…in a private Facebook group recently. I told the people involved that I’d like to make it accessible to other communities who are having similar conversations complicating the rhetoric of the sex-positive movement. Everyone agreed to have their comments posted publicly. Comments are copied and pasted verbatim except where identifying details have been removed by request. Those who asked to be quoted anonymously have had their names replaced by a random gender-neutral name from this list, except the original poster who is referred to as Original Poster.
Three things that came out of this conversation for me (or that came up for me while I was having it) that I particularly wanted to highlight:
1. I’m kind of liking the idea of promoting “Sexual Agency”. I’ve heard other suggested descriptions for a politics that’s more inclusive (of e.g. asexuals, survivors, sex workers, ethical prudes, etc.) than the “sex is nice and pleasure is good for you” ethic of sex-positivity:
- “Sexual Freedom” is somewhat widely used, but Elaan points out that it’s very reminiscent of “Free Love” — which, despite its roots in anarchism and turn-of-the-last-century anti-marriage feminism, isn’t very distinct in the popular imagination from 1960s street orgies. In other words, for many, “Sexual Freedom” might conjure up the same blithely pro-sex images that “Sex Positivity”.
- “Sexual Liberation”, too, has mostly been co-opted to talk about women, birth-control, and the “sexual revolution” of the 60s and 70s.
- And “Sexual Choice” gets at the right idea but, to my mind, still suggests a sort of sexuality-centric freedom to choose from a diverse banquet of e.g. partners, experiences, types of sex, sexual subcultures, flavors of lube, etc. Rather than a freedom from rape culture, oppression, repression, hypersexualization, compulsory heterosexuality, etc.
I like a politics of “Sexual Agency” because it suggests to me a culture of consent and diverse self-determination that isn’t pre-biased in the direction of either Boo! or Hooray!; it centers the discussion on individuals rather than environments (it’s hard for me to imagine a “Sexual Agency Scene” the way we think of the “Sex-Positive Scene”); and also because, for privileged and marginalized folks alike, achieving agency within the automaton-producing context of oppression culture is much a more complicated project than simply achieving choice, positivity, or even freedom. So, I think “Sexual Agency” gets at the difficulty of what we’re trying to do better than many of the other options.
It’s just an idea I’m playing with, though, so I’m totally open to other suggestions or challenges.
2. I believe there are a LOT of people who are more on board with a sexual agency-type agenda than an explicitly pro-sex agenda, and that many of these folks have grabbed onto the “sex-positive” label for lack of a better way to describe their politics. This leads to a frustrating conflation between the pro-sex Sex Positivity Movement and its adherents and a much more diverse population of self-described “sex-positive” people who, lacking another banner to organize around, are left sort of floundering and unheard inside a movement that started out with a very narrow political agenda (as a response to anti-pornography feminists of the 80s) and has developed into a still fairly narrow movement focused primarily on meeting the needs and empowering the sexualities of middle-class white women. I think this excerpt from the chapter linked above does an excellent job of pointing out some of the narrowness inherent in the Sex-Positive Movement’s agenda:
[W]hile the mainstream gay movement fights for gay marriage [...] anti-assimilationist queers throw radical sex parties. But fighting Dworkinism and other forms of sexual conservative politics with a sex-positive agenda can also reproduce the racism inherent in the mainstream gay movement. The queer sex-positive political agenda claims a woman’s right to fuck who she wants to fuck, reclaims the word “slut,” challenges the idea that a woman has to remain pure or untouched, and fights against the idea that she can never have agency in sexual situations. It is also based in transgressing the ideals of white womanhood.
I wholeheartedly support queer women’s deisres to fuck without shame or stigma, and this is very much a part of the political agenda for queer people of color. But reclaiming the word “slut” and fighting to not be considered pure don’t work well when historically women of color have been on the receiving end of state violence in a way that has constructed us as always being sexually open; women of color can’t be raped because we’ve been considered sexually accessible throughout Amerika’s history of slavery and genocide.
- Priyank Jindal, Sites of Resistance or Sites of Racism?
I’m in no way claiming that middle-class white women who want to have more sex shouldn’t also be liberated to do that. But I believe that, for a lot of people who describe themselves as “sex-positive”, that wouldn’t be the number one thing on their agenda — and that many of them have a genuine interest in a broader and more inclusive politics than the Sex-Positive Movement currently offers or, perhaps, is even inherently capable of offering.
3. The main reason I wanted to post the conversation itself was because I appreciated hearing first-hand from several voices about the variety of ways that the promise of the sex-positive movement isn’t deliveriing for them as “sex-positive”-identified non-promiscuous folks, as survivors, as sex-workers, as people who don’t fall inside hegemonic standards for attractiveness, gender, desire, etc. As I mention in one of the comments of the thread, it’s so much more valuable to hear these things directly from individuals who are experiencing them, rather than folks like me sitting around positing the existence of underserved populations on our blogs.
I also really appreciated seeing the responses from folks who the standard sex-positive agenda does serve — and one thing I appreciated about them was that they weren’t all exactly the same. In other words, I’d like to believe there are some folks who have just the right combination of privileges and marginalities to benefit significantly from sex-positivity but who are still ultimately more committed to am inclusive politics of sexual agency than to one that privileges their experience specifically. (And, of course, there are plenty of others who aren’t.)
Anyway, these are just my extrapolations and should be understood as my off-the-cuff analyses of this one microcosmic social interaction only. The conversation is long, there’s a lot of the usual commentary in it, not everything is a gem of unique insight (especially not my own rambling comments!); but I thought there were a couple of good points made, some voices that we don’t hear enough from publicly spoke up, and the above were just some thoughts based on the threads I personally found most interesting. This is just one illustrative instance of a conversation that hopefully is taking place in lots of different places. I’ll post the conversation itself here, so that others who are interested in thinking through some of this stuff can hear the participants’ own voices and draw their own conclusions.
After noticing a trend among the sex-positive community, I’m curious: Do you automatically associate the phrase “sex positive” with someone who has a high sex drive and actively seeks out numerous sex partners?
I ask this because I consider myself a sex positive person–I think any consensual expression of sexual desire is valid and worth celebrating. However, that doesn’t mean I’m *personally* interested in lots of sex with lots of people. I can’t tell you how often I’ve encountered the attitude that this means I can’t be sex positive, because to them, “sex positive” automatically means “wants lots of sex” or “frequently feels sexually charge/aroused.”
Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, so I thought I’d ask a) whether you lovely folks associate sex positivity with a person’s subjective feelings about / interest in *having* sex, and/or b) whether anyone else has been frustrated by the conflation of these two things.
The conversation continues with 47 comments below the cut…
Addison Anonymous I have been frustrated to the point of not identifying with the [Local Sex-Positive Organization].
Rebecca Crane Original Poster, I was talking a little bit about this problem with [a mutual friend] recently, actually. And there has been some interesting conversation going around the blogosphere lately about how the term “sex-positive” has been co-opted in ways that are actually self-defeating, because of this implication that “sex is nice and pleasure is good for you” is a political ethic that makes sense for everybody — when, in fact, that’s obviously not true especially for, say, survivors of sexual violence, or people for whom sex is just a job (and sometimes an extremely dangerous job, at that) or, y’know, asexuals.
There’s an interesting post here that I’ve been reading in bits and pieces (it’s long) called ‘The Ethical Prude: Imagining an Authentic Sex-Negative Feminism’: http://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/the-ethical-prude-imagining-an-authentic-sex-negative-feminism/
I’ve also heard suggestions that the “sex-negative/sex-positive” dichotomy isn’t actually that useful and that it might make more sense to frame things in terms of “sexual freedom” (including the freedom to not be into having a whole lot of sex.)
So, in short, yes. You’re not alone with this.
Jikai Keith Percy I have this frustration. I don’t personally see sp this way but I wonder if I’m a minority there–i do have high drive personally but connection is a higher priority.
Original Poster Thank you so much for that link; I’m definitely going to read through it. And I am absolutely in love with the term “sexual freedom” as opposed to the positive/negative dichotomy for all the reasons you described. This is definitely something I’ll be chewing on.
Kitten Karlyle As someone on the high drive side, this issue does concern me. I often wonder if so much open love of sex and wanting to have it with everyone all the time could cause others to feel left out or like I’m calling them sex-negative. I usually am not intending to, but I think it’s important to distinguish between someone’s actual sexual drive and their personal politics. It’s possible that these sorts of things get confused all the time. For example, you might hear me saying something such as “I think everyone should have as much sex as they possibly can all the time with as many different people as they want to.” To me, that is a statement coming from within my drive, but it is also a sex-positive statement. I intend the parts about “as much as possible for THEM, and as much as THEY want to,” to be the key points there, the points where I am saying everyone has a different drive and need for sex/ amount of partners/ etc, but the part of that sentence that people usually pay attention to is the EVERYONE part, construing it to be a blanket statement.
Rebecca Crane Jikai: I think one issue might be that there are lots of PEOPLE who identify as “sex-positive” but subscribe more to a “sexual freedom” politics … but that the “institutions” of sex-positivity as they currently exist are mostly things like (frequently BDSM-oriented) sex-parties and Slut Walks and other things that are very much, well, about making spaces for people to have sex and feel sexy and generally support a pro-sex political agenda.
All these things are great, of course, as a counteracting response to sex-negative repression. But I think over-focusing on sex-as-legitimate-hobby has made the Sex-Positivity *movement* (as opposed to individual sex-positive people) feel very narrow and sexuality-privileged (e.g. the privilege of people for whom sex can be frequently available, easy and fun — compared to folks for whom healthy/safe sexuality isn’t simple or easy to access even in “sex-positive” spaces) — and I think that’s a turn-off to a lot of folks who might otherwise be totally on board. (Or, alternatively, it makes folks who ARE on board with a sex-positive identity feel pressured to have more sex/more partners than they’re actually comfortable with.)
Just a few cents.
Original Poster Kitten, I do think folks sometimes fail to hear what someone actually said vs. what they think they said. So yeah, you’re absolutely right, I’m sure!
My experience is less about what you’ve just described and more that if a person says, “I’m sex positive,” the consequent assumption is that this person wants to have lots of sex, or otherwise values frequent participation in sexual activities.
So in writing that, I guess my experience is actually directly related to what you’ve said, just coming from the other direction. When people hear “I’m sex positive,” they often hear a lot of implications that aren’t necessarily being made.
Kitten Karlyle Didn’t meant o press enter, although maybe I should stop there…
Anyhow, the other point I wanted to make is that I see sex-positive as a sort of reactionary movement against the idea that sex should not be the most important thing to anyone ever. I am a living example, I think, of someone who it is the most important thing for. So while sex-positivity for me includes welcoming and including those with a lower sex drive than me (because, let’s be honest, that’s most people I know), it is also really important to me personally to have the ability to celebrate sex as often as I can, in as many ways as I can. So when I hear other people in the community saying that the feel shamed for being “sex-negative” because they don’t like to have sex with that many different people, or they think love is more important than sex, or they find promiscuity “unattractive”- that’s their opinion to state about their view of sex-posivity, it is open and it is welcome in my community, but it’s also not really understanding the point of anything I say or do.
I’m not really even sure I’m saying this right. But it is something I feel passionately about and want to continue talking about, so hit me back if you’re confused or think I’m being an asshat.
Mabel Darling I see the conflation occurring mostly from people who are accustomed to serial monogamy, but I can think of a couple asexual friends who are far more sex-posi than some of my radical poly friends, meaning they condone and encourage everyone’s autonomy, agency, and education of good, consensual sexual and/or kinky practices (which might not involve sex but require a level of sex-positivity to be healthy).
Bailey Anonymous I think there’s a big difference between “I think everyone should have as much sex as they possibly CAN all the time with as many different people as they want to.” and “I think everyone should have as much sex as they possibly WANT all the time with as many different people as they want to.”
If someone WANTS a lot of sex, go for it. If someone DOESN’T, for whatever reason, that’s fine too as long as they don’t begrudge others the freedom to engage in whatever consensual relationship(s) they choose.
Original Poster I think one reason I feel very strongly about not making assumptions about a “sex positive” person is that I’ve had some variation on the following exchange far too many times:
Me: I’m sex positive.
Other person: [Brings up sex as a topic.]
Me: [Talks about sex objectively.]
Other person: [Extends sexual invitation.]
Me: [Politely declines.]
Other person: But you said you’re sex positive!
Original Poster And I subsequently feel very cornered.
Kitten Karlyle I see where you’re going with this Original Poster, and I similarly have this issue. Especially being as open as I am, writing openly and filthily about sex on the Internet and sharing my writing with people I don’t even know, many people often feel like it’s ok to meet me for the first time and proposition me for sex, or to talk to me about all my anal sex adventures I wrote about, etc etc. It’s interesting because I usually don’t mind; the intent seems like it’s coming from the right place. But sometimes, when the intent seems predatory, it makes me distinctly uncomfortable. I’m not even sure what the difference is between interactions seeming like they’re coming from the right place or seeming predatory, I just know that it’s there and I’m not sure what to do about it.
Original Poster Kitten, yes yes yes. I don’t begrudge anyone propositioning me in the first place, but once I decline, I expect them to back off immediately. But the fact that I identified myself as sex positive somehow means I must now defend my lack of interest–in sex with them, in a particular sexual act, etc.
Particularly damaging is when a person is labeled as “slut shaming” simply because their subjective/personal interest in sex isn’t as wide-reaching, pervasive, or enthusiastic as someone else’s. Not wanting sex =/= slut shaming.
And that’s… obviously not the point of sex positivity.
Rebecca Crane Kitten Karlyle and Original Poster: I could say a lot about this, but my gut response to what you’re both saying is that this has to do with the fact that — even if we identify as sex-positive in the most inclusive and sexual-freedom oriented sense — we’re still doing that in the context of a rape culture.
In other words, when someone who’s been socialized in rape culture (i.e. most of us) hears, “I’m sex-positive”, they interpret that in part as, “I have lower expectations about consent than the average woman.” (I’d be particularly interested to hear if there are people perceived as men who have had similar experiences to OP’s. I’m sure there are some — but I suspect there are fewer.)
This is sort of the argument I’m making against “sex-positive culture” in general, in fact: It’s very idealistic in a way that doesn’t allow it to take rape culture seriously. The sex-positive movement seems to feel that it is, *itself* a solution to rape culture. I think it’s a) much more complicated than that and b) that, even if it were true, it doesn’t address the fact that we still live in and are attempting to do “sex-positivity” in the context of rape culture *right now*.
Um, so there’s that.
Mark Honeycutt Thank you for this awesome discussion. This article was just below it on my feed and I thought it might be relevant here to see just what happens when being sex negative becomes a matter of policy. The article is about how the southern states with the most repressive sexual politics have the worst problems with teen pregnancy.
Original Poster: I’m sorry it’s so difficult to simply talk about sex without somebody assuming that you are propositioning them. Just tell them straight out: “I’m not talking about fucking you, I’m just talking about a topic.” Use the word ‘fuck’ to wake them up. Engage them conversationally on the topic. “How do YOU feel?”, “Has that happened to YOU?” How about instead of “sex positive” we use “sexually assertive”?
“I am saying everyone has a different drive and need for sex/amount of partners/ etc”
Kitten Karlyle: I think a lot of what you’re saying makes sense and it’s a good point that sex-positivity is about EVERYONE being able to have the kind, type, and amount of sex that’s right for *them*.
The one thing I want to point out that I think you’re missing is that the amount/kind of sex that’s *right* for a person and the amount that’s *accessible* to them are not always the same — even in sex-positive spaces. For people who have a lot of trauma around sex, for example, or trans people or people with disabilities who can’t necessarily trust partners they don’t know well to interact with their bodies in a way that’s safe for them, or people who aren’t considered “fuckable” by normal standards, or people who are only attracted to a particular gender or a particular kind of sex that is very hard to find where they live…
Lots of people might actually WANT to be having more sex but can’t be for a variety of reasons (which are often related to rape culture, or to the fact that we still live in a society where certain kinds of bodies, genders, etc are automatically considered more attractive than others)… being told, “Just let go of your hang-ups and have as much sex as you want!” can feel like rubbing salt in a wound.
And I know that this sort of joyful celebratory attitude toward sex can be really personally empowering — and definitely empowering for a movement that’s reacting to repressive sex-negativity. And, at the same time, it can also be hurtful to folks who don’t have some of the privileges we do that make it comparatively easy for us to have as much sex as we want.
(I say “us” up there, but I have some trouble figuring out where I fit myself into this landscape, actually. I definitely find sex-positive spaces a little off-putting because of assumptions they seem to make about the relationship between sexuality and trauma that don’t sit well with my experiences of sex. At the same time, I know that I have a SHIT TON more sexuality-privilege and access to the kind of pleasure that feels good and safe to me than lots of other people in the world, including lots of other people in alt-sex communities.
Chase Anonymous Rebecca, I respectfully disagree. I think sex-positivity is absolutely a valid way to resist and transform the culture of rape that exists in our society. It is the way I have found to do so, and I will continue to center my work around sex-positivity. We need a variety of methods to achieve social change. While sex-positive culture may seem idealistic, it is a reality for some, and embracing it and spreading these value will make it a reality for more. What other methods would you prefer to see people using?
Original Poster Mark: While I agree that sex negative culture is deeply problematic, I don’t know if the term “sexually assertive” is going to be helpful to what’s ultimately being discussed here. Speaking only for myself, I find the idea of “sexual assertiveness” kind of frightening, from a rape-culture perspective.
There is also a lot of privilege in saying, “Just tell them you don’t want to fuck them.” Not trying to be combative here, but I don’t really have the type of psychological or neurological makeup that makes that a viable option.
Chase Anonymous Also, I feel a little confused, since my understanding of sex-positive includes aesexuality, as well as sexual freedom for survivors of abuse/trauma as well. Sex positive means I embrace and support all those expressions of sexuality that are empowering to the individuals involved. Furthermore, the only way to change people’s perceptions of the word (to get back to OP’s original post) is to live it. Meaning, I’m happy to correct that assumption (that I’m going to sleep with someone simply because I identify as sex positive) when I run up against it. And yes, I run up against it a lot. I’ve noticed that if you identify as femme and talk about sex, you will get a lot of propositions simply for that.
Chase Anonymous said:
“I think sex-positivity is absolutely a valid way to resist and transform the culture of rape that exists in our society”
I agree. I think it’s necessary — but not sufficient. In other words, sex-positivity is great but we also need to be doing other things. (And, I will also go so far as to say: We need to be doing sex-positivity in ways that are more sensitive to the needs of trauma survivors and to people with less sexuality-privilege than those of us who feel more-or-less comfortable in sex-positive spaces as they currently exist.)
You’re totally right that we need a variety of methods to achieve social change. I think idealism can actually be very powerful, as long as it’s also matched with consciousness about who’s being left out. I think it’s great that you are committed to doing sex-positive work! It’s very important work — especially insofar as I know you plan to do it in a therapeutic context. It’s also a career-path that’s not available to many people, which I think is worth keeping in mind but certainly not a reason for you not to do it!
Kitten Karlyle Rebecca Crane I will think about what you have said, and I have been thinking about it a lot already. I often wonder how far my head is up my own privileged ass in regards to my sexual attitudes. But I just think there’s a balance, you know? That we’re all trying to achieve here. Obviously, I just don’t think it’s possible for everyone to be comfortable in every space. I wish there was a way, but I’m not sure it could be done. I want people to have their spaces, to celebrate in them, and I want for others to not feel left out if they’re uncomfortable in that space. It’s hard balance to strike; as you and I have talked about many times, there are all sorts of queer sex-positive communities that I feel uncomfortable with and left out from. But maybe those aren’t my spaces? Maybe I can be an ally to a space like that by not feeling hurt that the space exists without me?
Chase Anonymous said:
“Sex positive means I embrace and support all those expressions of sexuality that are empowering to the individuals involved. Furthermore, the only way to change people’s perceptions of the word (to get back to OP’s original is to live it.”
* nods nods * That totally makes sense to me, given my earlier post about how *people* who identify as “sex-positive” don’t necessarily have the same politics that the *movement* as a whole seems to be espousing through it’s most common and visible activities (e.g. sex parties, slut walks, etc.)
So, I think another way to change peoples’ perceptions of the word maybe isn’t just to live an inclusive sex-positivity in our personal lives, but also work on encouraging the public-facing sex-positivity movement to do more to actively, as Chase says, “resist and transform the rape culture that exists in our society” — rather than just hoping that if we have enough sex parties, it’ll go away on its own.
Rebecca Crane Kitten Karlyle: I’d love to talk about this with you more not on the Internet. It’s definitely a complicated topic and I really appreciate your thoughts on it.
I hope you realize that I’m not suggesting that EVERY space should be TOTALLY comfortable for EVERYBODY. Obviously that’s not possible. (Or desirable!) I just think that some spaces are SO UNCOMFORTABLE for a LOT of people right now that taking a hard, even “reactionary”, lean in the opposite direction probably won’t throw the balance off too bad.
In other words, I’m partially playing Devil’s Advocate here — but it’s because I think the Devil has a point.
Original Poster The discussion about sex-positive spaces is really interesting to me. I haven’t participated in a lot of sex-positive events because I haven’t felt they were my spaces. I’m okay with those spaces existing, and I don’t feel oppressed by their existence, but I do wish I had a space that resonated with me. (I know a lot of people’s gut reaction to this is: Create a space! Unfortunately–between my PTSD, fibro, and Asperger’s–I don’t have the spoons or ability to participate in community organizing without feeling deeply distressed, so it’s not that simple.)
This probably isn’t the most useful comment, being so subjective, but I guess it’s my way of saying I think this conversation is a really worthwhile one to have, and I’m happy people are engaging.
Rebecca Crane Original Poster: Comments like these are actually REALLY helpful. It makes me feel like I’m not off-base for saying, “Hey, these spaces probably aren’t working for a lot of folks in our communities” when people from our communities speak up and say, “Hey, these spaces aren’t really working for me.”
And it also helps me, as someone who DOES tend to have the capacity for community organizing but not always the information I need to organize it in a way that’s inclusive of folks with experiences that I don’t share, to hear about what’s not working for you — even if you don’t already have a “solution” in mind for what would work or the spoons to build it all by yourself.
Rebecca Crane So, thanks.
Rebecca Crane I also want to make it clear that I have a huge amount of respect for the work that Kitten Karlyle, Chase Anonymous, and others do to promote sexual liberty and sexual agency (however you want to label it) in our communities. ♥
The only reason I’m taking the time to try and make our understanding of sex-positivity more complicated/nuanced is because I *really care* about the work and think it has huge potential to do good. I’m not rejecting it. I’m trying to make it even better.
Chase Anonymous Rebecca said: “And it also helps me, as someone who DOES tend to have the capacity for community organizing but not always the information I need to organize it in a way that’s inclusive of folks with experiences that I don’t share, to hear about what’s not working for you — even if you don’t already have a “solution” in mind for what would work or the spoons to build it all by yourself.”
Original, I just want to 2nd what Rebecca says here. I think ‘subjective’ comments like these are *very* important, and I would love to hear, if you’re willing to share, what might make an event more appealing to you!
Mabel Darling I’m having a hard time keeping up with how fast people are adding to this post, but I want to add a huge Thank You to Rebecca for some of the points she’s making about people who might want sex but not be able to have it due to trauma, disability, trans-related issues (which is particularly relevant to me), or communicable disease status (i’m adding this to the list, as it should be relevant to anyone having intimate body contact). I especially want to encourage continuing your usage of “people perceived as men/women,” as that takes precedent in how most folks treat others, rather than how people self-identify, or what kinds of junk they might have. I imagine Kitten’s, Chase’s, Rebecca’s, and Original’s rate of being propositioned after IDing as sex-positive is significantly higher than mine (which is practically a rate of zero), related to how our rape culture and combined gender role dynamics inform even radical, queer, trans, and sex-positive folks’ perceptions and subsequent treatment of one another. No matter how much of a dyke I am, the only time my “sexual availability” is assumed and acted on, it’s from aggressive gay cis males who want me to be something I’m not. I’m glad so many of my queer women friends have so many empowering options available to them, but as Rebecca suggested, please be thinking about those without those privileges and options, and make efforts as allies when creating those spaces.
Original Poster Chase: Sure! I hope anyone who reads this comment will bear in mind that I really am just answering Chase’s question subjectively–not prescriptively, or even plaintively.
I enjoy discussion-based events a great deal. I’m not comfortable exposing my sexuality to people with whom I’m not sexually involved, so things like sex parties and BDSM events are going to be inherently problematic for me. (For me, observing–or even sharing physical space without observing–is a form of participation.)
Overlapping that, I enjoy discussions that encourage inclusiveness and support dismantling the kyriarchy / unpacking privilege. So, for example, discussions about sex in which I would feel included would actively (not just passively) discourage assumptions about sexual orientation, sexual interests, ability (physical, emotional, mental), class, race, gender…
I feel like a lot of offline discussions about sex place the onus on oppressed folks to speak up when they feel oppressed, as opposed to saying, “This space is actively going to dismantle privilege.”
I also think events over all would be more appealing to me if it was made abundantly clear (not sure by whom!) that a person’s attendance is neither an invitation to approach that person for sexual activity, nor is it necessarily the person professing the nature of their sexual interests. (Example: If I go to an event that discusses pegging, it doesn’t mean I want to peg the folks who are there, or that I even ever want to peg, period. Maybe I’m just academically interested. And I think that gets lost.)
But how to fix it? I don’t know. I don’t know whether that’s the responsibility of the organizers, or the folks in attendance, or everyone, or no one. I think it’s… complicated. And hard.
Original Poster Addendum to my last post: I also think that when it comes to unpacking privilege, everyone is going to have a different idea about what that entails. One person may feel a space very actively does so, when the next person may feel it does not. I think this happens a lot, but it can be hard when the very nature of a person’s oppression means they feel like they can’t speak up when it happens.
Chase Anonymous Mabel, great point, and thanks for correcting. I stumble with language sometimes, and I knew that was a miss, but wasn’t sure exactly how to phrase that. It’s definitely being *read* as femme/female by cis-gender males, not the fact that I self-identify as such. Thanks again.
Mabel Darling I’m loving this dialogue, and am glad to be able to see it put to praxis with those participating in it that I can interact with IRL. In most of my experiences in allegedly “sex-positive, queer-and-trans-friendly” spaces, I feel silenced in that any concerns I might bring up would be deemed decidedly un-sexy. I don’t get propositioned by chasers or straight dudes and unicorn hunters swarming spaces like OKCupid, and I hear enough about those experiences from friends who are mostly perceived as women enough to be glad I’m not overwhelmed by them, but I end up with the opposite problem, and internalize it to the point where I have no clue if I’m doing something wrong or if I’m just living in a genderfukt and rapacious world with misogynistic and transphobic everybodies and phallophobic, essentialist queer feminists. Thank y’all for being exceptions to these fugly norms.
Why the Sex Positive Movement is Bad for Sex Workers’ Rights
Dominique Anonymous I love that piece and I think I had a lot of influence on Dacia personally in shifting her views on that issue. I was a participant in her first Speak Up! media training and wrote a lot to her about the serious offensiveness of the “but I’m not like THOSE hookers” attitude. You know, as one of THOSE hookers in a few ways myself. I’m also seriously loving this discussion. I’ve always felt iffy about the label “sex positive.”
Dominique Anonymous I have more thoughts about this that I will come back to share later but I just wanted to put that piece out there too.
Rebecca Crane Mabel Darling said:
“people who might want sex but not be able to have it due to [...] communicable disease status (i’m adding this to the list, as it should be relevant to anyone having intimate body contact)”
Thank you for pointing this out, Mabel. I should have mentioned it originally. And I’m glad that some of the stuff I’ve been saying resonates for you, too.
Incidentally, Kitten Karlyle is one of the greatest allies I know for folks with STIs in sex-positive communities. She has a bunch of interesting things to say about inclusivity around this particular issue. I wonder if some of her great ideas might be transferable to thinking about folks who’ve been “voted off the sex-positive island” for other issues that are similarly about stuff going on with their bodies rather than about their actual politics, who they are as people, etc.
Dominique Anonymous: I ♥ that Audacia Ray article! It does a much more articulate job of explaining some of the points I’m trying to make here — and I love that she writes from the perspective of someone who started out devoted to sex-positivity and has developed her perceptions of the movement over time, rather than as someone looking in from the outside.
Emerson Anonymous Ok, that was a bunch of comments, but I’m going to address the original post. I would expect someone who identifies as SP to be more active than most because wanting more sex than the mainstream culture approves of would give the personal impetus to challenge that culture.
Not that that is a guarantee. People do escape the discourse of rape culture in many ways and for many reasons.
And as for me I call myself SP but its aspirational. I am often reminded that I still have some sex-negative programming floating around in my head. But by God I’m going to do my best not to pass it on to my kids.
Original Poster Emerson Anonymous, I guess it’s one of those correlation does not equal causation things. One definitely doesn’t need to have a high sex drive to want to work against slut shaming and other types of sex negative cultural programming. I don’t want to have sexual contact with 99% of the people I meet, but I still care about personal empowerment–which includes but is in no way limited to the freedom to enjoy any consensual act, as well as the freedom to feel safe from predatory behavior. All of which is what sex positivity ultimately means to me.
Gypsy Morgan I like cookies. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else likes cookies. Nor do they have to like the same kinds of cookies that I do. But I seriously doubt anyone is going to tell me that it’s wrong to eat oatmeal cookies if all they like is chocolate chip. And vice versa. But not liking oatmeal cookies doesn’t make them “cookie negative”. It just means they won’t be partaking with me. And that’s fine.