What is sex positivity?

Like many terms within feminism, sex positivity means different things to different people. As a broad ideology and world view, sex positivity is simply the idea that all sex, as long as it is healthy and explicitly consensual, is a positive thing. WGAC uses sex positivity within our programming about consent because it allows for a more nuanced understanding of how gender socialization, patriarchy and sexism have an impact on sexual violence.

Common Myths about sex positivity:

1. Sex positivity is about having lots of sex. – The core of sex positivity is the idea of informed consent and agency within one’s own sexuality. For some people this means having lots of sex. For other people it might mean abstaining. Sex positivity aims to remove stigma and shame from all sexual choices.

2. In order to be sex positive, you have to also be pro-pornography. While there is some historical validity in the fact that sex positivity was used in response to anti-pornography feminism, there is no one definition of sex positivity and therefore no “right” or “wrong” answer when it comes to pornography. There are some self proclaimed anti-pornpgraphy feminists who find a home within sex positivity movement and yet others who use sex positivity as a framework to defend the participation in and production of pornography. WGAC does not take a stand for or against pornography, but rather encourages healthy discourse about the content of mainstream pornography and the impact that content might have on a person’s sexual health and relationships.

3. If sex positivity affirms ANY sexual activity, what’s to stop someone from having sex with children or animals… if that’s what they claim to like. – As mentioned above, the core of sex positivity is explicit consent. A child can not give consent for sexual activity. Neither can an animal.

4. Sex positivity is only for women. – In current US culture, women are often shamed for desiring and/or having pleasurable sex. Women are socialized to fear and even hate their own bodies and many go most of their lives without understanding the most intimate parts of their own sexual health. Men on the other hand are socialized to believe that being a “real man” means wanting a lot of sex. All the time. With lots of people. The old saying “women use sex to get love and men use love to get sex” is not only heteronormative and transphobic, it also locks people into a binary of sexual desire based on gender. Sex positivity challenges these antiquated and oppressive notions by encouraging folks of all genders to seek to understand their own sexuality and to engage in relationships that honor and affirm their desires. This includes men who wish to abstain and women who love one-night-stands. As long as its consensual, there is no judgment.


Want to learn more about sex positivity?

>Borrow a film!

Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65




>Borrow a book!

Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World without Rape

(particularly chapter 2- Towards a Performance Model of Sex by Thomas MaCaulay Millar