Sex positivity does not mean encouraging people to have sex. It doesn’t mean elevating sex, or putting it on a pedestal.
Sex positivity means removing the cloak of shame. It means teaching and practicing good comprehending, enthusiastic consent. It means letting people make free choices with regards to their sexual activity. It means not shaming people for these choices. It means sex education. It means trying to empower people to be sexual or non-sexual of their own free will, with their own choices and with consent.
Catch that bit? Sexual or non-sexual. Because yeah, there’s a lot of people who aren’t really bothered. Or who are repulsed. Or who are only bothered when it comes to people they know and like. Or who kinda like it but don’t think it’s very important to them. Or or or.
Shaming people for their lack of desire is not sex positivity. It’s not progressive. It’s not helping remove the cloak of shame around sexuality. It’s just encouraging more people not to open up about the subject, thus reinforcing the shame. Oppressing people about their sexual choices is not on, and it’s no good if the people meant to be fighting that shaming perpetrate it upon different groups. Face it, while there’s a lot of sex-negativity at large in our culture, there’s also a hell of a lot of no-sex negativity.
Sex is everywhere in this Western culture. It’s portrayed in negative ways, definitely – objectification, bad consent, slut-shaming, heteronormativity, exploitation, rape culture, I think I could go on with these problems for hours… but it’s there. What we have is not a sex-negative culture. It’s a culture suffused in negative sexuality, sexuality that is not good, not healthy, for anyone concerned – but it’s not sex-negative. Not sex positive either, because the sex portrayed is not positive, is often not portrayed in a positive light… but it’s pervasively portrayed.
It’s a strange relationship that we have with sex. It’s about contradictions, about dichotomies, about guilt and sin and fear and lust and repression of the true desires for the false. Sex lurks in the background of this culture. We tell ourselves we have ‘dirty minds’ when we think of it. We say that it’s icky. We resort to euphemisms, body language, dancing around the issue when we wish to talk about it. But we still want it. We still think it’s part of a normal lifespan. We still think the lack of desire is abnormal – so abnormal we diagnose it as an illness!
So no, sex positivity is going nowhere if it cannot accept that some people aren’t bothered. If it can accept all other sexual feelings and desires, it can accept the desire to not have sex. I am coming at this from both ends – from the end of wanting to destigmatise sexual desires that are not considered ‘normal’ (eg, in my case, polyamory) and from the end of wanting to destigmatise not having sex (I’m demisexual, which is on the asexual spectrum). Both things are necessary, both things are good. Both things are infinitely compatible.
Fire cannot fight fire, and shame cannot fight shame. I’ve seen these problems in some sex positivity, although I’m only just getting round to writing it down. If you promote sex as a universal desire, your movement is exclusionary. Full stop. If, however, you promote a lack of shame around the subject so that people feel able to express desire or the lack of it without fear, in a healthy way – that’s sex positive. It’s about destigmatisation. It’s about ending the contradictions deeply ingrained in our psyches. It’s about getting rid of the demonisation of certain desires. It’s about making sure that people are safe, empowered, and free to make choices. It’s about ending the shame, the fear and the guilt, and allowing the free, healthy expression of wants and needs. Or the lack of them.