Sex positivity’ has been a buzzterm since the 80s, but what does it actually mean?

Simply put, it’s the attitude that safe and consensual sexual pleasure and experimentation are good, natural, healthy pursuits rather than causes for shame and repression.

Unfortunately, some people misunderstand or abuse the term in ways that put pressure on others. Let's knock down their tall tales, shall we?

1. “Sex Positive = Promiscuous”

There’s nothing wrong with promiscuity. As long as you’re safe, happy, and honest with your partners, what’s the harm? Go nuts with every Tom, Dick, and Harry you fancy!

That said, you can be sex positive without dating or sleeping with high numbers of people, provided you respect the choices of others who do. Prefer to date one person at a time? Have a low number of total partners and want to keep it that way? Saving yourself for marriage? No problem! It’s your body, mind, and right to decide.

Read: You've Heard of Polyamory, but What About Ambiamory?

2. “Sex Positive = Non-monogamous”

Sex positive folk tend to be open-minded and more likely to stray from relationship norms. We may be poly, open, or some other iteration of non-monogamous.

That certainly doesn’t make it a requirement! Contrary to the beliefs of some, monogamy can and does work for lots of sex-positive people. Anyone who goes out of their way to convince you non-monogamy is...

(cue choir of angels)

THE ANSWER

...probably hasn’t been doing it very long!

My least favorite aspect of poly-spheres is the tendency for newbies to bash monogamy as outdated, unenlightened, or unnatural. (All while stumbling and grumbling through polyamory’s inherent challenges!) A handful of insidious folks take this a step further by using their views to pressure hesitant partners into non-monogamous relationships.

There’s nothing sex positive about that mess. Never let anyone convince you you’re being a drag for your relationship preferences. Best to stick with what feels right for you.

Read: Poly Diaries: Unlearning the Need for Labels

3. “Sex Positive = Kinky”

Kink-shaming is a common topic in the BDSM scene. It’s a bad, bad thing worthy of punishment that only naughty people do!!!

(Ahem.)

Vanilla-shaming is just as shitty. It usually comes in the form of subtle digs implying non-kinky sex is boring or puritanical. But sex positivity is all about choice! If vanilla’s your preferred flavor, who can argue with that?

And if kink is on your menu, I’m with you! Let’s be sure not to push it on others in the name of sex positivity. We all know kink is only good when it’s genuinely consensual. Let them come crawling to us begging to play if and when they’re ready and not before.

Read: Reclaiming Vanilla Sex: Why It's Hot

4. “Sex Positive = Queer”

Here’s an interesting one: the idea that strictly straight people are hiding their true sexual inclinations. Heard such things, I have!

I had a high school teacher who believed everyone was secretly bisexual. (‘Straight’ folks were victims of religious oppression who were too scared to experiment.) As a bi agnostic chick who’d once had a friend’s mom insist “BISEXUALS ARE LIARS AND SHOULD MAKE UP THEIR MINDS!!” I appreciated this outlook at the time. With maturity, however, I came to respect that my cup of tea may not taste good to thee!

Giving anyone grief for their orientation sucks and using sex positivity to mask prejudice is a bad look no matter who it’s pointed at. Booooooo, I say!

Read: Why Even Straight People Should Explore Their Sexuality

5. “Sex Positive = Irresponsible”

We sex-positive peeps are all STI-ridden voodoo witches who never use protection and bite the heads off our mates after fuckin’ ‘em. HAH! Suckers.

Wait, that’s praying mantises (manti??), and only the head-biting part...

I’d actually wager that sex-positive people get tested and treated for STIs more often than those who link sex with shame. If sex is natural and healthy, why be embarrassed about checking on our status? Being in the dark due to fear of judgment is far riskier and testing positive certainly isn’t some moral failing.

Read: STI Testing Stories (and Why At-Home Testing Is a Great Idea)

The same goes for using birth control. Because the sex-positive movement believes in the value of pleasure for its own sake, couples are afforded guilt-free power over reproduction rather than encouraged to practice abstinence ‘til it’s time to make babies.

(Oh, and I googled. ‘Mantises,’ ‘mantes,’ and ‘mantids’ are apparently all acceptable. Now go forth and awkwardly squeeze them into a conversation like a genius!)

6. “Sex Positive = Flawlessly Confident”

Yas, sex-positive people are all cocksure supermodels ordained by the gods of Olympus. Nary an insecurity or bad hair day in their realm!

Hm, that doesn’t sound realistic, does it? We’ve all got insecurities and being sex positive doesn’t mean we’ve magically managed to drop them at the door.

Own your hangups, my friend! There’s no need to take nude selfies or know what a Dirty Swirly is like all the ‘cool’ kids from middle school. Sex positivity is a state of mind, maaaaan.

Read: 6 Ways to Feel Better about Your Body in Bed

7. “Sex Positive = Limit Free”

Boundaries are both incredibly healthy and necessary for positive sexual experiences. We’ve all got things we’re not down to do.

Anal is a great example. Despite its prevalence in porn, back-door play doesn’t appeal to some people due to the potential risk and pain involved. Does that make them sex negative? Hell no!

Read: Why I Won't Have Anal Sex

When it comes to sexual adventures, if it feels bad, it is bad. No one has a right to give you shit for your limits or expect you to be ‘down for whatever’. Do what you like and eschew what you don’t.

8. “Sex Positivity = D.T.F. ALL THE TIME”

To be properly sex positive, you’ve got to be constantly horny or at least down to fuck if your partner initiates, right? Wrong!

You don’t have to have or even like sex to be a sex-positive person. Asexuality is just as valid as any other orientation or type of sexual expression. Holding off or having a low sex drive is fine if that’s what works for your relationships.

And hey, you can always change your mind later. Sex will still be there, ready and waiting!

Long Story Short:

However you wish to embrace and express your sexuality is your call. Anyone who pressures, shames, or coerces others in the name of sex positivity is likely misinformed or acting selfishly. Carry on and don’t let 'em fool ya.