Shaming. Victim blaming. Violence towards women and the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community.
Sex negativity has negative impacts on our society. Take for example:
One study in Maryland, USA found that only 15.8% to 35% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police . The top reasons that victims don’t report include: fear of retaliation, do not want family/others to know, belief that police won’t do anything to help, and fear of the justice system.
Teaching abstinence only education has been linked to higher birth rates in teens in the United States. Not providing comprehensive sex education to youth is a symptom of a sex negative society.
40% of the homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQIA+ even though the community only makes up roughly 4% of the total population. LGBTQIA+ persons face social stigma, discrimination, and often rejection by their families.
What Is Sex Positivity?
The core idea of sex positivity is that sex is a normal and healthy part of life! As long as no one is doing anything they don’t want to do, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The sex-positive movement aims to educate us on sex and encourages us to explore our sexuality in a way that’s pleasurable and healthy for everyone involved.
AND, you don’t even have to be sexually active to be sex positive!
Sex positivity is about allowing others to enjoy their own freedom of sexual expression without fear of shame or judgment. You’re free to be you, and I’m free to be me!
Sex Positive Attitude #1: Consent
Consent is one of the foundational concepts that embodies sex positivity. This video shows some examples of what is and isn’t consent.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to consent is to always:
Respect your and your partners’ boundaries
Strive for clear, truthful, and open communication with your partner
As we saw in the video, consent received by coercion, intimidation, or while the other person has reduced capacity, is not consent at all!
Elise & Jaime have been dating for a few months. Jaime wants to have sex but Elise isn’t ready. Jaime tells Elise if she doesn’t have sex with him he is going to dump her. Elise has sex with Jaime and ends up enjoying it. Is this consent?
Sex Positive Attitude #2: Women & Feminism
You and your friends go out to a club to go dancing. There you see a woman who is wearing a very short skirt and revealing top. Your friends all make comments about how she looks easy. One friend says she looks like she’s "asking for it".
Although not uncommon, this type of mentality is a sex negative one. The idea that a woman needs to dress or act a certain way to gain the respect of her peers continues the oppression and sexual violence that women face in society.
Sex positive feminism centers around these ideas:
A woman’s body belongs to no one else but her.
Whether a woman wants to cover up or show a lot of skin, how she chooses to dress does not define her and she is worthy of respect.
Her decisions regarding her sexuality and sexual expression are hers and hers alone. Whether a woman decides to remain a virgin or wants to have sex with multiple partners, this does not have any affect on the content of her character.
Which of the following is a sex positive feminist value:
Sex Positive Attitude #3: Lgbtqia+
You work as a cashier at a pizza place. One of your delivery drivers quit and now you are short staffed. A person walks in and applies for the delivery job. They say they have their own car, and have delivered for 2 other pizza restaurants before. Your boss tells them the position has been filled and turns them away. You ask your boss why you told them that the position was filled and your boss replies “I couldn’t tell whether that was a man or a woman."
LGBTQIA+ individuals often face more discrimination in the workplace, are less likely to be hired for jobs or given promotions, are paid less, and are more likely to be fired than their heterosexual counterparts.
This type of discrimination is wrong, depending on where you live, it could also be illegal!
It is important to respect and celebrate the diversity of all sexual orientations and gender expressions.
A truly sex positive attitude embraces these differences and understands that no matter a person’s sexual preferences, they are also worthy of respect.
Check out the handy graphic below for ways you can be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community!
You are walking through the park and see a same sex couple holding hands. Your friend makes a homophobic remark. What should you do?
These are just a few of the basic concepts that you can use as building blocks to develop your own internal sex positive framework. Sex positivity is an ongoing process. It may take some time for you to unlearn sex negative ideas you may have been taught, and to re-learn healthy sex positive ones!
Take some time to reflect on some examples of sex negativity you’ve experienced in your own life. How has sex negativity impacted you, and what are some small changes you can make in your life to make it more sex positive?
Check out these additional resources to continue your sex positivity journey.
Other Bytes on the topic:
Find a sex positive therapist:
Sex positive resources and education for teens:
S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties by Heather Corinna
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski