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sex positivity 101

‘Sex-Positive’ may not be a term you have heard before, but it’s important to understand when talking about sex.

Sex-Positivity is “having or promoting an open, tolerant, or progressive attitude towards sex and sexuality.”

What this means is being respectful when talking about sexuality and sexual relationships and approaching these topics with a positive mindset. This idea is meant to allow people to feel safe and comfortable when talking about their sexuality, in a world where, previously, these topics were used as idle gossip.

A healthy attitude about sex and sexual health includes having open and positive attitude about “the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and unwanted violence”.

Sex is a healthy part of life (when consensual) and pleasure is not something that should cause shame. With the sex-positive movement, subjects that have been culturally silenced for a long time have gained traction. For one, discussions now include arousal and orgasms, particularly for women, who have historically been silenced in conversations regarding sexual pleasure and masturbation. 

An important part of having a positive attitude toward sex is respecting your relationship with sex and others’ attitudes towards it, no matter how much they differ from yours. Being respectful when talking about sex is important for the LGBTQIA+ community and creating a safe space for people to explore and discuss their sexuality. It encompasses being accepting of those who aren’t having sex. This can separately refer to asexuality (generally not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality) and abstinence (when you choose to abstain from sex). As much as sex is a healthy part of life, it is not a necessity and is always a choice. If this is not something one wants in their life, then that should be respected as much as any other choice. 

Conversations about sex and sexuality are common in the media and online, so it’s important to equip yourself with the skills to talk about it in a way that creates a space safe. Conversations about sex between parents and their kid/s may seem daunting but can be helpful as children develop a relationship with their sexuality. If you are a parent, it’s important to remember that sex-positivity isn’t about asking your kids for explicit details about their sex life, or buying them protection and telling them to go off and have sex. It’s about them knowing that sex is not a shameful thing they need to hide from you and that it’s a healthy part of relationships (but it wouldn’t hurt to help them buy protection or research contraceptive options when they feel ready and comfortable).  

The words you use are important. Language around sex and sexuality is constantly evolving and it’s important to keep yourself educated on these things. Little things like using gender neutral terms and people’s preferred pronouns really make the difference. If you fumble with the right words, it’s okay, just make sure you correct yourself and you’ll get the hang of things. Listen to the language your child uses and replicate it. 

“Sex-positive feminism embraces the entire range of human sexuality and is based on the idea that sexual freedom is an essential component of women’s freedom.”

Madison Young

Something to remember is that it’s okay to ask questions and be willing to learn. Parents are usually the expert on topics, but maybe not this one. Be open to giving advice from your own experience but admit where your own knowledge is limited. The internet and health professionals should be able to help navigate new territory and answer difficult questions. 

The most important part is to be positive. The message that you want to deliver is that exploring sex and sexuality is normal. Any conversations about sex should be a safe space to share openly and honestly. Whether it’s sex with someone or yourself, there is no shame in it.

So, let’s talk about sex, baby! Well, let’s be more open to talking about sex and sexuality in safe and respectful way.  

Joanna is a recent graduate of a Master of Public health and does work in…  

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