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What Sex-Positivity Is — And Is Not-by Carol Queen
I have been using the term "sex-positive" for over 25 years–I first heard it when I moved to San Francisco in the 1980s to get my PhD at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. It immediately became part of my vocabulary; I had been doing LGBTQ activist work since the mid-1970s, which included taking about homophobia, and the way "sex-positive" illuminates and helps to address a broader erotophobia was immediately clear to me when I heard the term. I could never have believed back then how widespread this phrase would become. (Shout-outs to United Feminists at Georgetown and their Sex-Positive Week, currently being celebrated there!) But I have begun to feel lately that it has come to be misunderstood in some circles. This is the kind of sex-positivity I learned about–and when I use the term, this is what I mean.
Sex-positivity is NOT:
I can't stress this enough. If anyone, no matter how sexually frisky and happy they are, tries to use the notion of sex-positivity to judge someone else's sexual orientation, gender expression, sexual choices, or sexual response, they are not behaving in a sex-positive fashion. Period. (And they're misusing the term.) When you are sex-positive, you get that you are not like everybody else, and that's all good. As in:
By the way, Good Vibrations has its own take on this issue; here's an excerpt from the Sex-Positivity section of the GV website at goodvibes.com:
At Good Vibrations, we believe that sexual pleasure is everyone's birthright. We believe that sexual pleasure is an important part of all of our lives, and that everyone should be able to live the sex life that's right for them. We take it as our mission to respond to all forms of sexual shame and support people as they discover their authentic sexual selves. We believe that any adult consensual sexual activity is something to affirm and celebrate. We do not judge anyone's sexual preferences or choices, so long as those choices and activities are between adults and consented to by everyone involved or affected. Ongoing education is essential to our mission. In order to be the best possible resource for our customers, we constantly strive to have a better understanding of sexual variation and to advance our own knowledge of sexual pleasure and desire. To provide an environment that is supportive of our customer's needs, we understand that our Sex Educator-Sales Associates must maintain an open and respectful attitude and to model sex-positive, non-judgmental communication at all times.
So go forth and be as sex-positive as you wish! And please debunk other peoples' misuse of this term. Too many sex people are not sex-positive enough. It is an extraordinary tool of analysis and activism, and we need to wield it cleanly–not mucked up with the idea that only the chosen few are sex-positive based on their behavior or orientation.
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