My name is Tina and I am a Sex Positive Feminist
For some reason, this statement is likely to cause offense, outrage and confusion amongst many people; opposition to this may even unite groups most normally seen in the media as being in opposing camps. Many people may not even know what “Sex Positive” means. I only found out about this definition of beliefs and activism about 18 months ago, and upon researching it realised as a label it broadly defines how I feel about sex, female (and male) autonomy and attitudes towards sex. I find such labels useful as jumping-off points to discussion, as we all define terms in different ways (although for some reason ‘feminism’ seems to be defined in mainstream media and society by those who oppose equality rather than those who define themselves as ‘feminists’; I suppose that’s only to be expected, the oppressor/privileged sets the agenda for the society over which it exercises its privilege, after all).
So, what is sex positivism? I could post a ton of net links to various sites to explain it, but you don’t read my blog (all two or three of you) to get someone else’s ideas. Here, then, are mine.
- Sex Positivism is about informed consenting sexual activity.
- Sex Positivism is not about moral judgements.
- Sex Positivism is about legalising sex work.
- Sex Positivism is about fostering healthy attitudes towards one’s body and ones sexuality.
- Sex Positivism is about autonomy over one’s own body.
- Sex Positivism is about accepting that people, all people, of all shapes, sizes, sexualities etc. are sexual beings and have a right to express their sexuality without moral judgement or impingement (see point 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; in fact, these points all cross-over as you will read).
Guess which one usually gets the most complaints and causes the most outrage in debates? Yes, that’s right, point 3. Let’s take it point by point, saving 3 for last as it is the most juicy.
1 – INFORMED CONSENT (I’m capitalising because this is VERY IMPORTANT!).
This is the primary, number one, consideration, from which all else follows. Sex Positive means informed, consenting sexual activity. This precludes those who are unable, for whatever reason, to give informed consent. Children cannot give informed consent. Animals cannot give informed consent. Trafficked slaves forced into sex work cannot give consent (and personally I dispute the definition of these people being in sex work – it is commercialised rape). Anyone under any form of external duress directly related to the situation cannot give informed consent; for example putting pressure via emotional or physical violence disempowers, and those under duress cannot give informed consent. Abuse of a position of power (college professor and student/boss and employee) by the consentee removes the ability of the consenter to give informed consent.
Informed consent means having all the information one feels is necessary to oneself in order to give informed consent to a sexual activity. This means knowing all the information which may exist which may cause harm to the consenter if they knew the same and which would alter their decision to give consent – such as whether the potential sexual partner has a sexually transmitted disease or a partner with whom they do not have an open relationship. The decision whether to consent to sexual activity is then made with all the necessary facts available. However, some people consent if they know a partner is not in an open relationship, and informed consent does not mean there is a universal moral rule which can apply. Different folks like different strokes (phnar), what is acceptable for one will not be for another.
Informed consent means the ability to give the same – if a person is very intoxicated on whatever substance THEY CANNOT GIVE INFORMED CONSENT. If in doubt, don’t do it, even if they tell you the next morning they really wanted to (which, if so, wahay! Informed consent obtained, let the sexy-time begin!).
Informed consent means knowing one’s own sexuality, what one is comfortable with, and feeling one is in a safe environment and one is able to give that consent. It does not describe the behaviour to which that consent is given.
Most importantly, the only way informed consent can be given is if sex education is given from as soon as children are old enough to ask question, in an age-appropriate fashion of course. After all, how can a person give or deny consent if they don’t know what they are or are not consenting to, and the implications of the same? Informed consent requires information; the clue is in the title!
Informed consent is the ability to say “yes”, to say “no”, and to say “maybe, but I want to know more first before I can decide” and to know that that decision will be respected and adhered to.
2 – Not making moral judgements.
Bloody religionists, coming along, spoiling everything with their judgemental, sexist, party-pooping…
Of course, not all religious people are judgmental (although it is in the job description especially for those involved in the organisation of religious beliefs). However, most laws and social norms surrounding sex and sexual activity have their basis in religion, as that is historically from where our law derives. Non-heteronormative, non-marital, non-male sexual activity, that’s what I’m talking about here. Such judgements create misery and deny love and sexual pleasure. These are (given point 1) not crimes (or shouldn’t be if they are, as they are victimless and the laws derive from prejudice) and are discriminatory.
There are differing standards in our society for sexual behaviours (by which I mean with whom you have sex not the actual positions said horizontal jiggling may include) – women are sex objects and have a passive role, whereas men are sex subjects and take the active role. As for non-heterosexual sexual activity, well when such relationships are not accorded equality in law is it any surprise social judgement persists in condemning them. Slut-shaming, victim-blaming, anti-choice crusading, hate crimes, homophobic violence – all these come from irrational moral judgements deriving from religious and social judgement. All are wrong and infringe the basic human right a person has to express their sexuality in any way which is their own.
Sex positivity recognises we all have different sexual desires, dreams, wants and needs. It is about allowing those needs, accepting the difference and not judging, condemning or denying the liberty people should have to meet those needs in a healthy and informed way.
3 – Legalising Sex Work
All sex work should be legalised. This, however, is to be subject to its own blog post, as I just KNOW there will be controversy. If anyone actually reads this blog, that is. Otherwise, it’ll be useful for me to refer to in future debates. Mass debates may be particularly fun…
4 – Healthy Attitudes towards Sex and Sexuality
“What is a ‘healthy’ attitude?” I hear you both cry (having lost one reader since paragraph 1 of this epic). “Good question” I respond, feeling sure I am talking to myself. In the context of this blog, I expect to develop hirsute palms and go blind very shortly.
In my opinion, a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality is one which does not judge, has no moral imposition, is one which knows oneself and what one wants and doesn’t want, and has confidence and understanding in one’s ability to give informed consent.
A healthy attitude is one which does not hate one’s body because it does not conform to society’s ideal of what one should look like. Physical conformity is impossible for the vast majority of society, whatever the norm happens to be, because humans come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, shades, and physicalities. There is no norm other than that which is socially created and perpetuated.
It is impossible to have a truly healthy sex life if you hate how you look. You can never really relax and allow your body to feel the experience, if you are constantly worrying if your stomach is going to flop, if your breasts are in your armpits instead of pointing ceiling-ward (of course if they are doing this whilst you are on your front, I would recommend seeing your GP pretty fast), if you think your penis is not going to touch the sides (although if this is a comment on the size of your partner’s vagina/anus/mouth/nostril I think you may have a personality rather than self-image problem and will be contributing to your partner’s lack of healthy attitude should you mention it, you asshole), or if you think your body is in any way unattractive and therefore unworthy of the person to whom you are gifting the experience of sex with it.
So many things affect how we see ourselves – gender stereotyping, the beauty myth, the constant conflation of sexuality with gender, homophobia, transphobia, cisgenderism, racism, fashion and economic snobbery, societal assumption that healthy = thin (although that is only a narrow band of thinness and is frequently contradictory making the whole thing more confusing and damaging to your psyche; for the male physique healthy = muscular is not so prevalent but is on the rise in mainstream culture), and image/celebrity obsessed culture all have a negative effect. Yet when I look around, I see myriad couplings/grouping of a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Physicality is not ‘one size fits all’, it just seems that way. Nor is sexuality.
Sexuality – why is it types of sexuality are legislated against or ignored? There are so many definitions currently. Here are a few:
Pansexuality, bisexuality, bicuriosity, heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism, asexuality, non-sexuality, polysexuality.
Some of these definitions will change, grow, and come into and out of usage as gender definitions change, grow, and come into and out of usage. People define themselves in whatever way seems best to fit them at that time of life and depending upon their environment and upbringing may not be as free to express themselves as they would wish. No sexuality is ‘wrong’, to those who hold a Sex Positive view. To morally judge the gender of the partner, or the sexuality of certain genders, is not sex positive. It’s not healthy, either for oneself or for one’s society.
5 – Body Autonomy
We are all the owners of our own bodies, and no-one else’s. We do not have the right, ever, to dictate what one person will do with their own body, be it tattoo it, pierce it, have a medical procedure or not, have an abortion or not, or have sex or not. In fact, if we remove that autonomy with regard to sex, that is called RAPE and is illegal.
What we do with our own bodies are decisions influenced by our environments, our families, our perceptions of ourselves and others, the judgements we may or may not receive both before and after acting, our intents and desires, our fears and negativities; myriad influences in fact. But they are OUR decisions to make. No-one can, or should, make them for you.
These decisions, of course, are entirely based on point 1.
6 – Acceptance
There are probably as many different types of sexual activity as there are people engaging in the same. Even if the label is the same for two couples/groups, what actually happens will never be exactly the same (although I don’t think I ever want to actually PROVE that statement…). What people choose to do within the privacy of their own sex lives may be shocking to others, or boring, or incomprehensible, but that is irrelevant to anyone not directly involved in the sexual activity.
Sex Positive means acknowledging and accepting sexual behaviours vary. It doesn’t mean ‘tolerating’ as ‘tolerance’ implies judgement and disapproval or approval as deemed appropriate by the judger (who of course is not involved in the actual sexual activity and is probably jealous that you are getting some and they aren’t, so yah boo sucks to them!). Acceptance – pure and simple. No judgement, no disapproval or approval. Acknowledgement and acceptance, and moving on.
Okay, this post turned out a lot longer than anticipated, so this is part 1. Part 2, which will focus on point 3 and the legalising sex work issue, will come with a conclusion personal to me. Hopefully it won’t take me too long to produce, but hey, no-one is actually reading this blog anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.
Until next time, sweet non-existent reader. *kissy face*!
From → Ideology