When Sex Positivity Isn’t: A Queer Dialogue
I’ve identified as sex positive since I first learned it was a thing while working in my college’s LGBT office. I love sex, I love pleasure, I support folks having sex and pleasure; sex positivity just makes sense. Why would anyone have a problem with a movement that promotes consent, safety and pleasure? I didn’t consider that sex positivity isn’t always empowering until a friend shared an article from Everyday Feminism. That article made me examine my own potentially problematic views on sex positivity. I interviewed the friend who posted it to get a perspective from a queer feminist who does not identify as sex positive.
Karen* is a queer artist of color in San Francisco, who chose to remain anonymous “only because I have had sex positive feminists get very angry at me before and say I’m going to Hell, even though I’m basically saying sex positivity is good, it just won’t be the cure.” That statement from Karen shows how sex-positivity can be oppressive to women. I’m bummed that she feels she can’t publicly talk about her views on sex positivity without being shamed. That is a failure of sex positivity, not a failure of Karen. To me, sex positivity means embracing all views on sex, including people who are not that into sex. That is clearly not the message folks like Karen are receiving, though, and I can see why she feels that way. Here is a conversation between us, two Bay Area queer artists with very different views on sex:
*name has been changed.
What does sex positivity/negativity mean to you?
Karen: Sex positivity for me means not shaming other people, in terms of their sexual preferences and choices. We aren’t going to sexually liberate ourselves and then suddenly be equal to men. There are so many other issues and disparities: income, leadership, etc. Sex isn’t going to solve everything. We can’t fuck our way to equality.
Ash: Ooh, I really like “we can’t fuck our way to equality.” I hadn’t thought of sex positivity on a broader level like that. I see it as personally empowering for women to be able to have sex how and when they want (including not having sex). But on a broader level, I can see how sex positivity puts pressure on women. To me, sex positivity means not judging anyone’s sexual preferences, from desired gender, to frequency, to positions, to kink/vanilla, to penetration, to not having sex at all, etc.
Do you identify as sex negative?
Karen: Sex negativity I don’t really consider a term, but I do consider myself more of a sex negative feminist, meaning I don’t think sex is the way women will achieve gender equality.
Ash: I identify as sex positive, with the caveat that I am exploring ways that sex positivity can be oppressive, starting with writing this article.
Do you feel pressure from the sex-positive movement in the queer community?
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