Sex-positivity doesn’t necessarily mean having lots of sex.
‘Sex-positivity doesn’t necessarily mean having lots of sex. It means having good sex, as often (or not) as you want it.’- The Sex Positive Blog
The discourse around sex-positivity and womxn’s* sexual liberation appears to be at an all time high. With Instagram and other social media platforms saturated with sensual images and heated discussions around sexual positivity, it may feel a bit daunting if you are unfamiliar with the term and concept. Social media often presents body positivity through a hypersexualised lens and may give the impression that in order to be sex-positive you have to look like an IG model and be having ‘a lot’ of sex. But that is not true! So once we look past the sexy photoshopped images and memes, what then is sex-positivity? The International Society for Sexual Medicine defines sex-positivity as having positive attitudes about sex and feeling comfortable with your own sexual identity and with the sexual behaviors of others. Someone who is sex positive will accept others’ sexual practices, as long as the participants consent and feel safe, without any moral judgment. Within a growing sex-positive community that is empowered by sexuality and sensuality, how do we make space for those who are not empowered by sex?
Far too often any sexual behavior outside of monogamous, heteronormative, penetrative sex is stigmatised and deemed ‘deviant’ and sexual practices outside of these rigid boundaries could result in shame or anxiety. Many of us have been internalising sex-negative messages for decades, so it’s understandable that it might take some hard work to change these perspectives. On social media certain body types are more visibly rewarded for sex-positivity.
Let’s take Amber Rose and her annual Slutwalk. She is well-known for her activism around sex-positivity and reclaiming and redefining what it means to be a “slut”. Although this is a great discussion to be having for many reasons, it is easy to see how it can be an exclusionary conversation if ‘being a slut’ isn’t exactly your thing.
However, you can be sex-positive and have a low or no sex drive at all. Sex-positivity is about doing what feels right to you without feeling any shame. It can be difficult not to compare ourselves to others on the internet, but it is important to remember that everyone’s journey towards sexual liberation is unique and can vary widely. Reclaiming your sexuality has nothing to do with the frequency of the sex you are having and everything to do with the development of your sexual awareness. Being able to explore what it is you want, or do not want, is the key to developing sexual confidence. Learning what your boundaries are and how to say no to unwanted sexual encounters will also help you develop confidence within yourself as a sexual being.
Sexual health education is at the root of sex-positivity and allows us to demystify misconceptions about sex and sexuality and eliminate stigma. Healthy sexual experiences, whether alone or with a partner, can be rewarding and an important part of development, however, developing a sex-positive attitude can be a complex process. It may involve unlearning internalised, negative messages about sex, working through sexual abuse or trauma or exploring what brings you pleasure. Only once we are able to respect others for where they are in their journey towards sexual positivity can we continue to have a productive and inclusive discourse around sex-positivity. Furthermore, this conversation cannot truly be considered part of the feminist movement or womxn’s liberation if it is not inclusive of all womxn seeking self-empowerment. Let us aim to make the community one that is encouraging, uplifting and free
*Womxn’s: This term is used in order to allow space for individuals who identify as trans, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or non-binary. https://www.dailydot.com/irl/womyn/