why sex-positivity is good for feminism

I just ran across a blog about “Why Sex-Positivity is Bad for Feminism” and I’m astounded. Here’s my favorite snippet:

Of course, there are a lot of feminist issues involved in the porn industry, sex work, and in human sexuality; I just don’t think “sex positivity” is one of them. So you’re a feminist, and you like sex—well, that’s normal. So do a lot of people, including a lot of non- and anti-feminists. So what does that have to do with feminist identity?

Apparently, the author seems to have missed out on the fact that for many people, liking sex or believing that they deserve to have the sex that they want or getting to experience sexual pleasure or being able to ask for the sex they want isn’t as common as she seems to think

Lots of people of all genders and sexual orientations, including lots of women, have been shamed for their sexual desires and practices. That’s what happens in a sex-negative world. The fact that our culture is obsessed with sex doesn’t make it sex-positive. If anything, our obsession with sex is a sign of our sex-negativity, in the same way that people with eating disorders often obsess about food and people with self-image issues often obsess about how they look. In many ways, the obsession fuels the problem, rather than being a sign that there is no problem.

Here’s another snippet:

And yet, sex-positivity has wormed its way into the feminist movement. Why? One reason, of course, is that for a long time, women weren’t allowed to want or like to have sex. And sure, I’ve been lucky to grow up in a time and place where I haven’t needed a porn star PhD mentor to tell me it’s okay to like doin’ it.

And I talk to women all the time who are still being told that they aren’t allowed to want or have the sex that they desire, especially if they’re queer or are interested in sexual practices other than intercourse within a heterosexual relationship. I’ve spoken with thousands of women and their partners who feel embarrassed that they want to use vibrators, or lubricants, or engage in any other 100% common and (dare I say it) normal sexual practice. So the fact that this one person feels comfortable having sex doesn’t imply anything about the sexual shame that many women experience. That’s why sex-positivity is relevant for feminism.

One last quote:

But there’s another reason, too: If people who like sex see sex-positivity as a part of the feminist movement, maybe they’ll see feminism as less prude and scary and icky and straight-laced and serious and anti-man. And I think it’s condescending to the feminist movement that we have to bring orgasms in to be taken seriously.

I don’t see it that way at all. I think that the reason that sex-positivity is important for feminism is that sex-positivity is about making room for the range of sexualities that exist among human beings. It’s about honoring the diversity of experience and ensuring that we each have the space to be the sexual beings that we are, without submitting our desires to a socially-constructed role. It’s about honoring each of our personal experiences and not trying to force someone into a particular image.

Sex-positivity is important for feminism because it invites feminism to make space for our entire experiences as sexual, human beings. If you can’t do that, then you risk falling into the trap of trying to fit people in a different box. It may seem different simply because it’s new, but it’s just as limiting as the box you just left.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read my piece. You obviously have a really different perspective than I do about it, but hearing different opinions on this has been really helpful. It turns out that even though I find sex-positivity workshops and such uninteresting, talking about sex positivity and all the different perspectives on its place in the feminist movement has been very interesting. Keep up the conversation.

  2. Ms Naughty says:

    My first thought when I read Amanda’s piece is… the sex positive message must be getting through if there’s this kind of backlash against it, if people are saying “Oh duh, sex positivity, how boring” then there’s been some progress.

    But I’m with you Charlie. An episode of Oprah the other day had women being shocked at the suggestion they look at their genitals with a mirror. In 2009. Didn’t we do that in the 70s? Sure, the younger women are OK with sex but there’s plenty of other average, everyday women who need to hear the message of sex positive feminism.

    And I could never find Annie Sprinkle boring. She started me on my own porny adventure and I’m forever grateful to her for that.

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