photo by Miruna Sorescu, Kotryna Abaravičiūtė and me for our ‘Pornification’ project
[CW: sex, gender binary, promiscuity]
hookup culture, one night stands, friends with benefits, Tinder, Grindr,…; all these terms are quite strongly embedded in our modern culture. they are part of the so-called ‘sexual liberation’ of today. while i think that it’s great that we have (somehow) managed to move away from stigmatising sex and promiscuity, i would like to talk about the harms this ‘liberation’ can do.
let me make it clear straight from the beginning – i do not want to criticise promiscuity, not at all. it’s each individual’s own decision whether/how/with who they want to engage in a sexual, um, whatever and everyone else should mind their own business. what i want to address here is how this ‘sexual liberation’, often interchanged with ‘sex positivity’, can actually only liberate one group of sexually active people, while oppressing the other.
‘sex positivity’ is often presented as the opposite of the ‘old-fashioned’ sex-after-marriage, if-you-have-more-than-one-partner-it’s-too-much idea. somehow, it has transformed into an ideology which only embraces one attitude towards sex; that is the promiscuous, care-free, i-do-it-for-the-pleasure, no-strings-attached idea. while i cannot stress that the action (= flamboyant sex life) is completely ok, the attitude (= ‘this is the right way to approach sex’) is wrong. first of all, it completely forgets about the fact that there are people who are demi-/asexual, suffer from past trauma/gender dysphoria/body conditions (e.g. vaginismus) etc. which makes it difficult for them to have sex and simply people who wish to be in long-term monogamous sex relationship based on a bit more than just bodily attraction; and that all these approaches to sex are completely legit and should be embraced too. unfortunately, this isn’t really happening in real life; and people who do not wish to engage in the promiscuity are humiliated for being ‘too prude’, ‘judgemental’ and what not. this creates a funny contrast: those who have been shamed for being promiscuous now shame those who aren’t like that, which, in the end, leads nowhere near liberation as it simply creates another way of oppression.
we all know that many of our acts are fuelled by the need to be approved and liked by the society, and in many cases, we might adjust our behaviour to ‘fit in’. there are many people who present this way of ‘sex positivity’ as the ‘new normal’ and openly voice an opinion that if you’re not into that, you’re boring/weird/not cool (side note – these people are also called assholes), which creates a very strong social pressure and can trick people into doing something they don’t like/want to just to follow the norm. this is a very harmful way of manipulation – no one should ever make you do things by belittling your personality and own opinions.
simply put, there is no right or wrong attitude towards having sex; and sex positivity should embrace all those diverse ways people approach their own sex lives. we should not pressure anyone into any specific attitude towards having sex, because sexuality, same as gender, is different for each and every one, and all is valid when it comes to that.
make sure to check out this great comic by Ronnie Ritchie which perfectly sums up what i just wrote!