If you know me and have spent more than an hour of your life around me, you know I love talking about sex. If we’re good friends that share parts of our lives with each other, I probably have asked you “How’s your sex life?” or “What’s your relationship with sex and your sexuality right now?” as casually as I’ve asked you how your job is going. That’s because practicing sex positivity is super important to me!
I don’t necessarily mean I love talking about sex in a graphic, “give me every detail of your sex life and I’ll give you mine,” kind of way, but also, if you feel inclined to share, I’ll probably listen. I am incredibly passionate about sex education and normalizing talking about sex so we can take away the cultural shame and stigma surrounding it. I am sex-positive, baby!
What is sex positivity?
Since people’s relationship to sex is so diverse and personal, it’s hard to pin down one, all-encompassing definition for sex-positivity. In general, though, sex positivity is having a positive, open attitude around sex. People who are sex-positive view consensual sex as a healthy part of life that can be openly discussed without shame or awkwardness. It’s also important to point out that you don’t have to have sex to be sex-positive. You can have a positive, open attitude around sex without it being a part of your life.
Stigmas around sex
We live in a sex-negative culture, meaning we receive all sorts of negative messaging surrounding sex that creates shame and stigma. How often have you heard a woman or even teenage girl referred to as a slut for being sexually active? Sex negativity! The idea that “normal” sex only exists within heterosexual marriage and all other sex is taboo or wrong? Sex negativity! Masturbation is dirty and sad? Sex negativity!!! Despite being bombarded with oversexualized women in magazines and on television, and despite seeing graphic sex scenes in movies, we still have a bunch of shame around sex as a culture. Sex positivity is all about breaking up that shame and learning that sex is a natural part of life that can be discussed openly without judgment.
When was the term created?
The term sex-positive has actually been around since the 1920s when Austrian psychoanalyst William Reich coined the term. If this word and idea have been around since the 1920s, then why is there still so much shame around sexuality in our culture?! One large contributing factor is not having comprehensive sexual education in all schools. Some schools teach abstinence-only sexual education or even require a parent’s signature to allow children to receive sex ed, so some kids are either told don’t have sex until they’re married, while some children don’t get any information at all.
Sex positivity in education
Comprehensive sex education teaches things like consent, as well as LGBTQ+ sex, information about STDs, sexual desire, and the biology behind sex. Having sex education be open and inclusive in the information it is giving will create healthier attitudes towards sex in children and teenagers when they are first learning about it. Studies have also shown that students who receive comprehensive sex education have their first sexual experience at a later age, have fewer instances of STDs, and have a lower rate of teen pregnancy.
Now that you know what it means to be sex-positive, what are some ways you can practice this? For me, being sex-positive means knowing that sex and sexuality is an essential part of life. Sexuality should be celebrated. I feel free to explore my body and my sexuality without judgment or limitations. I accept other people’s sexual preferences and want to learn more about how people feel good, even if they are not my own preferences. I do not tolerate slut-shaming or the concept of “losing your virginity,” because these ideas perpetuate restrictions and shame put on people, especially young women when it comes to sexual expression. I also know that not everyone wants to have sex, and that is also part of being sex-positive!
A really important part of sex positivity to me is wanting to learn more about sex and sexual expression. I also strive to never “yuck” somebody’s “yum,” meaning just because someone is into something you wouldn’t find pleasurable, don’t shame them for it! It’s good for them, but not for you, and that’s okay.
If you’re interested in becoming more sex-positive, but don’t know where to start, look online. There are so many amazing sex educators online who help normalize talking about sexuality. Three of my favorite educators are Esther Perel, Shan Boodram, and Hannah Witton. Start with some education, and eventually, you’ll feel open to discussing sexuality as well. Let’s leave sex-negativity BEHIND in 2021. Sex positivity only going forward!