I just met Eric Barry, and I think he’s a pretty fun and brilliant guy. He writes about sex and sexy things over at Full Disclosure, and he just recently moved to Chicago. He also writes for Huffington Post, and recently wrote an article about sex-positivity (more accurately, the lack thereof) in Chicago. I think the article is accurate for many reasons, and think it gives those not familiar with sex-positivity something to think about in earnest.
Chicago is an interesting place in and of itself. Ultra-historic, Chicago has long been a literal and figurative hub and crossroads. People of all types and kinds move to Chicago, but in my askings-about, most people that move here are from small, midwest towns that tend to be more conservative. Most of these people are trying, at least in some way, to escape their oppressive, conservative hometowns. What few seem to realize though, is that it’s difficult to escape hometown ethic and morals, no matter how far away you move, unless you decide to immerse yourself in a culture with new and uncharted ethical and moral systems.
I think this is true of sex-positivity as a moral structure, but it goes deeper and further than that. Much deeper and much further.
We’re taught from a very young age, via constant bombardment from media, pastors, and family, what an ideal sexuality is. What an ideal relationship is. What an ideal person is (white, cis, and heteronormatively coupled, generally speaking). The reality of this idealism is that more and more people are purposefully or unknowingly moving further and further away from the taught ideal. Marriages fall apart due to cheating spouses; people are putting off marriage until later in life or all together. Open relationships, kinky relationships, and other relationship structures are being discussed! Change is all around us. Relationships are drastically changing, but we’re not teaching people how to change.
Sex-positivity is a tool. Some can use it as a way to embrace how relationships are changing. When expressed fully, sex-positivity sets forth two tenets; the first is “have sex however you like, as long as it’s with consenting people,this is a valid choice to make”, and the second is “you can choose to not have sex, and this choice is just as valid as the former choice”. There’s a lot of debate going around concerning sex-positivity and the perpetuation of rape-culture (I honestly don’t know enough about the argument to fully understand it), but I’m not knowledgable enough to get into it. So, you can go around and fuck all the people you want, as long as you’re ethical about it, or you can go around not fucking anyone at all. It’s not anyone’s place to judge anyone else’s sexual practices, as long as those practices involve consenting individuals.
Sex-positivity is also something that’s really only discussed within niche groups and communities. It’s not this awesome, secular plan, but more like a religion. Sex-positive people generally hang out with sex-positive people; they often end up preaching to or fucking the choir. And because sex-positivity isn’t supposed to be judgmental of other people’s sexual practices, it becomes difficult to introduce people to the idea.
I’m open about what I do for a living, and people do come to me with questions. I’m also open about the types of relationships I have with people, and welcome questions concerning the nature of those relationships, too (I’m in an open relationship, have one consistent play partner, and play with others from time to time). Being open without being pushy or preachy is one way sex-positivity could reach a newer set of people. It’s passive, for sure. But I’d rather be passive and keep myself open for conversation and discourse than shove my way of life in someone’s face. Others don’t agree,and that’s totally okay.
I think another great way to talk about sex-positivity in a more public forum is through educational workshops. Sunny Megatron and her partner Ken Melvoin-Berg teach classes regularly throughout Chicago; they teach classes on giving kick-ass blow-jobs, prostate play, female ejaculation, intro classes for kink and BDSM, and many other classes that help people navigate the sometimes overwhelming waters of sex and sexual desires. Rebecca Kling spreads a sex-positive message as a trans* activist. Through her art and education work, Rebecca strives to make what she calls the “queer narrative” accessible to a wide-variety of people while combating bigotry. Bianca James, senior editor for MsBehaved.com and a current MPH student interning at the Kinsey Institute, has created a space that is sex-positive, queer-friendly, and gender-inclusive with a fierce femme sensibility. Creating spaces where lots of people are welcome is incredibly important to spreading the message of sex-positivity as well.
Sex-positivity isn’t just about sex, you see. It’s about acceptance. People have sex in lots of different ways. People don’t have sex. And really, as long as it’s consensual, it’s all okay. So if you’ve left the small town because you grew tired of its close-mindedness, do yourself a favor and step away from the safety of old habits. You’ll open yourself up to new levels of acceptance, new relationships, and new levels of respect for yourself and others.