by Kate McIntyre
Note: (A) has been added before “sexuality” to include folks who identify as asexual. (S) follows “partner” to acknowledge folks in polyamorous and non-monogamous sexual relationships.
There are a lot of buzz words thrown around these days in the world of sexual health; among them is “sex positivity.” And for most of us, it’s a pretty easy concept to get behind. Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate and explore (a)sexuality, (a)gender, and pleasure? But sometimes our own biases, beliefs, and the lens through which we view the world can get in our way when we think about sex positivity. There are some commonly held beliefs about what it means to be sex positive. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct it so we can embrace sex positivity in ways that are inclusive and empowering, both for ourselves and for other people.
Sex means different things for different people.
When you or I think about sex, an idea about what it should look like may come to mind. Sometimes, thinking about the ways other people may explore and experience their (a)sexuality raises feelings of judgment, dismissiveness, and perhaps even disgust. But the great thing about sex positivity is that it allows and encourages freedom for people to experience their (a)sexuality in ways that feel good for them. That might look like intercourse with a long-term partner, masturbation, choosing not to have sex or delaying sex, BDSM play, choosing celibacy, playing out sexual fantasies, kink, oral sex, or a whole host of other expressions of (a)sexuality. Sex doesn’t have to look the same for all of us so we should be working hard at dismantling the hierarchy of what we deem to be “good” and “bad” for others.
Is it feeling good?
A huge part of the sex positive movement is exploring what feels good for you and communicating that to your partner(s). Being able to express your needs and wants to your partner(s) can definitely lead to a more satisfying sex life. In all forms of partner sex, it’s also incredibly important to discuss what is happening for them. Establishing clear lines of communication and respecting the boundaries, preferences, verbal, and non-verbal cues from your partner(s) are ways to keep sex good for you and for them. There is a lot of important talk about consent in the media these days so I won’t go into it in detail here. (Click to read our blog about consent). I will emphasize that verbal, non-coerced, sober consent is the only way to go. So go ahead and seek out that enthusiastic consent…with every partner, every time!
Having lots of sex doesn’t have to be the goal.
To be sex positive doesn’t mean you need to be having ALL THE SEX. I mean, you can if you’d like to, but you don’t have to. Take time to self-reflect, consider what your choices about your (a)sexuality are doing for you, think about how you feel during and after sex, reflect on how your decisions related to your (a)sexuality impact other aspects of your life. These questions can help to give you an honest and holistic picture of what type and amount of sex are a good fit for you. Remember, your responses to these questions are unique to you, just as the responses of other people to those same questions are unique to them. Just as you get to decide about the amount and type of sex that feels right for you, they do too.
Sex positively is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It’s celebratory, empowering, tailored, and contextualized. (A)sexuality is complex so it makes sense that sex positivity can also sometimes seem a little complicated. It might help to think of it this way: if sex positivity is a piece of art, informed and consensual expressions of safer sex and (a)sexuality would be the frame, but each of us gets to decide for ourselves what kind of beautiful, colorful, creative expressions fit within that frame. So here’s to working on being more sex positive – both for ourselves and to validate and be more inclusive of those around us!