This is quite a personal blog post.
If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine, and if you bail half-way through, I won’t mind. But it’s something I really need to talk about.
I recently discovered that ‘sex positivity’ exists. When I googled it, it was like a light turned on in my head, illuminating half-knowledges that I’d gathered over time but failed to string together.
Fundamentally, I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘sex negative.’ I’ve never been repulsed by or judgemental of anyone based on their (mutually consented) sexual actions or choices. Whenever I witnessed people exploring the boundaries of it, it made me feel happy, if not a little curious. Maybe not curious to try it myself, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the kind of curious you feel when you see a new book which pushes the edges of form, or when you read a new breakthrough in history or science: I enjoy seeing people push limits and triumph.
And sex is nothing if not that, and a joyous experience too, so how could I not be fascinated?
What is Sex Positivity?
Sex positivity is the epitome of ‘stay in your lane,’ which is a fundamental part of my politics and personality, anyway. I think this article does a brilliant job of summing it up.
Broken down, sex positivity, to me, is:
- Affirming that sex can be a healthy part of human life that shouldn’t be shamed or stigmatised,
- Affirming the choices others make regarding sex, even if those choices are different from the ones we would make (as long as they are consensual.)
As the article spells out in more detail, it is not:
- Liking sex. You can like sex and still be judgemental of how others do it.
- Thinking everyone should like sex. For obvious reasons.
- Not having any boundaries. You can be sex positive and still have boundaries.
- Being up for sex with anyone, at any time. You can endorse the sexual activities of others without having to mimic them.
- Sexually objectifying others. Some use sex positivity as an excuse to do this. Don’t?
- Feeling entitled to sex. No-one owes you sex, no matter how much you want it with them.
- Making other people listen to your sex stories. Don’t do this unless they want you to.
- Ignoring power dynamics and intersectionality. Consent’s not just as simple as a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
- Believing that some sexual behaviours are better than others. Nope.
- Having an uncomplicated relationship with sex. As much as we’d love it not to be, sex can be damaging, traumatic, and dangerous. It’s a complicated topic, and it’s not going to be positive all the time. All we can do is support people and not judge them because of the sexual events that have occurred in their lives.
Sex and Shame
For the longest time, I paid no attention to my sexuality, and made no efforts to understand it better. I pushed it aside and focused on other people’s problems instead. But as we all know, that’s not a great fix. Sexuality is complicated, and sexuality means more than just orientation: it’s your libido, your kinks, your turn-ons and what attracts you, all rolled up into one.
I don’t remember much from my uni graduation ceremony, but a few words stuck with me. One of the speakers told us that, though getting a degree was a great achievement, in many ways we were just finishing ‘the easy part.’ The most difficult thing, he said, is to continue learning after you graduate – to maintain your open mind and remain positive about new ideas.
I think this is incredibly important to life in general. Especially when it comes to sensitive or complicated topics, the very best thing we can do is approach them with an open mind, inquisitive, ready to learn, and without judgement. We’ve made such great progress on mental health by doing this, but sexuality (and pretty much any discussion of sexual topics, especially the less-than-normal ones) is still taboo.
But sexuality plays an integral role in how we all experience life, especially for people who are not heterosexual, because they can feel alone and isolated, which is so bad for mental health and wellbeing. Because it’s so important to us, and so very complicated, how can we ever hope to understand it and find personal fulfilment if it remains in the shadows, half hinted at?
We should be talking about it openly. Expressing our own understandings of sex, our own desires, and listening without judgement to others, so we can all feel a little bit more understood – and continue our lifelong learning with an open mind. Because pushing things down isn’t good for us, and the cure is communication.
So I’d like to be more sex positive. Willing to discuss sex, attempt to understand it in all the varied ways it appears, and perhaps to understand myself a little more, too.
This might have been more than you ever wanted to hear on this topic. But it’s a conversation I’m happy to be a part of, hopefully in a more open future. If you want to talk more about this, I’m happy to.
I’ll be back to fantasy and history next time.