what “sex positive” means to me

18 Oct

Violet Blue posed this question recently after her sex positive link shortener vb.ly was shut down by the Lybian government.

I think (and this is the simplest definition I can come up with) that sex positive is a way to describe education that makes no moral judgements on a person’s sexual desire and that supports all sexual activity done between consenting people so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

But that’s pretty much where the simple definition ends.


Education could be anything from condom + cucumber sex ed to how you talk about sex and relationships with your friends.  A lot of good can be done in whispers to the right people, almost as much good as can be done with more formal kinds of activism.

Moral judgment may sound like the easy thing to avoid, but it’s not.  It’s really hard not to be judgy sometimes, especially when one is talking about sex.  Sex (especially a lot of the smexing I do) is very taboo, and its easier to make yourself feel better about what you’re doing by throwing someone else to the radical.  “Oh this?  It’s not kinky.  If I tied your face to the floor and peed in your ear, THAT would be kinky.  But this?  Not kinky.”  Now, if you’re not the tying down and peeing in the ear type, this can ease up the feeling of taboo you have about what it is you’re trying to do, but it excludes folks in the pee positive crowd.  And being excluded feels shitty.

No body wants to feel shitty.

(well… except for the folks who are into that)


see how easy it is?


moving on…

What constitutes “harm” and “consent” is also difficult to agree upon and determine because they’re very internal things.  Harm is defined in many ways (leaving marks, drawing blood, emotional distress, anything requiring time off of work to heal from, etc.).  But the one thing they all have in common is that they’re almost all part of risks that many of us chose to take for other forms of recreation.  Skateboarding (and most sports) cause a LOT of broken bones, and even some deaths, but there’s very little moral judgement made about the people who enjoy skateboarding.  Usually we talk about olympic athletes being courageous, role models even.  But in the end, they’re still risking their emotional and physical safety for recreation.

But we don’t apply the same ideas about harm and morals to sex.  Generally the “it’s risky, but still ok” bar is set much lower if sex is involved.

I mean, heck, even the cars we drive kill us on a regular basis, but most people are much more comfortable admitting that they speed than they are admitting they have kinky sex.

Consent is tricky because even if someone says “Yes, I want to do x thing with you, x, at location x with x toys”  it doesn’t mean that at any one moment in time, they still feel ok about it.  People are dynamic like that, and sex is complicated.  This is part of where sex is fun.  We don’t have the language to fully explain what we want.  We have to rely on a certain amount of trust and body language.  What’s sad is we live in a society where it’s unsexy to use direct sexual communication.  If the person you’re playing with is really “the one” (and wow, is that another interesting myth we have) they’re supposed to “just get it”.  No words are necessary.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that psychic.  And without communication, it can be difficult to tell if everyone involved is as into it as you are.

And since we have this cultural myth that suggests that if you’re meant to be together, you’re just supposed to fit perfectly there’s a lot of pressure to make everything work without communication for the sake of the relationship.

Personally, I think all that strife isn’t worth it.

Also, I’d rather get what I want and I know I’ll get it a lot faster if I ask for it.

There’s also a certain problem of privilege.  Relationships are complicated.  People are complicated.  Privilege and the lack thereof can make it difficult to ask for what you want, make it difficult to be heard, and make it less likely that you will get what you want once you’ve asked for it.  For example, in some ways, my “No”s get listened to more than other people because I’m a young white girl… at least biologically.  There is a large cultural myth surrounding my sexuality as that of the receptive, the passive, and as the victim.  My “no”s get listened to more because I’m easily seen as the victim in a sexual encounter.  A man saying “no” (especially a man of color, because we have this weird myth that they’re supposed to be hypersexual and predatory) is read less because they’re assumed to always want sex.


suffice it to say, being sex-positive is a LOT more complicated than just liking sex.


although I have to say, it’s a pretty good start 🙂

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