3 Steps to Sex Positivity

Published: MARCH 6, 2015 | Updated: JANUARY 12, 2022
Just because someone is sexual doesn’t make them "sex positive."

The term sex-positivity was created as a radical notion that everyone should feel accepted to explore their sexualities (or asexualities) without fear, shame and negativity. This movement grew in response to a culture where sex was seen as anything but positive; indeed even our current culture has numerous barriers to sex-positivity. These barriers involve shame, censure, and criticism, not to mention inadequate sex education. Since our current society is far from being accepting of sexuality, when the term sex-positive is formulated we look at what it ought to mean within an ideal world.


As the creator of this movement, Carol Queen, Ph.D. wrote: "Sex-positivity refers to a radical stance: accepting everyone’s sexual desires and choices, providing they’re consensually engaged in. That means accepting other people’s sex lives even when you don’t find the things they do remotely alluring. It means allowing that others may have tons more sex than you — or way less; they may have sex that seems hot to you, or not at all appealing. You really, really don’t have to like the kinds of sex other people engage in to fully support their right to so engage."

The sex positive movement has several agendas, and we ought to create a call to action for it if it doesn’t have one already. One major movement that has to happen is we need to shift our culture into becoming one that is more sex-positive.

Removing Stigma

The first shift that needs to happen to move toward a sex-positive culture is removing the stigma attached to sex and sexuality. While this involves education about sexuality, it also necessitates education as a means of removing or reducing stigma. Sex-positivity does not allow for slut-shaming, homophobia, biphobia, etc. I think being sex-positive also means being tolerant of, if not accepting of, sex work.



Sex-positivity does not mean being positive about sex or being in favor of all sexual activities. One that is sex-positive does not have to be poly, kinky, queer, and so on. An asexual person can be sex-positive. So can someone who has never had, or never will, have sex. While sex positive ought to be a self-explanatory name, it can be interpreted incorrectly. It does not mean that people are all in favor of everything pertaining to sex and sexuality. Being in favor of sex can be a great thing, but it can also be bad—when it shames others for not agreeing about sexual proclivities for example. What being sex-positive does mean is to be accepting of everyone’s sexual consensual decisions, regardless of how you yourself feel about those decisions. Being sex-positive is not about liking all sexual things; it is about supporting others when they engage in healthy, consensual, sexual pleasure.

If our culture had sex education that included pleasure in its discourse, the notion of sex-positivity would be more common. Another concept missing from sex education is the notion of sexual consent, including what it is and why it is important.


Provided that consent is incorporated, there is no form of sexual profile that is more moral, or right than other forms. Indeed sexuality can be seen as a prospective positive force in one’s life. Others who favor a notion referred to as sex negativity, on the other hand, involves the idea that sex is not only problematic, but that it can also be dangerous and harmful. Sex-positivity encompasses one’s freedom of choice to mold one’s sex life. People should not be expected or coerced to have sexualities they do not want, including ones based on gender, age, orientation, disability, etc.


As Carol Queen, creator of this term, stated: "Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent." Indeed sex-positivity does not mean that all sex activities are safe and pleasurable. This is why consent is such an essential component. All sex activities are not for everyone. No is a sex-positive answer (don’t worry, yes is too), as long as it doesn’t disrespect the other person’s sexuality when it is said.

Why We Need Sex Positivity

If we think about how integral our sexualities are for our identities and our lives, we can begin to see just how essential sexuality education and communication are. The problem remains that sex is a largely taboo topic that is not discussed openly enough, and sex education in the United States is inadequate. People are missing basic, key information to help them come to learn their sexualities in healthy, happy ways. This deficiency is scary because it plays out within our society in various harmful ways, including slut-shaming, relationship problems, and disease prevalence, among other things. Supporting the movement towards a sex-positive culture can only bring about change for the better.

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