Franklin Veaux has set off on a bold stroll through the minefields of sex positivity, with this post that mostly expounds on what sex positivity is not. As somebody who has long used the term, I found his disquisition useful. I didn’t quite agree with his one paragraph on what “sex positive” actually is, though:

Sex positivity at its core is simply the recognition that there is more than one “right” way to have sexual relationships. It is an acknowledgement that human sexuality is incredibly diverse, that different people have different tastes and relate to sexuality in different ways, and that as long as everyone is having sex with consenting adult partners, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with sex, regardless of the way people relate to it. In short, it’s a deliberate refusal to place one’s own sexuality on a pedestal and proclaim it the “right” way to have sex.

My thought upon reading that was that I’d just boil that down to “Sex positivity is about being non-judgmental about consensual sexual choices.” But upon reflection, I decided that’s not enough.

Franklin’s paragraph, and my sentence, are statements that establish a space by bounding it and excluding things from it. In my sentence, the word “non-judgmental” is key; “acknowledgment that … there is nothing wrong” and “deliberate refusal” are key phrases in his paragraph.

At best, we’re describing a lack of sex-negativity with phrases like these. I think being genuinely sex-positive requires something more. Franklin’s post details many specific things sex positivity is not; mostly, these are specific sexual propositions or arguments that have been claimed to underlie, and be necessary to, the sex-positive position. And I agree with him that none of these, individually, are necessary to sex-positivity.

However, I do think you can’t be sex-positive without — risking tautology here — being positive about some sex. Being “not negative” doesn’t quite get you there. Being “not negative” probably suffices to unsubscribe you from the armies of the anti-sex culture warriors, but you’ve got to take a positive position and celebrate sexuality in some way, I’d argue, to be sex-positive.

Do you have to celebrate all the sex? Of course not. If you’re like most people with pronounced tastes and opinions, some of the sexual propositions and subcultures out there will strike you as boring, frightening, risible, or worse. No matter. Sometimes being non-judgmental doesn’t require much more from you than keeping your mouth firmly shut. “It’s not for me” doesn’t make you judgmental, but if you examine your motives for expressing that sentiment, there’s usually a parcel of judgment to be found. Sex positive people, I’ve found, spend a lot of time celebrating what they are into, and waste very few words talking about the sex that doesn’t appeal.

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