Luena Maillard is a junior who is passionate about holistic health and education. In high school, she was employed by Planned Parenthood as a Peer Health Educator to teach sex ed classes to high school health classes. She is currently working as a PHE here on campus, and you can find her during her office hours at Tiernan Field House for one-on-one conversations!
I was recently called ‘sex-negative’ for saying that I thought a certain sex act was degrading to women. I’d like to think I am open, but I don’t see how not liking one sex act makes me sex-negative?
-Confused in Claremont
I hear you asking whether being sex-positive requires you not to find any forms of sexual activity degrading.I want you to know that it’s fine for you to find some sexual acts degrading! You’ve touched on a very salient issue and the answer isn’t easy.
Historically, sex-positivity as a movement came about as a form of combating a puritanical society which associated sex with being dirty and shameful.
Sex-positivity does not have one concrete definition.However, most boil down to this: sex-positivity is the holding of an attitude towards sexuality that deems all consensual sexual activities as healthy, encouraging pleasure and experimentation, and promoting safer sex and informed consent.
Does the act you are uncomfortable with fit this definition? The definition itself is idyllic, but I think the situation you may have encountered unfortunately sheds light on a problem with the practice: many feminists who espouse sex-positivity do so without critical analysis.
One argument is that any choice we make around our sexuality is inherently empowering
because the very act of being able to make that choice is empowering.
However, if we make that argument, we are overlooking an important aspect of what it means to live in a society: socialization. We don’t live in a vacuum and therefore none of our choices do either. For example, I enjoy wearing makeup because I like it and I think it is pretty. The fact that I can choose to put on makeup or not might be empowering, but I cannot escape the fact that I have grown up in a society that tells me that to wear makeup is to be beautiful and to go without is to be ugly. Perhaps if I grew up without this messaging I wouldn’t want to wear it at all. Knowing that socialization might have had an effect on my choices allows me to question the ‘why’ behind my makeup habits.
Our sexual choices are also affected by socialization,thereby necessitating the critical analysis of those choices. While much of this analysis is up to the individual, it is up to the group to foster a space where there can be dialogue. Unfortunately, there is a faction of the sex-positive movement who don’t leave room for discussing questions surrounding the extent to which our choices can be empowering given that we are all still navigating oppressive structures.
What do you find degrading about the act in question? Is it because it reminds you of patriarchal idealisms? It is important to note that finding a sex act degrading does not necessarily mean you are judging people who decide to engage in the act. Your opinion on how this act portrays women does not automatically make you sex-negative.Instead, it opens up a discussion on why you find this degrading, why someone might choose to participate in that act, and how it might be reinforcing existing power structures.
Sex-positivity is becoming increasingly black-and-white. This progression can be seen both on and off campus, often with the effect of people who want to engage in a conversation being automatically labeled as sex-negative. Approaching every question of a very intricate issue with a dismissive label is a disservice to the very foundation of the theory. As a sex-positive columnist, I would like to invite us all into a more open discussion surrounding empowerment and degradation, as it is up to the group to help create a space in which the individual can feel comfortable in understanding and embracing the ‘whys’ behind their decisions.
Should someone start with a vibrator or a dildo?
Hey Hmm Hmmm!
It’ll depend on what you like and what you’re looking for! If you’re more into external stimulation, definitely go with a vibrator, if you’re more into internal stimulation, think about a dildo!
Vibrators are nice because some can be used for both internal and external stimulation, allowing for more versatility in case you’re not sure which stimulation you prefer. Since it’s your first toy, I would say make a list of what you’re looking for (type of stimulation, size, price) and go exploring on an online sex store! Find some you’re interested in, read the reviews, and make sure you read the details on material, size, and noise level carefully so you know what you’re ordering. Have fun browsing!
SUBMIT QUESTIONS TO LUE: