It seems like every time I turn around, someone is standing under the banner of sex-positivity and proclaiming “Sex is awesome! Everyone should totally be doing it!” I certainly understand why folks fall into that trap- sex is so shamed in our society that it’s easy for people to jump to the conclusion that the solution is to say that we should all be having more sex.
I see two problems with this. First, all that does is perpetuate the cycles of repression and rebellion. Rather than finding a place of sexual well-being and balance, we end up bouncing from one extreme to the other. Sex is bad! Sex is great! And we never get off that cycle.
The second difficulty is that it substitutes one definition of how sex should be with another. I’ve talked with plenty of people who feel like they’re not one of the cool kids because they’re heterosexual, or monogamous, or vanilla, or not interested in anal sex, or they don’t ejaculate from G-spot play, or they don’t orgasm easily, or they don’t have any interest in sex, or anything else. It’s ironic that in reaction to sex-negative shaming, some people turn around and shame other people for not being wild and crazy.
In my view, the problem is that not enough people understand that sex-positivity isn’t the same thing as sexual enthusiasm. The fact that someone enjoys sex doesn’t necessarily mean that they can honor and celebrate sexual choices and practices that they don’t do. The fact that someone can be public about their sexuality doesn’t imply anything about their capacity to make room for sexual diversity and difference.
For me, sex-positivity means creating room for any kind of sexual fantasy and/or consensual sexual expression one might choose, as well as choosing to not have sex for any reason. There needs to be room for asexuality, celibacy, monogamy, polyamory, or anything else; for any consensual sexual activity; to decide to not engage in any sexual practice; and for that to change over time as people’s interests and capacities shift. There needs to be room to say no, as well as to say yes, not right now, another time, or anything else that one might wish to.
Anytime we talk about how sex is or how it “should” be, we ‘re reinforcing sexual shame. If you feel enthusiastic about sex, that’s great! Just don’t think that it makes you cooler, more enlightened, or better than someone who doesn’t. And anyway, there might come a time when you don’t feel enthusiastic about sex. That can be challenging enough without the judgment that it means that you’re not as evolved.
So if we truly want to change that, if we want to heal sexual shame within ourselves and in the world around us, we need to stop equating sexual enthusiasm with sex-positivity. Though they can go together, there are plenty of examples to show that they don’t have to.