For the longest time I’ve seen references to and people claiming to be “sex positive.” I find many people throw this term of art around, not knowing exactly what they’re talking about by using it.
If you actually search for the definition of “sex positive” you’ll come across many meanings. It seems like nobody can agree on a cohesive definition, but that most definitions you’ll find include central idea to put sexuality in a positive light and be open to all expressions of sexuality. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it “glorifies” the sexual creature, but it usually means that a person who is highly sexual by nature is not looked down on. Sexualized people will be treated just like a non-sexualized person. That is to say, all people are equal. But from that simple statement arises many problems.
The biggest problem I have found is that some people espousing “sex positive” views are typically not positive about sexual (or non-sexual) interests that are not their own in the first place. You can’t look at a population of people and say that just because they like (fill in the blank fetish) or (fill in the blank fantasy) that they aren’t apart of the sex positive community. I watched a short interview with Nina Hartley awhile back who put it very well. She was asked if she ever had encountered a fetish and had reacted something like “OMG that’s so gross! You’re wrong and going to burn in hell!” Of course she hasn’t. Reacting that way is the irrational person’s way of reacting.
The correct and more “sex positive” view is to look if there is consent between and among the parties and then look if it’s harming those who are not participating. If there’s consent and it’s not harming others, then it’s a perfectly acceptable activity to engage in. Those are the two most important questions to ask when viewing other’s actions or interests, not if society views it as morally “wrong” or “right.” What may interest one person may not interest another.
I’ve found myself guilty of this a time or two, whether it be some type of edge fetish play or a relationship style. When I was very strongly pro-polyamory, I found myself looking down on monogamous couples in a way. “How could someone ever want just one partner?!” I was saying to myself, not realizing that I was doing exactly what was being done to me. People looked at me like I was crazy for saying I could and would love more than one person at a time. I’ve seen edge fetish play on Fetlife where my gut instinct is to be grossed out and view it as “wrong.” But then I take a step back and reassess my thinking. The people who participated consented and they were not harming others in doing whatever it was they were doing. The play just wasn’t for me. And that’s okay.
For awhile now I’ve hesitated in labeling myself as sex-positive because it comes with loads of baggage. It sets a bar that if you fall below it, you’re instantly relabeled as some type of repressive heretic. If you make one small comment that could be viewed as “sex negative” you’re shunned and seen as anti-feminism (which is a school of thought I find very sex-negative itself.) Even the most sex-positive person still has reactions and thoughts that they cannot control and that they should be able to express without fear of losing that sex-positive atmosphere.
I’m not sex-positive. I refuse to be called or labeled as such. What am I then? I’m “consent positive.” I’m “free speech-positive.” I’m “share your thoughts and don’t fear the crowds with pitchforks-positive.” If you have something to say about something you see, hear or watch in terms of sexuality, it’s my view that you should be able to express it. There are simply some fetishes I do not find attractive. At the same time though, I can understand how some people would find them attractive. That’s okay. I don’t need to be into your fetish to appreciate you as a human being. I don’t need to be into your fetish to give you the respect you deserve. And I certainly don’t need to be into your fetish to be pro-really really good sex.
Sex positivity isn’t about exclusivity; it’s about inclusion of everyone. We are human beings. We are sexual beings. That should be enough to bring us together, not some buzz word.