After three years of writing Hump Day, I have finally come to my final piece. I would like to take this moment to thank each and every reader that has ever laid eyes on my writing — yes, including those that found it vulgar or offensive.
Writing Hump Day means a great deal to me, and it is with a heavy heart that I pass the torch on to the next columnist as I graduate. Over the years, my column has grown from roots based in sex-positivity. Although sex-positivity does not define my beliefs, it does inform them. My stance on most facets of sexuality — including kink, non-monogamy, experimentation and pleasure — stems from sex-positivity.
At its core, sex-positivity promotes and embraces sexual activity and expression preceded by consent and accompanied by necessary protection (barrier methods, birth control, etc.). Sex-positivity supports comprehensive sex education and safer sex as tools of the movement to allow individuals to be knowledgeable and empowered in decisions regarding sexuality.
These values combat an overwhelmingly sex-negative society that wishes to subjugate and control sexuality, particularly that of women as well as queer and trans folks. Sex-positivity also endorses consent culture: encouraging and normalizing explicit consent between partners for all activities and respecting lack of consent. Importantly, sex-positivity only concerns sex. Without consent, sex is rape, and thus falls completely outside the boundaries of sex-positivity.
Sex-positivity is not about having sex; abstinent and asexual folks are included in sex-positivity’s perspective that people should only engage in sexual activity that they agree with and actively desire.
Choice is essential to sex-positivity. And although the sex-positive movement has been touted mainly by women, its philosophies also apply to men, who are frequently told that being a “real man” entails constantly wanting sex. Sex-positivity recognizes that this is a function of harmful hypermasculinity and challenges its basis in patriarchy. Above all else, sex-positivity attempts to eradicate unnecessary and damaging judgement of sexual activity while providing information and acceptance to anyone who wants it.
Despite my overwhelming alignment with the notion of sex-positivity, its philosophy leaves much to be desired when taken at face value. Just like everything else, sex-positivity is nuanced, and becomes problematic when applied broadly or without critique.
Too often, self-identified sex-positive people make the sweeping generalization that all sex is good sex as long as consent is present. But consensual acts can be troublesome as well. Maybe the sex is consensual, but it’s objectifying and leaves an individual feeling lonelier than ever. Maybe the sex is consensual, but someone experiences body dysmorphia and sexual activity makes it worse.
Just because something is empowering to one person does not mean it empowers everyone. Sex-positivity is hardly ever culturally competent, so it is important for sex-positive white folks to check their privilege and realize that their sexuality is allowed to exist in ways that black, Latina or Asian people are not afforded.
In addition, we do not make sexual choices in a vacuum. Sex-positivity supports autonomous choices, but it is entirely impossible to remove ourselves from all the invasive, cisnormative and heteronormative ideals that we’ve been marinating in our entire lives. Preferences are fine, but they are influenced by the culture we grow up in.
For example, if someone enjoys facials (ejaculating on a partner’s face, stereotypically a woman), that’s just fine with explicit consent. However, facials must be understood in the context of a patriarchal society that sexually degrades women.
Subscribers of mainstream sex-positivity do not always understand the movement with sufficient context, and that includes existing within a white supremacy. Sex-positivity as defined by white people often does not translate to people of color, especially given the pervasive sexualization of non-white people in the media and pornography.
Sex-positivity does not exist in the same form among all people who subscribe to it. Those who proclaim themselves to be sex-positive must make an effort to examine their ideals and ensure that it takes context and culture into account. We are always unlearning oppression and learning love.