[HISTORICAL NOTE: This post is one of the two times I was cited in a Real Book! The person was under the impression I was an asexual activist, so I sort of got in under false pretenses.]
Okay. I’m sex-positive, I guess. I absolutely adore the work of Heather Corinna, Jaclyn Friedman, and Cliff Pervocracy. I think slut-shaming is bad, rape culture is worse, people doing what they want with their own bodies is awesome, and everyone’s sexuality is a beautiful and unique snowflake.
But dear God I hate the word.
There are lots of things I’m positive about! I’m consent-positive! I’m autonomy-positive! I’m people-being-happy-positive! But I’m not really sex-positive. I’m more sex-neutral, really. If people want to have sex, then they should have sex; if people don’t want to have sex, then they shouldn’t have sex. As long as everyone involved is happy, I don’t really feel entitled to have an opinion about whether other people have kinky lesbian orgies or hold each other’s sleeves because they’re not yet emotionally ready to hold hands.
Like. I feel like I should make a list. Things That Are Totally Ethically Neutral As Long As They Are Performed In An Emotionally And Physically Healthy, Consensual, and Honest Way, And That You Should Not Feel Like An Inferior Person For Doing:
- Kinky sex
- Vanilla sex
- Casual sex
- Relationship sex
- Sexless relationships
- Refusing a sex act you don’t like
- Having orgasms
- Not having orgasms
- Having sex for pure physical pleasure
- Having sex as an expression of love
- Having sex to make someone else happy
- Having sex for money
- Having sex for literally any other conceivable reason
- For that matter, not having sex for literally any conceivable reason
- Having anal/oral/PIV sex
- Not having anal/oral/PIV sex
- Watching porn
- Not watching porn
- Being so uncomfortable with porn that you choose a partner who doesn’t watch porn
- Not masturbating
The problem here is that sex-positivity… well, it kind of sounds like it means “sex is awesome and you should have sex.” It’s bad enough when people assume that “sex-positive” means “sex is awesome” and then start talking about how they’re not sex-positive because they think women should have the right to refuse anal sex, pegging, or learning to squirt. But it’s really awful when people look at the word “sex-positive” and are like “of course I’m sex-positive! I love sex! Sex is awesome! All those prudes and virgins just need to loosen up and have more of the kind of sex I like!”
And here’s where I start complaining about The Ethical Slut (which is a great book, and one I highly recommend). The Ethical Slut defines a slut as ”a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you”; thus, it implies, anyone can be a slut. Except… for a lot of people, sex isn’t nice. There are rape and sexual assault survivors who don’t think of sex as nice (as well are survivors who do, of course). There are people who have internalized slut-shaming to the degree that they can’t see sex as “nice” for themselves and while, yes, that’s bad, they are hardly the enemy. And, most of all, there are people who think sex is boring, or who liked it for one part of their lives and not anymore, or who would really just rather have a cup of tea and a book.
Dear God sex-positivity has such potential as a movement. I want a movement that talks about accepting what you don’t want as much as it does about accepting what you do. About “some people like sex just fine without orgasms, some people even prefer sex without orgasms, and that’s fine” as much as “learn how to have an orgasm! Now how to have a more intense orgasm!” About prude-shaming (internalized and externalized) as much as slut-shaming (internalized and externalized).