What is Sex Positivity & How Has It Grown?
The term “sex-positive” gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean? In this article, we’ll explore everything from the origins of the sex-positive movement, why people should consider accepting sex-positivity into their lives, and the best ways to implement a sex-positive outlook.
What is the Meaning of Sex Positivity?
In the wake of the ever-growing sex-positive movement, it’s important to take a step back and consider the meaning of “sex-positive.” At its core – sex positivity is all about promoting an open, tolerant, or progressive attitude towards sex and sexuality. For most, that means adopting an open mind about sex and the many roles it plays in our society, especially as it appears through different genders and sexual identities.
What is the History of the Sex Positivity Movement?
Time for some sex education that’s all about the history of the words “sex-positive.” The first use of the phrase “sex-positive” is attributed to Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who worked mostly in the 1920s and ’30s. Reich came up under Sigmund Freud and held the belief that sexuality – which for centuries was a source of shame – had the power to heal. He was among the first to publicly say that sexual pleasure and orgasms were beneficial – if not necessary – for humans.
Then, in the 1960s and ’70s, this sex-positive movement reached U.S. en masse, and the public began to experience the rise of sexual liberation: a socio-political movement intertwined with the hippie ethos of “free love.” Not unlike what Reich was pushing in the 1930s, this particular movement was about removing guilt and judgment as they relate to sexual needs and sexual desires. Meanwhile, in France, we saw sexual liberation continue to play out as masturbation was promoted as a “normal” sexual practice for adolescents by Dr. Jean Carpentier in his 1971 pamphlet Apprenons à faire l’amour (Let us learn to make love).
Since then, the sex-positive movement has continued to develop and grow into the version we see today, pushed into the cultural zeitgeist through the far and easy reaches of social media, which gave individuals and creators the platforms they needed to discuss topics like sex work, comprehensive sex education, and safe sex & consent. These days, anyone can go online and learn all about how to have a fulfilling and comfortable sex life!
Sex Positivity vs. Body Positivity
While there’s definitely some overlap, there are distinctions between these two ideas. Body positivity is all about loving your body regardless of how society or popular culture portrays “perfect” bodies. Having a good relationship and appreciation for your own body will help you become a more sexually positive person. After all, understanding the roles that sexual diversity and sexual identity play in the sex-positive movement will come much easier if you’re able to comfortably let your body be explored, whether by yourself or with a partner!
What is Sex-Positive Feminism?
Sex-positive feminism, which is sometimes referred to as pro-sex feminism, sex-radical feminism, or sexually liberal feminism, is a movement that began in the early 1980s to address rising anti-pornographic sentiments in other sects of feminism. Sex-positive feminism is all about empowering women to explore their bodies and their sexual desire, without letting sexual violence cloud or prevent their journeys.
There are three core themes that play into sex-positive feminism – autonomy, consent, and gender. In this context, autonomy is about being able to dictate the choices you make for yourself, particularly as they relate to sexual intercourse. Consent ties closely into autonomy – it’s all about making sure everyone’s on board, regardless of if it’s multiple sexual partners or demisexuality. With gender – it’s about holding all genders on equal footing and treating desire equally and fairly.
What about Sex-Positive Parenting?
Sex and sexual health can be awkward topics to bring up with your children, but fostering a sex-positive environment in your home in which children aren’t afraid to ask questions about their body can lead to healthier relationships with themselves and with others, as well as a willingness to explore a sexual desire. After all, sexual health can be a touchy subject to talk about, and through sex-positive parenting, parents are the first line of defense in fostering a comprehensive sexual education.
Why should we be Sex-Positive?
Sex is everywhere in our society, and keeping an open mind while celebrating our bodies, love, and passion in a safe and consensual way will leave everyone happier! Being sex-positive gives you the freedom to celebrate and explore all types of sexual activity. It also means enjoying your own sexuality while respecting the sexuality of people with different gender and sexual identities.
Here are a few benefits of sex-positivity:
You Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin
It’s amazing how different you can feel about your own sexuality when you take sexual shame out of the equation. When you fully embrace being sex-positive, you can suddenly feel much more comfortable with your sexual needs and desires. Human sexuality can be very complex, and regarding sexual activity as a healthy and integral part of the human experience makes it easier to ask for what you want and to indulge in your own pleasure. With the sex-positivity movement comes a sort of sexual liberation from the antiquated moral judgment about what was once considered “healthy sex.”
It Fosters Compassion and Empathy
Embracing sex positivity means celebrating diversity in every aspect, regardless of sexual orientation, sexual preferences, and sexual expressions. To truly be sex-positive means accepting every type of sex, and that means taking the time to understand and respect the different ways sex can play out. Just because the sex two (or more!) consenting adults have doesn’t match society’s expectations of what sex should look like, that doesn’t mean it’s any less special.
You’re Better Educated
The sex-positivity movement’s focus on consensual sexual activity results in people who are better educated about sexuality. After all, in order to consent to something, you need to be fully informed, right? From an extensive understanding of the clitoris to the best lube to use with condoms, sex-positive people tend to know their stuff – and they put all that knowledge to very good use. When various forms of sexual expression are accepted and celebrated, people tend to be more open to learning more about different types of sexual pleasure and fostering a healthy relationship with their bodies.
It Makes You a Better Friend
Whether the new person you’re dating has a quirky fetish or you and your partner of a year just tried something new in bed – at one time or another we all have some serious sexual tea to spill. In those moments, you need a friend who can lend an ear, a high five, or some much-needed advice without inserting any type of moral judgment about a person’s sexual experiences or their relationship. When you’re sex-positive, you can be that friend for other people (and when it’s your turn, they’ll be there for you).
It Makes You a Better Lover
What makes a great lover? Is it relishing in giving and receiving pleasure? Is it about having a baseline education on sexual desire and preferences? Is it being comfortable with yourself and your understanding of others? If you said, “all of the above,” you’d be right. Sex-positive people are all of those things and that makes them fantastic partners and lovers.
It Makes Your Sex Better
While we can’t guarantee better sex, the ability to talk openly and comfortably about sex, particularly with your sexual partner(s), will only result in a deeper shared understanding of what gets everybody going! For example, say you’ve always wanted to try a certain sex position or act but have been too nervous or shy to bring it up. Being sex-positive can make these types of conversations with your partner more comfortable, so you end up getting more of what you want.
Being sex-positive is a frame of mind, and like anything else, it can take practice. If you’re not there yet, even after finding out the answer “to what is sex-positivity?”, be patient and just focus on gently retraining yourself to think of sex in a more positive way and remove any negative stigma about sexual behavior. You’ll get there, we believe in you! The most important part of any journey is making the decision to start – and we could not be more excited for you.
What do you think of our list of reasons why being sex-positive rules? Are there any that you would like to add? Tweet us @ASTROGLIDE and tell us your thoughts.
Images are for illustrative purposes only.
Giami, Alain. “Sexual liberation and sexual revolutions”, Encyclopédie d’histoire numérique de l’Europe, https://ehne.fr/en/node/14140
Klein, Jessica. “What Does ‘Sex Positivity’ Mean?” BBC Worklife, BBC, www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210818-what-does-sex-positivity-mean.