We speak often about sex positivity, but what does it actually mean?
Sex positivity is tricky in the way that it is both exactly what it sounds like and so much more. We felt inspired to delve into this topic because we have been noticing a number of misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding sex-positivity lately.
The sex-positive movement is a social and philosophical movement that promotes sexuality and sexual expression in all of its many forms, as long as it’s consensual. As you are likely aware, there is a great deal of shame and negativity attached to sexuality in present society. For example, think about “the talk.” Parents fear the day that their children will ask them about “the birds and the bees” and shy away from “the talk.” This sort of outlook and behavior surrounding sexuality paves way for a child’s first experience with even just the term “sex” to be associated with shame and negativity. Additionally, because of the shame associated with sex, many individuals are not receiving proper (if any) sex education. This is a huge problem. The movement was born to combat the wildly sex-negative world we live in.
Lack of information or misinformation leads to stigmas, as individuals fear and avoid what they don’t understand. Growing up with an unhealthy or misinformed relationship with sexuality can have countless effects on an individual which can translate into their relationships, romantic or otherwise, as well as their personal identities. We are constantly surrounded by ideas and images about sexuality, and many of us are sexual creatures, so why aren’t we learning about this part of us as wholly as we are learning about the rest? From this tragic disconnect, the sex-positive movement was born, and we have seen it come a long way in the last few years. The movement was born of sheer necessity because we as humans deserve to know and celebrate every part of our beings, sexuality included.
This said, it’s important to seek to understand movements such as these, regardless if we agree with them or not. In order to make decisions about what we do and do not identify with, we must first educate ourselves.
But Really, What is Sex Positivity?
Being sex positive looks different for everyone. This said, it typically involves the shared notion that sex is a positive thing that should be learned about, discussed, and celebrated in all of its many forms.
Allena Gabosch, Sex Positive Speaker, Author, Coach, and Executive Director of the Center for Sex Positive Culture, wrote a chilling piece entitled “The Sex Positive Renaissance” which beautifully and powerfully speaks to what it means to be sex positive. “The sex-positive movement advocates sex education and safer sex as part of its campaign. It does not make moral distinctions between heterosexual or homosexual sex or the type of sexual activities, regarding these choices as matters of personal preference.” Put simply, sex positivity is for everyone, it is non-exclusive, non-binary, and holds space for anyone who wishes to embody it.
Misinformation doesn’t just lead to fear and stigma, it also leads to generalizations, stereotypes, and misconceptions. There are a number of things that people tend to assume about individuals who are sex positive, especially those who are more public about it. Everyone’s different, and just because someone identifies as sex positive does not mean that you know anything at all about their sexuality, them as a sexual being, or them as a person.
Below is a list of 10 things that are often thought about people who identify as sex-positive, but are not necessarily the case.
10 Common Misconceptions About Sex Positive Individuals
- They enjoy sex It is important to understand that not all individuals enjoy sex or identify as sexual beings. Asexuality is as real and valid as all other forms of sexuality, and it must be taken into account. The sex positive movement encompasses asexuality, as well, and if someone advocates for positivity surrounding sexuality, it doesn’t mean that they have or enjoy sex themselves. A good comparison is the fact that individuals do not have to be gay to advocate for gay rights.
- They are total nymphos as advocates for sex positivity and individuals who discuss sex frequently, it is consistently assumed that we have wild sex lives, are constantly thinking about sex, and are completely sex-obsessed. Though this may be the case for some individuals, it is not the case for everyone. Believing that sex is positive does not directly correlate with someone enjoying sex in excess (though some may argue that there’s no such thing as an excess of sex).
- They are extremely promiscuous first and foremost, promiscuity is not something to shame as long as consent and safe sex are being practiced. This said sex positivity does not necessitate sexual activity at all, let alone a frequency of sexual activity or amount of partners. Even if an individual is passionate about sexual exploration, this does not mean that they explore with multiple partners; and if they do, this should also be accepted and celebrated.
- They are comfortable with themselves sexually not everyone has a healthy relationship with sexuality. Being comfortable discussing sexuality is only one, very small portion of our sexual identities.
- They are wild in bed sex positivity does not mean that an individual is comfortable with or interested in any sexual acts, positions, or kinks. You can be sex positive and enjoy sex that others might find wildly boring, and that’s totally cool!
- They will overshare about their sex lives if someone is comfortable talking about sexuality, they aren’t necessarily comfortable talking about their own sexuality. And on the flip side, just because someone is constantly sharing their sexual experiences doesn’t exactly mean that they are sex positive. Sharing too much information all the time is not a given characteristic of the sex-positive movement.
- They will judge you for not being like them it is easy to assume that people who strongly identify with a school of thought or a movement will judge those who do not agree, but this is not always the case. Sex positivity is about an openness to learning and sharing, not judgment, shame, and negativity.
- They welcome advances we don’t care if someone is literally wearing a shirt that says “I love sex,” you have no right to put your hands on them or speak sexually to them without asking permission first. Posting racy photos in celebration of one’s body and self-love, talking about sex, being open about sex, dressing a certain way, and other such things are not invitations. Consent above all else, period.
- They are inappropriate let’s not assume that all sex-positive individuals are going to walk up to your religious grandmother and tell her why she should be using a vibrator. Sex positivity is a way of life, but it doesn’t mean that people who live this way are unable to read rooms or talk about anything but sex. It’s about celebrating humans and supporting one another at the end of the day, so there’s no use putting others in situations that make them unhappy or uncomfortable, wouldn’t you say?
- They sexually objectify others sex positivity does not equate the sexualization of others, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Sex positivity is recognizing that everyone’s sexuality is their own, and objectification is something that is discouraged. We are sex-positive, but we are not going around grabbing people’s butts and catcalling everyone (for example).
10 Common Characteristics of a Sex Positive Individual
- They promote open dialogue about sex inclusive, non-judgmental, consensual dialogue is where it’s at.
- They embrace sexuality in all of its many forms no matter your gender, sexual orientation, preferences, race, age, physicality, or anything of the sort. Everyone is celebrated, everyone is acknowledged, and everyone is welcome in this movement.
- They advocate for (good) sex education educaton is key, plain and simple. We all deserve to know as much about ourselves as possible, and these resources should be available. Advocating for a larger circulation of information and an ending of sexual stigmatization begins with providing education and a wide enough vocabulary for a holistic understanding.
- They advocate for consent consent is everything, period.
- They promote inclusivity everything from inclusive language to inclusive spaces are important for movements such as the sex-positive movement because people must feel welcome and comfortable in order to be in a good headspace for learning. Exclusion is just plain silly, differences should be celebrated rather than shamed. Humanity is beautiful and wonderful in all of its many forms.
- They are committed to being a lifelong learner acknowledging that we don’t know everything, we are not always right, and that there is always more to learn is an important exercise for all humans. The world is ever-changing, humanity is ever-changing, in order to promote sex positivity and learning, we must commit to always learning, ourselves.
- They foster safe spaces for sharing and learning no judgment, no forced beliefs, just sharing, learning, and growing. Any space can be a safe space with the right intentions.
- The promote safe sex and general sexual health sexual wellness is just as important as any other form of wellness. The sex positive movement promotes getting to know your sexual self, and this includes seeking to have a healthy relationship, mentally and physically, with sex.
- They seek to help end the stigmas and taboos surrounding sexuality simply talking about it and acknowledging it exists is the first step. Secrets are associated with shame, and sex is not shameful!
- They understand that not everyone is a sexual individual, and that is perfectly okay we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: asexuality is valid, and so is every other form of sexuality. Be who you are, sexually or otherwise, unapologetically.
Johansson, Warren. 1990. “Sex Negative, Sex Positive”. In: Dynes WR (ed). Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York: Garland. p 1182–1183. ISBN 0-8153-1880-4.
Gabosch, Allena (2008-02-26). “A Sex Positive Renaissance”. Retrieved 2014-09-12.