I was surprised recently to see at least a few people condemning sex positive feminism as being in line with the kind of “feminism” that focuses on a raunchy form of girl power based in a sexualized culture that tends to degrade and abuse women. This “feminism” is the “you go girl!” hookup culture that so many parenting articles are freaking out about, and it does have some basis in truth. However, that’s not sex-positive feminism.
The difference is that sex-positive feminism is involves thinking about sexuality, talking about sexuality, and not apologizing for bringing up sexuality as a part of feminism. It’s the idea that sex is value-neutral, not a shameful thing to be giggled about hidden under the covers. Sex is a valid topic for feminist discussion, and part of feminism is looking into the shame and blame our culture attributes to sex and challenging those attitudes. This is getting confused with sexuality according to scripts set by the mainstream, without any actual thought about it, disguised as “feminism” but really just another form of marketing.
Sex-positive feminists are critiquing a culture that uses sexual repression and shame to make space for women who seem to have no idea what they’re talking about and may be having bad sex, but aren’t really thinking about it. This culture encourages girls to grow up enthusiastic about sex, but actually asking detailed questions is extraordinarily taboo. We encourage girls to “just know” when they reach puberty, and assume the same of boys. Of course, we don’t provide any education into queerness, trans* identities, polyamory, or kink, so kids just have to fumble into those things on their own. On the surface, this permissiveness about sex in a general sense may look like sex-positivity, but it’s really just as Puritan as condemning sex wholesale.
I am a proud sex-positive feminist, and I’m committed to changing this culture for the better.
This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.