When someone says they identify as sex-positive, they can be referring to several things. Specifically, here are the three most common interpretations that I have seen in and around the asexual community:
- “I feel that sex is great, I feel positively about it.”
- “I feel that sex is a good thing, that has benefits for all.”
- “I feel positively about people expressing their sexuality in ways that are safe and consensual.”
These three (admittedly simplified) interpretations define what is commonly referred to ‘sex-positivity’. The problem arises though, when we realise that these definitions aren’t always mutually inclusive of one another.
Person A is happy about people expressing their sexuality in ways that are safe and consensual, though feels both negative and repulsed about the act itself if it were to include them. Person B approaches and wishes to discuss positive aspects of the sex act with Person A, as they have recently read an article about these benefits. Person A is not interested in discussing as they feel uncomfortable with the specifics of the act, yet Person B presses on, pointing out that some of these benefits could apply to anyone who participates in the act of sex, regardless of orientation. Person B goes on to suggest that Person A is simply sex-negative, and the resulting bloodbath is short and savage.
Now, aside from the obvious breach of boundaries by Person B, the fact is that both people identify as sex-positive. And they are both right. The way to achieve productive discourse in this case and, I believe, many cases, lies in acceptance of other people’s feelings, opinions, and boundaries as equally valid and real as your own. Once there is that acceptance, then there can be effective communication. If we take the example from above and injected a healthy respect of boundaries and other opinions to the mix, the resulting discussion could be a lot more productive.
(cont’d) Person A is not interested in discussing as they feel uncomfortable with the specifics of the act, and communicates this to Person B. Person B stops trying to discuss this subject with Person A, and politely asks if they would elaborate on why they are not comfortable with the topic. Person A explains that they have no problem with other people expressing their sexuality in a way that doesn’t involve Person A, as they are repulsed by the idea of sex involving them. Person B thinks about this for a bit, and realises that while they don’t feel the same way as Person A, that doesn’t mean that Person A’s feelings are any less valid. Person B finds someone else to discuss their topic of interest with, and Persons A and B part ways as mutually respectful and tolerant people.
Wasn’t that lovely?
Robin’s Comment: And never ever should “sex positivity” mean that everyone must have sex to be happy.