Protesters and a sign supporting women's rights and sex positivity

What is Sex Positivity?

By Kathleen Morrison
March 30, 2022

You may have seen the terms “sex-positive” or “sex positivity” popping up more and more on social media in recent years. Many sexual wellness brands (including ours!) and content creators use this term when they talk about sexual health topics, dating and relationships, and sexuality—but what does it actually mean? Is it just a trendy buzzword or something more meaningful? Let’s dive into sex positivity and talk about why it’s so important for your sexual health!

What does sex positivity mean?

Sex positivity is an attitude that looks to replace shame and judgment around sex and sexuality with freedom and education. Through a certain lens, American society can be considered “sex negative”—sexuality is often seen as dangerous or immoral. Women who wear revealing clothes are shamed, having multiple sexual partners is viewed as “dirty,” people who participate in sexual activity that isn’t heterosexual and “vanilla” are often cast as deviants and perverts. The sex-positive movement aims to undo stigma and allow people to explore and learn about diversity in sex, sexuality, and gender without shame or judgment. Most importantly, sex positivity values education that allows people to make informed choices about their bodies and pleasure.

Where does sex positivity come from?

Sex positivity blossomed out of the sexual revolution of the 1960s when the advent of the birth control pill collided with a loosening of sexual attitudes. Sexual experimentation and controversial subjects like public nudity, legalized abortion, gay liberation, interracial relationships, and women’s rights became front and center in culture wars between those interested in pushing boundaries and those who held a more traditional view of society. Sex-positive feminism began in earnest in the early 1980s and argued that every woman should have the right to explore her body and sexual desire, free from social or violent repercussions.

Sex-positive feminism wasn’t embraced by all feminists, though—many believed sex with men, and especially pornography, was a tool used by the patriarchy to keep women oppressed. These two opposing sides debated each other intensely and this period is often referred to as the “Feminist Sex Wars.” It’s important to note that these movements primarily involved white women—black women still faced racism and exclusion from many of these spaces and conversations.

Where is sex positivity now?

The modern state of sex positivity focuses on consent, communication, and education. Additionally, the movement brings in queer perspectives and people of color who may have different cultural experiences with sex and sexuality. Activists encourage people to be educated about their own bodies and their sexual health so they can have more empowering and fulfilling sex lives. Access is a big piece of it too—access to science-based sex education, affordable reproductive healthcare, and resources to learn more about sex and sexuality. All of these components are vital for people to maintain healthy sex lives and relationships with their partners.

Why is sex positivity good for your health?

Sex positivity encourages people to be knowledgeable and educated about their own bodies. The better you know your own body, the more easily you can tell when something isn’t right and ask for help. Knowing proper anatomical names, being able to describe unusual symptoms, and viewing sexuality as a part of life rather than something to be ashamed of are all skills that help you communicate effectively with your doctor so you don’t have to suffer in silence when potentially embarrassing situations arise.

Sex positivity is also great for your mental health! Restricting open discussions of sex and sexuality can lead many people to feel shame about their desires or their sexual activity because they question whether what they are feeling is normal. This kind of restrictive environment also allows misinformation to spread easily—remember what kinds of rumors about sex and STDs spread like wildfire in middle school? Talking openly not only helps people feel less alone in their struggles, but also helps dispel myths by empowering people with knowledge.

How does sex positivity lead to better sex?

Normalizing discussions of sex helps people feel more talking about it, and in turn, it’s easier to talk to your partner about what you’re into, what feels good and what doesn’t, STI testing and diagnoses, and anything relevant to your sex life. So many people struggle to voice their needs with partners that framing sex as something normal, pleasurable, and dare we say, fun, can help us all have better sex with our partners.

Interested in sex positive content? Follow us on Instagram @hellowisp for unapologetic education, empowerment, and entertainment about your sexual health!

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