Personal Essay: Sex positivity in feminism

Despite the fact that I already viewed slut-shaming – attitudes and behaviors towards women that condemn them for their real or perceived sexual activities – as unwarranted and disrespectful, I had not yet realized that some feminists specifically champion the reclaiming of female sexuality.

My first exposure to sex-positive feminism came about through writer, activist and social worker Feminista Jones. On her website, Jones describes herself as a “post-modern sex-positive Black feminist woman.” While Jones made headlines with her anti-harassment campaign #YouOKsis, the everyday wisdom from her Twitter account served as my introduction to this specific brand of feminism.

Just yesterday, Jones shared a clip of her appearance on talk show Exhale, in which she discussed the rationale behind sex-positive feminism.

Chiefly, feminism is about gender equality on all platforms. Due to the fact that female sexuality is cast in a more negative light than male sexuality, positive attitudes towards female sexuality is a feminist issue.

As someone who is an advocate for sex positivity, I see it as beneficial to these three causes.

1. The Reclaiming of Female Sexuality

Sex-positive feminism advocates that women have control over their sexuality. This involves the ability of women to be sexual or to not be sexual, without receiving undue criticism from society. This involves working towards an existence free of objectification and sexualization of a woman against her will.

Ultimately, sex positivity seeks to amend the damage done by teaching boys to be freely sexual beings whereas girls are thrust onto the tightrope between male fantasy and virginal, pre-marital purity.

2. The Discouragement of Shaming Women

Sex positivity discourages all types of shaming when it comes to women and their sexuality. This includes shaming a woman’s choice to engage in sexual activity, to dress in a “risqué” manner, or to participate in sex work. All women deserve respect. A woman’s respect should not be diminished by how or why she chooses to be a sexual being.

In the same vein, a woman’s respect should not be diminished by how or why she chooses not to be a sexual being. Asexual, demisexual, aromantic women and other women who do not experience high levels of sexual or romantic attraction should not be subject to shaming and harassment. Again, all women deserve respect.  A woman’s sexuality should be treated with suspicion or contempt, especially due to something as arbitrary as gender.

3. The Dissolution of Rape Culture

Last but not least, sex positivity is about creating positive attitudes towards sex. This involves advocating pleasurable and consensual sex.

Therefore, sex-positive feminism advocates against sexual assault and strives to end victim-blaming and other behaviors associated with rape culture. Yet again, all women, including victims of sexual assault, deserve respect. In particular, women who are sexually active or sex workers and victims of sexual assault also deserve respect, as sex-positive feminism is a shame-free space within feminism.

As Feminista Jones says in her interview, this ideology within feminism is important in that it strives to give women more control over their existence in society as well as start a dialogue on a normally taboo subject.

As always, feminism must be inclusive to all women, and sex-positive feminism is no exception. Within sex-positive feminism, there are specific issues that affect women of different ages, abilities, gender identities, sizes, classes and orientations, and all of them are to be raised and explored.

The most important takeaway is that sex-positive feminism does not say that women must be sexual for the sake of “liberation” and a seat at the Cool Radical Feminist Table; it says that however a women chooses to manifest and claim her sexuality, she should be be treated with dignity as opposed to disdain.

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