As the owner of a sex shop, it’s important to me to be sex positive and offer articles that entertain and educate. I want you to learn about the products that I sell and the ways that you can use them to enrich your sex life, your personal time, and the intimacy you share with your partner (which is about more than sex). To me, this is what sex positivity is about: being open with information that I have in a way that recognizes and respects the different types of people who come here.
While sex positivity has been a part of the discourse around human sexuality for a while now, I find that sometimes, people don’t understand what it entails. For a lot of people, it is just about enjoying sex. While one of the goals is for people to enthusiastically enjoy sex, being sex positive is about so much more.
So, let’s examine 8 ways to be sex positive.
Understand that sexuality is healthy and natural
Humans are social creatures. We like being connected to our friends, to our communities, and to our partners. The latter is where sex comes in for a lot of people. Sex helps us build the intimate connections that keep our relationships with our partners. It takes the emotional connection that we feel and gives it a physical manifestation. The desire to have this physical connection is a healthy part of being human. Sex positivity is about embracing that desire as a part of who we are.
Inform yourself on sexual preferences other than your own (even if you don’t intend to try them out)
Just as it is important to recognize the healthiness of our own sexual expression, as sex positive people, we respect the sexual expression of others as well. As humans, we have a wide variety of ways that we like to enjoy sex – solo masturbation, mutual masturbation, different sexual positions, and different sexual styles. Some people enjoy oral sex, others don’t. Some people like to explore kink and BDSM in and out of the bedroom. Some people like to talk about fantasies. Others enjoy taking on a different semblance as part of their sexual expression, dressing up in different ways for their and their partner’s enjoyment. Even if you are set in your sexual expression, understanding other preferences will help you be non-judgmental and accepting of others when they share information about themselves with you.
Respect all sexual orientations and gender identities
Just as we accept other sexual expressions, as sex positive people, we also respect other sexual orientations and genders. Remember how I said that sex is a healthy and natural part of the human experience? Sometimes not desiring sex at all is equally natural and healthy. Some people enjoy romantic connections but do not experience sexual desire. Others form close bonds with people they are not romantic or sexual with at all. Understanding that people exist happily on the ace spectrum is as important as understanding the ways people who are sexual express it.
This also includes respecting their sexual orientation. Sex positivity means that when someone expresses that they are gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, etc that we take them at their word, respect them, and do not impose our own ideas of sexuality on them. The same goes for gender. As transgender and nonbinary gender people find their voices and communities to step out into, it is important as sex positive individuals that we recognize them as the gender they inform us they are and respect that, pronouns and all.
Respect different relationship structures
Respecting relationship structures is something that humans sometimes have trouble with – evidenced both by infidelity and by the stigmatization of non-monogamy. While most people practice monogamy (technically), some researchers believe that monogamy isn’t as hard-wired into our brains as we think. Over the past decade or so, non-monogamy has become more prevalent in our social consciousness, even if most people still consider it to be fringe. Whatever your preferred relationship structure, understanding that others exist, and that people find fulfillment in them is important. Learning about polyamory, open relationships, swinging, and other forms of non-monogamy can give you a better understanding of human sexuality as well.
Support medically accurate and comprehensive sex education
Sex education is so important and too many people grow up with gaps in their understanding of their bodies and the bodies of others. Even when sex education reaches beyond abstinence-only (which does not decrease teen pregnancy rates), it often leaves out LGBTQIA+ sex education and ignores the ways that someone’s culture and religious beliefs intersect with their sexuality. Your physician is a good place to start for medically accurate sex education. You can also reach out to your local Planned Parenthood or contact the Human Rights Campaign for comprehensive sex education resources in your area.
Sex education should not stop at medical accuracy. When we teach about (and learn about) sex, we should include a simple lesson: sex should be pleasurable. Learn what you like and learn to talk about what you like with your partners. Sex education at every level should include talks about pleasure.
When you talk about sex, talk about it in a way that is confident and educated. Sex positivity is about finding our own voice to talk about our bodies. While some people like pet names for their sexual parts, it is important to break ourselves from the habit of using “those words” to cover shame.
Our bodies are not something to be ashamed of.
Promote enthusiastic consent and communication
Another part of being sex positive is promoting the idea of informed, enthusiastic consent. While consent should be a part of every sex education program, sadly, it is often lacking. Worse, society and media still contain skewed ideas about what consent is, though this has been improving. The most important part of consent is communication. Communicate with yourself to know what you want. Communicate with your partners to express what you want and learn what they want.
End slut shaming
This has two parts. First, we have to accept within ourselves that it is okay if we want sex. It is okay if we do not. It is okay if we want sex sometimes, rarely, or all the time. It is okay if we like having lots of sex partners or only one. As people, regardless of our gender, we have to stop shaming ourselves for how, how often, and if we want sex.
The second part is that we have to stop shaming other people for their sexuality. Whether a person enjoys sex with one person or multiple people, whether they are demure about their sexuality or expressive – none of these are things to shame them over.
Respect sex workers
Sex work is a broad term that covers a wide variety of occupations – dancers, actors, models, escorts, full-service (engaging in sexual activity) sex workers, Dominatrices, fetishists, and more. We cannot respect human sexuality without respecting the people who decide to utilize that sexuality to make a living.
Sex positivity is not always an easy thing to express. Even being a sex positive person myself, I sometimes find myself giving the side-eye to something that I don’t “approve” of. What matters, though, is that I catch myself in those moments and educate myself to be better. In the end, that is really what sex positivity is – educating ourselves and those around us about healthy sexuality.