In reference to one of my status updates on facebook one of my friends asked what it meant to be sex positive. Another friend linked the original friend to the wikipedia page about it, which in my opinion isn’t great. So I figured I would give my own definition of what it means to be sex positive.
I think a lot of people have slightly different variations on the meaning, but the shortest summation I can come up with for my own definition is: Sex is good and healthy when done safely and consensually.
That seems really simple, but unfortunately Western society is very sex negative. Sex is only really acceptable in the confines of a heterosexual marriage where the goal is procreation. In fact, in U.S. society, nothing should ever be done for the sole fact that it feels good.
For example, masturbation in a sex negative society is pretty far down on the hierarchy of sex acts because it is only done to please oneself. And when we try to convince others that masturbation is good and healthy we often find ourselves talking in terms of what it can do for your health. Oh, you’ll reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer, you’ll help relax menstrual cramps, you’ll lower your risk for incontinence in your old age, it will improve your mood, etc. What about: it feels good? Masturbate because it feels good!
But if you really want to easily show just how sex negative we are let’s look at what is acceptable to let children see. In this society we seem to prefer to have our kids watch someone being physically abused than to see a naked man or woman, let alone see naked people enjoying their own or other peoples’ bodies. Which would you think would be more damaging for your kid to walk in on: someone being brutally murdered or a loving couple having sex? I would personally prefer a child to walk in on the loving couple. This obviously can’t be true though of a lot of people who have no problems with their kids watching network TV, but when a breast is accidentally flashed they go berzerk. Because kids have never seen a breast before that’s for sure.
And the response usually of sex negative folks when confronted with the idea of sex positivity is usually one of morals, but also one of concern for unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
The morals I already covered. Mine are obviously different since I think that sex is good and violence is bad. But the issue of unwanted pregnancy and STIs is when sex positive and sex negative folks seem to talk past each other instead of engaging in an actual discussion.
Sex negative folks seem to have the opinion that unwanted pregnancy and STIs are there to deter people from having sex. It is god’s way of punishing the wicked. They blame sex positive people for teen pregnancy and rampant rates of STIs. And not only are we talking past each other here, we’re using different terminology. For sex negative folks we’re promiscuous, not sex positive. Even though, in reality sex positivity has no real effect on how many sex partners a person has or does not have. And we reject the word promiscuous because of it’s negative connotations.
Sex positive folks realize that while pleasure is good, it comes with it’s fair share of risks. Everything worth doing in life comes with risks. But sex positive people also emphasize using protection. We don’t see STIs and unplanned pregnancies as a punishment from god, but more as a consequence to being irresponsible and in general just something that can happen when you take risks. When you drive a car you wear your seatbelt. You can still get into an accident and you could still die, but your risks go down exponentially. And for most Americans, driving or riding in cars is worth the risk.
I, as a sex positive person, do not care how many people you have sex with or what kind of sex you have with those people. I care that you are having safe sex with people who actively participate in the sex and that you’re enjoying yourselves.
I advocate for comprehensive sex education because I feel that people need to know all the facts before engaging in sexual activity. Sex negative people, on the other hand, tend to lean more towards abstinence only education because if you tell the kids about sex they’re going to want to do it. I think that is ridiculous. Kids are going to learn about sex from the wrong places (and gain a lot of misinformation) and they are going to have sex anyways. It is necessary to give them the tools to decide when to have sex and how to do it safely and pleasurably.
Now I’ve been pretty black and white here. The truth is that everything is a spectrum. It’s doubtful that most people are completely sex negative or completely sex positive. They are somewhere in the middle. But it’s a bit easier to kind of lay out the different beliefs in opposition to each other to give you more of an idea of the differences between the two.