What is Sex Positivism?

By Taylor M.

What is sex positivism?

Sex positive thinking starts with sex, and begins to morph into a whole view of life.

This blog, The Institute of Sex Education Research, calls for the defining, conceptualizing, and critiquing of sex positivism. What is sex positivism? Many people from various communities of activism and feminist circles seem to understand the concept of sex positivism, but can one precisely explain what sex positivism is?

Since sex positivism includes the word “positive” which clearly infers to a bias and subjectivity, the term “sex positivism” can involve a host of subjects which can be positive for one person but negative for the next. Unfortunately, for many of these schools of discourse, there needs to be some type of objectivity in subjectivity. With any of these types of schools of thought, schisms are created.

Now, going back to defining what sex positivism, what should it involve? Well first, the term itself suggests that one should think critically and for a lack of words “positive” about sex. Sex positivism ushers in a radical way of thinking of sex. One of the primary points of sex positivism is to understand that, sex is sex. Sex should not be equated with someone’s morals, or lack there of. The act of sex is not only for married straight couples in hopes to conceive, this is only one of the many forms that sexual activity can assume.

Furthermore, when thinking of sex, consent needs to be discussed. In the aspect of sex, consent is verbally asking before engaging in sexual activity, and allowing the other partner(s) to agree or disagree. People engaging in sex acts need to be able to fully express what another person wants during sex, and the other partner(s) need to be able to communicate if they are able to give that request.Consent should be understood and well practiced in order to be sex positive. Consent is deeper than “asking for tea”, it is a part of our culture that we desperately need and how we communicate about sex. When our culture thinks negatively about sex it directly correlates as to why consent is a taboo topic to talk about with our sex partners. Consent and communication during sex and sexual acts is a key of being sex positive.

Furthermore, sex positivism holds a conviction of realizing that there are multiple sex styles. Sex is not always penetration, sex is not always between two people and lastly sex may involve pain (consensual always).  To only think of sex as penetration is very limiting, and dismissing of various groups of people when penetration is not the main part of sex. Two people who have vaginas are not going to explain sex with a phallus. Furthermore, people who do have a phallus at their disposal may not go about sex in any type of penetration. Secondly sex can be between more than two people. However the alternative is not just the steamy threesome between the monogamous straight couple and the girl has a hot friend, but this sex is still valid. Sex between 3 women is still sex. An orgy is still sex and while difficult to plan they are not just done in porn. Sex is always valid if it is consensual and enjoyable by all parties. Lastly kinky sex is sex. Kink in itself is a complex, evolving, and very big topic to break down in one paragraph, but just know that it is not in anyone’s right to kink shame another person. Kink shame comes from a very ugly place of believing that kink is only performed in the way that Fifty Shades of Grey portrays it, which was a not an accurate portrayal of healthy BDSM.To dismantle our way of thinking of sex as only heternormative is step two of sex positive thinking, we’re almost there.

As sex positivism comes with standards of understanding sex, there is the same understanding of sexuality as well. Sexuality affects everyone that is breathing, or living, whether a person identifies with sexuality or not. Sexuality is highly important to everyone, especially with people whose sexuality is not heterosexual, due to their oppression from societal standards. So for one to understand the weird and icky inner battle one who is queer, or identifies in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and dismiss them, in extremely toxic. Yes one can have questions, but questions can also be answered by google, not by any queer person one sees. Sex positive thinking is to fully acknowledge and respect another person’s sexuality, without judgment, or “I love you but…”.  It is fully embracing, never dismissing, and always supporting.

It would be inappropriate to say “finally” because there is no end to sex positive thinking, but I guess “lastly”, sex positivism holds the position to acknowledge the fact that gender is more than biological. Gender is a social construct with also a mix of other unidentifiable aspects that people come to understand our world. A penis does not mean man, and a vagina does not mean a woman.  There are also ambiguous body parts that many people have, and please do not justify a parent forcing their child to have “correct” body parts. They are simply parts, and we create our own meaning to our body parts, and how we identify or not identify with them. Biology is just one part of our gender experience. For most of the world, we identify ourselves, (or the world identifies us) as man or woman, and that identity comes with a host of acts, behaviors and different thought processes, that lead the creating a dichotomy of gender. The people who identify with these “alternative” genders are not messed up, they are not confused, and they are not sick and in need of hospitalization. Simply, they do not identify with the binary that is created when society says “man” and “woman”. People’s experiences are not our call to judge them.

Lastly, and this time it might be lastly, I would like to note that one does not have to be a kinky queer polyarmous trans person in order to be sex positive. Sex positivism is creating a space where these marginalized narratives can be heard. The goal of sex positivism is to  acknowledge these various identities and types of sex and be respectful of that. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can be sex positive. Your grandmother can be sex positive, and she does not have to change her actions at all, except maybe not watch Fox News. Sex positivism does not exclude people who are in monogamous heterosexual relationships who have not kinky sex, although one would be surprised as to how many actions people do that are considered a little kinky. Sex positivism calls for the ushering in of a new way to think of sex. Sex should not be a negative thought in one’s head (unless one is sex repulsed),  it should not be a conquest, and it should not tagged with terms such as slutty and whore like (unless you’re into that). Sexuality should not be “too hard to grasp” that has “too many letters now”. These “letters”  are people’s lives and identities and they demand to be able to live without the scrutiny . Sex positive thinking forces people to critique gender,  while still acknowledging and allow non normative genders to exist. Sex positive thinking challenges our assumed idea that gender and biology are interchangeable. Sex positivism is definitely revolutionary, and creating this discourse will allow people to fully and truthfully.

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