The term sex-positive can be interpreted in different ways. Generally, it involves having positive attitudes toward sex, respecting one’s own and others’ sexual identity and preferences, consensual sexual practices, and treating sex as a normal, healthy part of life rather than a taboo topic or something to be ashamed of.
Overall, however, the concept of being sex-positive involves understanding your own sexuality and what it means to you and your relationships. With an open and nonjudgmental approach, sex positivity embraces the diversity of sexual expressions. The sex-positive movement embraces with respect themes around human sexuality, health, and pleasure. It also includes gender identity, orientation, sex education, nudity, relationship styles, body positivity, safer sex, reproductive equity, and much more.
Why promote something natural?
In the past, sex was viewed from a moral (based on sin and religion) or medical (based on disease) perspective. Through these lenses, natural sexual desires and behaviors are seen as something that needs to be suppressed, controlled, or cured. For decades (and still today), the negativity of sexuality is taught through abstinence and fear-based sex education programs in schools and the public, even promoted through governmental policies.
Even so, discussions around natural desire can be traced back to the late 1920s when the famous psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, addressed such concepts in his treatises on sexuality and psychosexual matters. Despite this, sexual liberation became popular in the 1960s to early 1970s during the Sexual Revolution or the so-called free love movement. Free-love advocates rejected traditional views on sexuality and believed that sexual relations between consenting parties should not be regulated by law. They demanded freedom of sexual expression in premarital sex, the use of pornography, public nudity, the use of contraceptives (e.g., the birth control pill), homosexual liberation, interracial marriage, women’s rights, and other sexual issues.
The sex-positive became popular in the late 1990s as it targets a more culturally informed framework and respects human variance in gender and orientation. The sex-positive movement thus developed in response to concerns about patriarchal influences on cultural views of sexuality. From a feminist perspective, the goal was (and is) to promote healthy sexual expression and relationships for women and people of all genders.
In 1997, Safer Sex campaigns were a sex-positive response to the “disease” of sex, and in 2002 there was a gradual shift towards a sex-positive view of masturbation. Today, the sex-positive movement differs a bit. Supporters of the sex-positive movement often use social media platforms to spread information about safe and consensual sex, sex education, and body awareness. Besides a wide range of topics and focuses today, these are the common ones to keep in mind: sex without shame, open communication about sex, safe sex, consent, and sex education.
See more resources
Sexual Health – WHO. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/sexual-health#tab=tab_1
Sex Positivity: What it Means and How to Practice it. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://psychcentral.com/health/sex-positivity-meaning#how-to-be-sex-positive
OxfordDictionary. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/176989?redirectedFrom=sex+positive+#eid123752839
What does “sex positive” mean? – International Society for Sexual Medicine. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-does-sex-positive-mean/
Shkodzik, K. (2019, May 24). What Does Sex Positive Mean? Flo. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/sex/pleasure/what-does-sex-positive-mean.
Sex Positivity Movement: What it Means to Be Sex-Positive – Sexual Medicine Society of North America. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://www.smsna.org/patients/did-you-know/the-sex-positivity-movement-what-it-means-to-be-sex-positive