What Is “Sex Positive” Anyway?
The Sex Positive social movement seeks to promote an open and informed attitude towards sexual practices between consenting adults. Much emphasis is placed on the adoption of healthy and safe habits, education and advocacy, and coming to understand one’s own comfort levels and limitations. In the gay community specifically, these attitudes have been employed to combat the historical stigma attached to HIV/AIDS by providing forms of sex education, informing people about how different Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) are acquired and treated, and ultimately opening up the channels of discussion on these important topics.
This movement recognizes that fear surrounding STIs stems from ignorance. Fear then leads to avoidance and marginalization, which then leads to stigma. Many gay men still live in communities that are so avoidant and afraid of these diseases, that men are scared to get tested out of fear that they will be forced to adopt labels that are locally stigmatized. As a result, these diseases continue to be passed along by men who don’t even know they are infected. According to a CDC report released in 2013, an estimated 51% of people between the ages of 13-24 living with HIV did not know that they have the disease. As a possible solution to this issue, the sex-positive movement aims to increase education and testing accessibility in hopes that people will be more conscientious and less afraid when it comes to HIV and other STIs.
But being sex-positive doesn’t just stop at lowering the stigma around STIs. It also aims to break down the barriers between sub communities in hopes that increased discussion and learning will lead to decreased marginalization of groups that are other than mainstream. Within the gay community, this includes educating members on bears, otters, circuit queens, jocks, and everything in between. Drug use as it relates to gay sexual practices is also a hot topic within the sex-positive movement, as the overall health and well-being of the community is approached from a holistic standpoint.
So, in hopes of promoting a healthier, ever-sexy, and informed community, here are 12 Sex Positive Attitudes you can adopt into your sexual mindset!
12. Celebrate Diversity
The first step to becoming more sex positive is recognizing the fact that a diversity of sexual personal preference exists. Contrasting communities of thought in which traditional Christian ideals are heavily ingrained, the sex-positive movement provides no moral or ethical judgement when it comes to sexual preference, recognizing all consensual practices as perfectly legitimate. From varying masturbation practices to polyamory and asexuality, the movement celebrates the plethora of sexual colors so long as one’s practices do not harm others.
We are often indoctrinated to view behavior we do not understand as deviant. However, in the gay community especially, it is imperative to recognize and celebrate our differences that make us stronger as a whole. Although open relationships or bondage may not be fitting for us all, we can still love and support those for whom these practices arouse.
11. Know Your Status
What is unknown to us can be frightening in many ways, and while getting tested isn’t the most pleasant process there is, it is our responsibility as sexually active adults to know our own status. Knowing one’s status does not only consist of HIV results, but staying regularly updated on the full panel of STIs that are common in the gay community. To make this routine easier, schedule regular appointments at your local free LGBT clinic every 2-3 months. Putting your mind at ease by getting tested protects both you and your partners during sex.
10. Know The Facts
Much of the fear that still surrounds HIV and other STIs can be attributed to inaccurate knowledge. From the beginning of the AIDS epidemic to the height of it in the late 1980s, it was a mystery to many how this deadly virus was transmitted, in many cases compelling hospitals treating HIV/AIDS victims to conceal the fact that they had such patients. Many healthcare professionals were avoidant towards these victims, while some refused to treat them altogether.
Even today, the vast majority of middle America are misinformed when it comes to the facts surrounding the transmittal of sexually transmitted infections. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation performed a nationwide study in 2011 revealing 25% of respondents who thought HIV could be transmitted by sharing a drinking glass. Even within the gay population there lives misinformation surrounding many STIs other than HIV. Bottom line – knowing the facts not only protects you and your partners, but leads to a more proactive approach to sex.
9. F**k Without Fear
Echoing the staying informed and protecting oneself mantra, the Los Angeles LGBT Center recently revealed a new campaign promoting the use of PrEP, employing the tagline “F**ck Without Fear.” Although this proved to be a highly controversial campaign with many claiming that this approach promotes reckless sexual behavior, the center responded stating that it chose to use “raw, real language to get people’s attention and spur conversation.”
Regardless of the approach, the facts remain that daily adherence to a PrEP regimen when used as a pre-exposure tactic proves to be over 99% effective in protecting against acquiring HIV. With regard to promoting a sex-positive approach, we must also be reminded that this game-changing drug only protects against HIV, and we still need to use condoms to avoid acquiring other STIs.
8. Be Judgement-Free
While accepting the sexual practices of others moves us toward a more tolerant society, it is nonetheless difficult for many to avoid passing judgement on behaviors they don’t understand. The sex-positive movement does not advocate for everyone to go out and engage in these behaviors, but it does urge people to be aware of their own judgement and bias. The more we are able to recognize the contrasting nature of our own sexual preference compared to others within a non-judgemental dialogue, the more we are able to talk openly about sex, protection, and promote awareness.
7. Know Your Limitations
Establishing personal guidelines when it comes to sex is a defining trait of a sex positive mindset. Just as being aware of personal bias and judgement promotes a more open and proactive dialogue, so does the discovery of our own preferences and limitations. Naturally, exploring our own sexuality and preferences exists as a result of personal learning and discovery, so staying open to learning about sexual activity and intimacy in its many forms is vital.
6. Lend Support When You Can
Promoting sex positive attitudes also includes urging your friends to take care of their sexual health and well-being. If someone you know wants to get tested but is scared to go alone, accompany them and get tested too. If you know someone who engages in risky sexual behavior and you think they could benefit from taking PrEP, use the opportunity to educate them – most insurances cover this medication, and Gilead offers a patient coupon code that could make your copay minimal or non-existent.
5. Be an Attentive Sexual Partner
We can apply our embrace of the benefits of healthy sexual interaction to our interpersonal encounters as well. Consent and full-disclosure of any necessary pre-engagement questions is a no-brainer, but our attentiveness can be taken one step farther. Discover what your partner enjoys. Be aware of their limitations. Be clear about your wants and expectations. We all deserve amazing sex.
4. Don’t Feel Embarrassed to Ask for Proof
There’s no shame in asking a sexual partner to share his recent test results with you, or requesting that they show you an active prescription for PrEP. This process doesn’t have to be awkward in any way – you have a right to protect your body and know your partner’s status if you are having sex with them. Especially when using mobile hookup apps such as Grindr, taking a proactive approach to protection and establishing trust helps both participating parties feel more confident.
3. Attend a SlutWalk
Did you know that SlutWalks exist in multiple cities across America? While this festival was birthed to shape the paradigm of rape culture and bring awareness to sexual injustice, these walks also make it their mission to shed derogatory labeling and slut-shaming, promoting a judgement-free atmosphere. Anyone can attend these walks, no matter your gender, sexual orientation, age, race, or otherwise. These celebrations are uplifting, enlightening, and unifying as they promote relevant and important sex positive values.
2. Swiftly Dismiss the Naysayers
There undoubtedly are people who are going to strongly resist sex positive attitudes, claiming that open and honest conversations about sex are inappropriate and classless. However, not only are repressive views towards sex outdated, but they are dangerous. We are putting ourselves at a higher risk by not talking about these vital and important topics. We are all human – pretending like sex doesn’t exist is simply stupid and counterproductive.
1. Knowledge is Power
Sex-positive people are open to learning about the broad spectrum of human sexuality and the wide range of encompassed practices. These individuals are also proactive in obtaining information about their sexual partners and how to best protect themselves. They know how to provide support, where to obtain treatment to promote sexual health, and have done enough self-exploration to know their own limitations.
Why? Because knowledge is both powerful and sexy. THIS is the most prominent virtue of sex positive attitudes. Who doesn’t like feeling sexually confident?