Sex, positive?

The Safe Word
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I keep hearing this term, sex-positive. I even used it last week. What is up with that awkward conjoining? It sounds like more PC skullduggery. Like being a vegetarian and calling yourself food-positive. I mean, who isn’t sex-positive? Well, when you dig into it a little bit, not as many people as you think.

The phrase comes from the 1960s, but it isn’t just a grad student version of free love. I know, my parents were hippies too, and despite best intentions they messed up my ideas about sex pretty well. Slutting around isn’t necessarily sex-positive, but neither is self-deprivation. It took me a while to recognize the difference. Now I think good sex is just one of the many deprivations we’re expected to get used to – like deprivations in time, relaxation, family, quality food, on and on.

The trouble is, all of us, especially in the post-HIV generations, have been fed heaps of negativity about actually getting it on. Lots of bad stuff comes attached to the word sex: disease, pregnancy, rape, commercialization. If you indulge in sex for pleasure, you’re decadent, a libertine. Dangerous. Think of the words plastered across any porn site: nasty, naughty, dirty, depraved. Industrial porn, by most any definition, is the opposite of sex-positive.

If we do manage to get over it, we’re applying the Dr. Phil ointment: It’s important for your mental health, for bonding, for marriage, and for procreation. All true. But who cares? Sex doesn’t have to be rationalized, people.

Unlike free love or the vast majority of porn, being sex-positive is about ethics and the practical part of enjoying yourself. The kinky maxim “safe, sane, and consensual,” has the same roots. The main idea is that sexual expression of all sorts – celibate, kinky, hetero, homo, bi, trans, poly – is just fine so long as consent is involved. (And no, two shots of Cuervo may not be substituted for “consent.”)

Simply put, being sex-positive is about wringing the guilt out of sex. It’s opposed to self-loathing, hatred of the body, and fear of sexuality in general. Sadly, it’s much easier to say than to do. Your minister, the television, your co-workers, your spouse, and even your mom is probably going to tell you you’re wrong Wrong WRONG if you step into outlaw territory. In a sex-positive world, you could walk into a sex shop like Forbidden Fruit or Sinsations without nervous jokes and a twinge of shame.

Good sex shops have been holding down the sex positive fort for way too long around here. Austin needs more outlets that lean toward free expression. Drag troupes like Kings-and-Things and Austin Dragsters put on a good show a few times a year, as do the Vortex players, Naughty Austin, and the local burlesque beauties on stage, but, while there are plenty of artists in town that seem willing to hang out on the borderland between art, erotica, and porn, there aren’t many venues willing to show them off. (If you dig erotic art, don’t miss the ArtErotica auction coming up March 24.)

Here’s a suggestion: Erotic journals are the latest cool thing on campus, where rags like Quake at Penn, Boink at Boston U, or Squirm at Vassar are keeping things damp. With dorms full of Texas’ hawt-est, UT should be a bubbling stew of good sex, or at least good sex writing. Unless I’ve missed something, it’s not. We’ve come full circle. Without horny college kids, we wouldn’t even have “free love” to kick around. Get busy!

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