I've been reading some actual novels lately and seen several movies and have once again come up against our media's presentation of sex, in particular how focused we are on the darker side of sex, psychologically speaking. I don't just mean the kinky stuff; I mean presentations of the straightforward dynamics of sex that we are encouraged to focus on - who's on top/who's on bottom, who's fucking/who's being fucked. Also the way we use these words as insults to make one person the victim and one person the aggressor. Our culture encourages us through centuries of art and media to look at sex as a struggle.
Obviously it's pretty difficult to get past that, especially in our subconscious, in our dreams and fantasies. Rape fantasies (from either side of the equation) are incredibly common. BDSM and kink are more socially acceptable than they ever were. Many of us long to give up control and let someone else call the shots, or to take control and just do what we want sexually. And that's fine, of course; both of those things have been vastly appealing to me too, at different times in my life. But it's worth looking a bit at what's under this power-play and deciding whether we want to consciously participate in it.
There is a darker side of sex, primal and deeply psychological. We often assign sex a meaning beyond physical pleasure. Sex can be a play in which we act out our issues and dynamics - with our past, with our present, with ourselves, with our partners. But how can we make that play a fun game rather than a drama? A comedic romp rather than a tragedy that ends in tears?
We focus so much on the sex-negative stuff, on abuse and disease and trauma, that I think it's important to consciously focus attention on being sex-positive. I don't feel like I have a firm handle on the "official" sex-positivity definitions, but I do want to explore what being sex-positive means to me.
To me, being positive about sex means not feeling powerless, whether fucking or being fucked. Creating dynamics where the person tied face-down to the bed with their ass in the air absolutely is the one with the power to stop the action. That kinky games are based on equality, and that dom/sub situations assume both participants start out as equals during the discussion of boundaries. That one person willingly surrenders some aspects of control but that everyone gets what they want out of the experience. That sex be playful, where games and ideas can be explored in a safe environment, as well as serious work at deepening your bond to each other.
But sex positivity doesn't just deal with the partnered aspects of sexuality. You can be single and be quite sex-negative. It's more about attitude towards sex in yourself and others. Being single also emphasizes the need to provide positive and playful experiences for yourself rather than expecting someone else to supply you with them.
I also think sex positivity relates to body image and self-esteem and overall perception of self. It relates to how capable you feel of providing pleasure for yourself, how satisfied you are with what you give yourself are key elements. If what you really crave is a partner who will spend hours slowly making love to you, why not give that to yourself instead of just tossing off quickly in bed at night? If you want to be tied face down to the bed and fucked hard, why not strap your ankles to the footboard and leave one hand free while your imagination runs wild?
Sex positivity is remembering that your body and your sense of touch are there for your pleasure and enjoyment, with an emphasis on joy. And not forgetting that joy for the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day, and especially not for days or weeks at a time. It's making a choice to consciously revel in all sensual pleasures, in hot showers, in cool bed sheets, in silky underwear.
And I don't mean that being sex-positive is about denying your past sexual history and baggage; it's about having fun anyway, no matter what you've been through. The time for baggage is with a therapist or close friend or lover to listen and comfort you – find someone to talk to about the big Boogie Man hiding in your psyche – no one says you have to walk those dark alleys all alone. But the time for enjoying your body is every other minute of your life, dragging your focus away from the pain and onto appreciation for the joy.
Make time for yourself to relax, to enjoy physical pleasure, whatever flavor you happen to like. Set aside some time to read a bodice-ripper or watch some porn. Especially make some time to close your eyes and relax and fantasize, to let your thoughts take you where they will as your hands travel over your skin, sparking your desire. Be at home in your body, sensually. Make time to be sexual with your partner.
Sex-positivity is realizing that sex is important for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Just like exercise – in fact, think of sex like exercise, only tons more fun and with both an immediate reward and long-term health benefits. It releases tension, you feel better on every level after orgasm, and it's fun.
Sex shouldn't be a deep psychological minefield that you have to tiptoe around. Some of us have pretty big bombs in our fields – why not take a detour and just go around them for a while instead of resolving them all? You don't have to confront and deal with every single horrible thing in your past; sometimes you can just say "Yeah, it sucked when that happened, but it's not happening now and now is pretty damned good, so I'm going to focus on that instead." I know that sounds simplistic, but for those of us who often get trapped in our heads and feel like we have to resolve everything, it can be amazingly liberating.
Which brings me back to my point – to me, sex positivity is liberation and freedom, however you want to achieve it. Deal with things in your past or ignore them; do whatever feels best for you. Take time to give yourself what you crave, with or without a partner. Have fun and play with sex sometimes – it doesn't always have to be a deeply emotional connection. Revel in your skin. Make time for body-wrenching screaming orgasms that leave you aching and tingling for hours.
And go out and share the joy, even if it's just with a smile for the people who cross your path.
~ Posted 27 September 2006, property of Wanton Hussy. Please do not re-post without permission.
Columns by Wanton Hussy