My generation (and the generation before) have long proclaimed ‘sexual revolutions,’ but to be honest, it all feels a little premature. Before we engage in our own disingenuous version, we need to have difficult — but genuine — conversations about being sex-positive.
To be broad and general, sex-positivity describes sex which is healthy, free of judgment, and consensual. As a philosophy, we can frame many of the ethical questions in our lives around it. For a firmer grasp, let’s discuss what sex-positivity isn’t.
It doesn’t mean you need to have a lot of sex. Likewise, it means it’s okay to say no to sex — without judgment or pressure.
You don’t have to be pro-pornography, or even pro-sex work. Whether you like or dislike these things, you’re not judging whether the workers or the work is right or wrong. Sex-positivity encourages non-judgmental discourse about these topics, and may even help you unbox your own feelings on them.
It doesn’t affirm every sexual act. Children, people who are intoxicated, and animals cannot consent.
Finally, sex-positivity isn’t just for women. It can, and should(!), be applied to people of all genders and orientations.
America is an overwhelmingly sex-negative place. Perhaps because of our Puritan roots or our free-market values, sex is completely commodified. Coercion, subversion, and violence within our own relationships is disconcertingly commonplace.
This, in a single thought, is the essence of sex-negativity.
As a direct result of sex-negative attitudes, a common perception is that sexual violence is far removed from the United States. Sure, there’s a foreign sex trade dealing in little girls and young women abroad. Further, it’s outside our borders that we’ll acknowledge rape as a tactic of war. Even sex tourism is okay if we’re doing it elsewhere. But are we courting cognitive dissonance with puritanical, sex-negative social heirlooms in regard to our own relationships and ways of thinking?
These attitudes serve one purpose:
to make consumption of the traditionally unpalatable more digestible for people who have been raised within a culture of guilt and shame. For this reason, it’s revolutionary to live shamelessly and without fear, which makes sex-positivity more necessary than ever.
Sex-positivity encompasses body- and gender-positivity. Indeed, those who do not identify with a gender, or who are transgender, are among those who experience the most discrimination and violence. In housing, in work, in their families and personal lives, sex-negativity has taken over.
Violence is highly codified and sanctioned by both governments and corporations against those in the trans community, and there seems to be no relief in sight. Indeed, movements against trans-people seem to be picking up steam — not disappearing.
As long as these ideas exist in a vacuum, far removed from public consciousness, the ‘sexual revolution’ will never happen. Not here, not abroad, not anywhere. Confronting sex violence means confronting yourself. You.
For that reason, it may be the ultimate taboo.