Quite simply, sex positivity is about making your own decisions about your sex life rather than letting culture dictate how you express your sexuality. Yet there are several myths about being sex positive that are leaving people with misconceptions about what the movement is all about. When you're sex positive you can figure out what you want, what works for you, and what strategies will help you achieve your relationship goals. It also means standing up for yourself and your body. But, like most anything having to do with sex, the movement has become, excuse the pun, perverted.
I spoke with Meika Hollender, a woman who founded the sexual wellness brand, Sustain with her dad, (yup, you read that correctly) Jeffery Hollender, one of the co-founders of Seventh Generation, a he sustainable healthcare brand. Sustain is the first and only brands in the United States to create sustainable, non-toxic, sexual wellness products (including condoms, lubricants, and "post play" wipes) marketed first and foremost to women. I asked Hollender what sex positivity meant to her, and she replied, "Wow, that's a big question."
Bottom line, according to Hollender, the most valuable thing to take from the sex positive movement is the urgency "to change the paradigm women have been taught" when it comes to their sex lives. "The media has over-sexualized women for so long there a lot of education that needs to be done," she says. Indeed, in order to change the paradigm, if that in fact is the mission of sex positivity, then people have got to toss these misconceptions.
Myth #1: Sex Positive Women Hate Men
Nope. This is just as offensive as saying feminists hate men. Kim Switnicki of Eve's Garden, one of the first sex positive, discreet sex shops for women in New York City tells Romper sex-positivity is what they preach day in day out. Opened in the 1970s, Eve's Garden is all about women loving themselves. "We want women to be educated and full of knowledge so they can rely on themselves for pleasure and not someone else.," she says. A little reminder: When people encourage women to love themselves, that doesn't equate to "hate men." Come on, people. It's 2016.
Myth #2: Sex Positive Women Have All Kinds Of Sex
Again. Not true. Although sex positivity empowers women to own their desire, there's one very important exception to this rule: sex positive women do not have unsafe sex. "Your health is your responsibility," Hollender says. Her brand Sustain markets condoms to women and a cute pouch to carry them in.
Myth #3: Sex Positive Women Think Casual Sex Is Always A Good Thing
"Having sex – even safe, consensual sex – is not a positive thing if it causes you emotional pain and heartache," Susan Edelman, a psychiatrist specializing in women's issues and professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, tells Romper. "That’s why condoms and birth control are not the only protections women need. They also need to protect their hearts." So, while those in the sex-positivity movement believe that sex is always a good thing, as long as it is safe and consensual, Edelman admits that these are "very low bars for defining what is 'positive sex' for every woman." She sees sex-positivity as a movement for women to make individual decisions that help them feel confident, in control, fulfilled, and happy.
Myth #4: Sex Positive Women Want To Reclaim The Word 'Slut'
"We're not quite there yet," says Emily Lindin, founder of The UnSlut Project. Hollender adds, "I've seen girls struggle with using the word slut in a positive way, and it's tricky." In other words, though women have come a long way, baby, they haven't come far enough to dismantle the misogyny implicit in this word.
Myth #5: Sex Positive Women Are All Cisgender
Though sex positivity is popular among cis, trans, and gender non-conforming folks, according to Bustle, anyone who believes in standing up for her sexual health, reproductive rights, and consent is a sex positive woman.
Myth #6: Sex Positivity Is About Hedonism Or BDSM
"Sex positivity is not sexual hedonism," Playboy editor Rachel Rabbit White wrote on The Frisky. "It’s about ethics and self-development rather than simple pleasure-seeking." So while some sex positive people are into BDSM, some aren't.
Myth #7: The Sex Positive Movement Is Made Up Of Sex Workers
White noted "the sex positive movement is largely made up of white, middle class activists." In other words, those people with cultural agency are feeding people the narrative of what it means to be sex positive. White explains, "We have to make an extra effort to listen to the experiences and ideas of minorities whose stories are not showcased in the media."
Armed with this information, get down and do what turns you on. Be safe, protect your heart and integrity, and you know what? You're being sex positive.