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What is sex positivity? How does being sex positive affect your words, attitude, body language, and relationships? Our author Ell P gives you a quick primer.
So, last night I had a few friends over. After a couple drinks the topic veered towards sexuality, and the guys managed to make the one man, who did not meet their conventionally masculine standard, as the ‘literal’ butt of all their jokes. From claiming that he must be gay to vehemently expressing their horror at anything ever entering a man’s bottom.
Somehow that made me quote Oberyn Sand from Game of Thrones, when he says that if you don’t embrace your fluid sexuality, you miss out on half of the world’s fun.
I have had women make disgusted, gagging noises at the prospect of either giving or receiving oral sex. In fact a really close friend who was completely closed off to the idea of receiving oral sex or just having sex, finally experienced an orgasm after ten years of being married, because we friends held an intervention and explained the joys of letting go of your inhibitions and embracing your sexuality. It wasn’t because she had no desire to enjoy sex; she never really allowed herself to explore her own sexuality.
And now she says that her husband has taken to calling her a temptress.
So, what does it mean to be sex positive?
According to the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, the sex positive movement is intended to remove the shame from any consensual sexual choices. It recognizes that people are diverse and complicated creatures, and that there is a wide range of healthy sexual expression.
Tiffany Curtis from Hello Giggles says, “The beautiful thing about sex positivity is that no one partner is tasked with creating a grand finale on their own. Practicing mindfulness often puts the focus on the connection, not the climax.”
Which, when I interpret, means that when both partners are open enough to let go of their inhibitions, the experience invariably becomes enjoyable multifold.
For example, I know of couples that reverse conventional gender roles during sex. I know of men, who love being dominated, love to be roughed around, and women who love roughing them around. And none of it percolates outside of the bedroom. They are, in fact, perfectly respectful and normal (or normal as per defined by our society).
Yet the one thing that binds them together is the fact that they accept each other with every single fetish, every single tick and every single suggestion.
So, how does a sex positive couple approach their desires using the right language?
Let me get down to it, without beating around the bush (and I mean a literal bush). How often do you refer to having sex the previous night, as ‘we did it’, or ‘we made out’, or ‘we slept together’, or even worse, ‘we fucked’ as though actually saying that ‘we had sex’ is the one of the seven sins? And that is largely where the problem lies, we have so negatively internalized having sex as ‘being fucked’ or ‘screwed’, that the actual words don’t come out.
I mean come on, you don’t need to be in love to make love, and that is okay. If you want to talk about it, give it the respect the act deserves. Give your body the respect it deserves.
Charlie Glickman says, “Every single person in this society is raised to be sex-negative, just as every one of us is raised to be racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. Our patterns of behavior and beliefs are often so deeply rooted that we have difficulty even recognizing that a problem exists.”
Well, for starters let us drop the notion that being sex positive is only a woman’s job. It is equally important for men to embrace not just their sexuality, but also to embrace that of their partner.
And I am not saying here that only women/men who have loads of sex, are bisexual or polyamorous or both or all three only are sex positive. It is about being self aware, knowing what you want, how much you need it, respecting not just your own sexuality but that of the others as well.
Suzannah Weiss, a writer for Everyday Feminism writes, “That’s what sex-positive feminism is about, after all: helping people have the sex lives that work best for them. This might mean having a lot of sex, or it might not, and both choices are equally acceptable.”
Growing up, especially in the northern parts of our country, my sex education came from devouring Jackie Collins. In retrospect, I shudder to think what might have happened if I wasn’t a reader. If I had gone around asking questions to satiate my curiosity instead of reading about it. I would’ve been branded and slut shamed all the way from that small town in UP to the Netherlands.
I remember in eleventh grade, when one of our classmates acquired a boyfriend, and shared her joy with some of her closest friends. Suddenly she was left with no friends except for me. When I went back and asked the other girls why had they ostracized her, they replied that she is a bad girl, because she has a boyfriend, and she kisses him; so that means she’ll be pregnant.
You have just read every single word right, girls my age then, thought kissing would get them pregnant.
Jump to a few years later when I acquired my first job, lost my virginity along the way, and was in an eight year long steady relationship. I would look at some of my friends who were in also in long term relationships, vehemently claiming to be virgins to the outside world. Defending their choice to date by telling the world that they had kept their innocence intact.
For starters, why are people curious about someone’s virginity? Is that a yardstick to measure a woman’s sluttiness?
Secondly, when asked an intruding question, a sex positive individual would tell them to shut up because it is none of their business?
This is what we have grown up with, and continue to face in our day-to-day life. I can count on my fingertips the number of times men have dared to ask me: how many men have I slept with? What do you answer to that? Do you play coy and say ‘just one’ or ‘none’? Do you take offence? Or do you go tongue in cheek and tell them that you slept with 365 men, just last year, one for every day of the year?
Someone who is sex positive, irrespective of the gender, wouldn’t ask such invasive questions? So, the fact that a man chooses to ask you that, itself means you call for the check, end the date, and tell him to keep guessing.
Soniya Kulkarni, a writer and new mom, makes two crucial points about being sex positive in a society like ours:
a) To be sex positive means to first and foremost acknowledge that sex like so many other biological functions is a natural phenomenon. By approaching it in a clinical and almost scientific way, especially when talking to young children about it, you give it a sense of normalcy, which is sorely lacking in this day and age. When you take negative emotions especially shame and guilt out of the mix, sex stops being forbidden. This can have surprisingly positive results, from teaching men and women to channel their sexual energy in a healthy manner, where they do not end up inflicting harm on themselves or others.
b) To be sex positive means to also be aware that sometimes our feelings may not be reciprocated, and that is OK. Under no circumstances should sex be forced or used as a tool for un-consensual subjugation.
I think it is time we started speaking the sex positive language, instead of saying she had an affair, we give it the respect that is due and call it a relationship. Or if it was just sex, call it just sex, not a boink or a romp.
A language that empowers us into brushing off the slut shaming and going for what our body wants and needs.
Image source: a still from Tumhari Sulu
Writer. Artist. Dreamer...and a Coach.
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