In Our Last Episode…
I gave an overview of sex negativity with examples of how our society sometimes paints sex as a fundamentally yucky thing that does bad things to our bodies and souls. I explained breifly that sex positivity came about as a response to this largely pessimistic view by offering an alternative, more accepting and inclusive perspective on human sexuality
And Now On To Our Show!
Now that I’ve written about what sex positivity isn’t, I can get on to telling more about what sex positivity is. Except *I’m* not going to tell you. I’m going to let awesomesauce sex educator, Charlie Glickman tell you. The following excerpt is from a piece that was given to me in my very first sex-positive workshop and I thought it was fantastic. I’m unlikely to come up with an explanation that’s anywhere near as good, so Imma sit back and let you soak up the Glickman brilliance:
As a sex educator, I need to be able to reduce this confusion in order for my message to be heard. One method I have found helpful is to compare sex and food…
Try to imagine the following world: Accurate information about food is freely available and exists for all ages in appropriate ways. Talking about what sorts of food you like and negotiating with a dinner partner is a simple and relaxed experience. Different preferences, whether personal or cultural, are important for the information they provide and are no more or less important than hair color or family history, unless people are trying to figure out what to eat together. Some people prefer to eat with the same person indefinitely, others prefer to eat in a group and still others eat with a variety of partners as the mood suits them and nobody is ever forced to eat anything or with anyone. Each person is an expert in their desires and needs around food and their choices are respected.
While there are many examples of how our world is different from this food-positive one (as anyone who becomes vegetarian in a family of meat eaters knows,) it isn’t too hard to imagine this place. Now go back through the last paragraph and substitute “sex” for “food” and “have sex” for “eat.” How much more difficult is this world to imagine?
I don’t know about you but I think this analogy is swoon-worthy awesome. Not only does it get me all het-up about the exciting possibilities of a sex positive world, it also clarifies the idea that this isn’t about being all RAH! RAH! LET’S ALL HAVE SEX ALL THE TIME! Having a more positive attitude towards sex does not mean that sex is better than not-sex. It’s saying that similar to food, sex is just a thing. It’s part of the human experience, there are many options and that we should all be allowed to choose what will work best for ourselves in our own lives.
Why I Like Sex Positivity
So you don’t have to have sex to be sex positive. You don’t even have to want to have sex to be sex positive. But I do. Not that I’m in a constantly state of arousal, but being a sexual person is definitely part of my identity. I’m also an extrovert and something of an exhibitionist. I like dressing in ways that show of certain parts of my body. I like doing burlesque and undressing in ways that show off almost all of my body. Sex positivity is okay with all of that. Sex positivity doesn’t restrict my sexual expression because I’m married or a mother or closing in on my forties. That makes me pretty happy.
Sex positivity means I can stop worrying about whether or not I’m normal. There is no normal in sex pos. There’s just me, my body and my life. What works for me might be different than what works for yo and that’s it’s all sweet cuppin’ cakes!
That also means I don’t have to care about whether other people are normal. Truth time. I’m a lazy woman. Trying to define a universal set of acceptable sexual practices is hard. Having to determine how closely those around me adhere to those standards is hard. Assessing people’s moral character based on their sexual behaviour is hard. I have a career to work at and a family to care for. Also? I just started watching Mad Men. Analyzing all that subtext keeps me very busy! I don’t have time to be judging everyone all day. Thanks to sex positivity, I don’t have to.
Sex positivity means I can talk about sex. A lot. I can discuss it with willing friends, freely and openly because sex is nothing to be ashamed of! Yay!
Ten Ways I Am Sex Positive
As I mentioned in the last post, I’m still relatively new to this whole “sex is not bad” concept. Here are some things I’ve been doing as part of my quest to live a sex-positive life.
1. I try to do work which reflect my beliefs that sexual health and reproductive choice are basic human rights and access to comprehensive, fact-based sex education is essential to achieving both of those aims.
2. I am big into consent. I blog about consent. I teach consent. The smut I write includes consent. The Man of Mans and I renegotiate consent and boundaries on an ongoing basis. Without consent, there is no sex.
3. If I tell someone I’m married I also say explicitly that I am sexually monogamous, since one does not automatically imply the other.
4. I try to use gender-inclusive terms like ‘partner’ or ‘parent’ ‘or people’ whenever possible.
5. Sometimes I’ll hear or read about a sexual practice that shocks the dickens out of me. I try to check myself and be aware of my own judgeyness. I also try very hard not to make disparaging comments about sexy things just because they don’t appeal to me personally.
6. I try to be a queer-friendly and a queer-ally.
7. I’ve stopped saying “Holy balls!” as an expression of horror. Balls are not horrifying. Now I say it when something good happens. I’ve also stopped saying “slut”, “prude” and “cocksucker” like they’re bad things.
8. When other people talk to me about their sexuality and/or sexual experiences, I try to suppress my tendency to always be talking and listen.
9. I let people self-identify in their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. I refer to them the way they’ve refered to themselves.
10. I talk about sex!
Five Ways I Am Trying To Be Sex Positive But Really Need To Work On
I also mentioned in the last post that I’m pretty new to the sex positivity myself. Every day I learn new stuff that expands my perspective and makes me realize how little I really know. This definitely feels like a life-long process kind of deal, ’cause I make mistakes all the time. Examples include:
1. Stating my preferred pronoun. I usually just say, “Hi, I’m Nadine” because I can take for granted that people will correctly assume my gender. But not everyone has that privilege. I’m trying to get into the habit of introducing myself thusly: “Hi, I’m Nadine. My preferred pronoun is ‘she'”, but 9 out of 10 times I forget. I also forget to ask other people what they’re pronoun is if I’m not sure.
2. Despite purging pejorative uses of genitalia and promiscuity from my vocabulary, there are a few sex negative cuss words that still linger. I still haven’t surrendered the F-bomb.
3. I have a hard time admitting when I’m sexually inactive. It embarrasses me, which is not a very sex-positive attitude. Life is not about winning the “Who Has The Most Sex” contest.
4. I’d like to get better at including abstinence and asexuality in my discussions of sex because those are also totally legit ways of being.
5. At PPO we have a list of ways that people can be sex positive. One of the suggestions is to “call in sick by saying ‘I have crabs’. I have never done this. Okay…so far I haven’t actually had crabs. But that’s no excuse. Next sick day, I’m calling in with crabs!
Sex Positive Parenting
Do you know why I call my partner The Man of Mans? Because he is freaking excellent, that’s why! He was a sex positive parenting long before either of us knew it was a thing. When The Green Bean was one week old, The MoMs started talking to him about all the things he would do in the future, including falling in love. He began with “Someday you might meet a special girl or boy….”
Right then and there, I knew my son was in great hands. The MoMs kicked us off with the sex positive parenting and we’ve both tried to keep it going as The Bean grows up.
1. We try to talk about genitals in the same way we talk about the rest of our bodies, using the proper terminology and not placing specific restrictions on using words like “penis”.
2. We don’t assume The Bean is heterosexual.
3. Like many children, The Bean is curious about gender. I’ve struggled with this for awhile, as I’m not comfortable with the “boys have a penis/girls have a vulva” explaination. After much thought, I am now telling him that “girls are people who say they are girls and boys are people who say they are boys.”
4. We don’t refer to the gender of colours, toys or activities. If The Bean brings it up, we remind him that there’s no such thing as a “girl” colour or a “boy” toy. These are things for everyone.
5. When Then Bean spotted my Diva Cup and asked me what it was for, I explained about my period.
6. We try to make sex, sexuality, relationships, reproduction and bodies part of the larger, every day conversation around our house. The results have been….unexpected.
7. The MoMs and I hug, kiss, cuddle and express regular physical affection for each other in The Bean’s presence. He thinks it is WAY gross!
8. The MoMs and I hug, kiss, cuddle and express regular physical affection for The Bean.
9. If The Bean says no, pushes us away or protests when we try to hug, kiss or cuddle him we stop immediately. Even if he seems to be enjoying it. Consent is mandatory and no means no. Period.
10. Similarly we never insist that he hug or kiss grandparents or other visiting relatives. Consent is mandatory but it’s also voluntary. No one is entitled to touch us if we don’t want it.
So there you have it…my two-part primer on sex positivity!
Are you a fan of sex positivity as well? What are some ways that you’ve found to incorporate it into your life? What are some challenges you’ve faced. This blog is my attempt to carve out a wee little pocket of sex positivity in the world, so thanks for reading along and being part of this conversation all the others!