ever met!” (I could go on to list my sexual “street cred,” except that would kind of contradict the point of this article.)’

The sentence ‘certain freedoms are freer’ reminded me of:

Similarly, I have found that, for a movement that’s all about not imposing your beliefs on others when you’re being conservsative, certain members appear to think the same does not apply to being liberal. That being respectful of other people’s boundaries and comfort goes out the window when it comes to discussing sexuality. While I  fully encourage open discussion of sexuality, particularly when it is beneficial to the individual, I believe it would be ignorant to discard all rules of social respectfulness. Not to mention that imposing this discussion on people who are clearly uncomfortable goes against the values of sex positive in the first place.

Sex Positive Figures

However, getting back to the main point of this post (yay sex positive!), one of the main reasons I am writing this is to introduce others who may not have heard of the movement to it- particularly to certain figureheads in the sex positive movement whom I have thoroughly enjoyed over the last year.

The first being Laci Green. Watching a Laci Green video is like sitting down for a chat with a good friend you can talk to about anything- one who’s also highly knowledgable in all areas of sexuality. By this description, I also mean that I have never seen her exhibit any of the negative behaviours described above.As an example, below I have pasted a video of the moment, topically. As you will observe from this example, Laci does not deal in extremes or hysterics, so she is a fantastic source to consult on hysterical topics such as ’50 Shades of Grey’:

It must also be noted that Laci recently received threats for the work she does. So any love you have to share, do share it.

The next figure I must mention is of course Dan Savage- a prominent player in the battle against sex negativity, and presenter of sex and relationship advice podcast ‘Savage Love’;  ‘oh there’s nothing you can’t ask on the savage lovecast’. Savage himself is homosexual and I think what is most notable about his work is how much he does for the gay community. As well as frequently addressing issues the gay community face, Savage and  his husband Terry promote gay rights where, in my humble opinion, they matter most- amongst gay teens, who are one of the highest (if not the highest) suicide risk categories in the United States; by creating the ‘it gets better’ project:

‘THE PLEDGE: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other bullied teens by letting them know that it gets better’

Dan Savage is not a one-cause pony however, quite the opposite. His work as essential to the discussion of every sexual issue you can imagine. To give a simple example, on a few occasions Savage has had  Jennifer Pritchett, owner of Smitten Kitten on the show. The service that Smitten Kitten provides, and conversely, the issue it is drawing attention to, is one that is a direct result of the silence surrounding sex. Pritchett discussed the fact that a huge percentage of sex toys sold worldwide contain ‘phthalates, a family of chemicals used to soften plastic, and other carcinogenic plasticizers that you might not want touching your privates’ (quote taken from this article from The Independent about a proposal to legislate against these chemicals in sex toys). But of course no one is talking about it because no one wants to discuss their use of sex toys. In response to this, Smitten Kitten provide the service that means people can shop for sex toys with the assurance that these are high-quality and chemical free. As Pritchett points out, it’s ridiculous to think that phthalates are so tightly regulated elsewhere, such as in children’s toys; but when it comes to such intimate items as sex toys; no one is talking about it.  Below is a video of Pritchett talking about this:

In my research I also came across Holistic Wisdom, who offer a similar service.

Another example of the positive influence of Savage’s show was the recent appearance of Cindy Gallop, creator of makelovenotporn.com. Gallop, who comes from a business background, created makelovenotporn.com based on her experiences dating younger men; where she found that porn (or more accurately, the lack of discussion of sexuality outside of porn) has had a profoundly negative effect on the conceptualisation of sexuality in younger generations. Among many other effects, Pritchett argues that this silence  has led these young mens to not be able to distinguish between fantasy (porn) and reality (essentially, porn is what constitutes sex education); and that young women feel less agency to dictate what they do and don’t like, and rather do what they are supposed to like according to porn. Below is a link Gallop launching her site at a TED Conference:

TED- Make Love Not Porn

1 Comment

Filed under Columns

One response to “Sex Positive

  1. Your first paragraph describes my feelings on this perfectly.

    Sitting around thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was more like this?” Then discovering that many, many people think the same way.

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