Here is my vagina, would you like to see it?
This is often what people think of when they hear of someone being sex positive: a person who is up for a quickie right there, right now, no matter what.
Several myths come with the idea of being a sex-positive feminist. Many of these rotate around the ideas of constantly being down to f*ck (DTF) and wanting to lead the whole world down a slippery slope into a sticky orgy, filled with edible underwear, futuristic-looking sex toys, whips and chains.
As exciting (or terrifying) as that may seem, sex positivity is in fact best defined, as one author did, as “helping people have the sex lives that work best for them”. This means everything from orgasms while swinging from the chandeliers to keeping it to kisses and cuddles to not having any sex at all.
It is about understanding, engaging with and enjoying your sex, no matter what form it comes in.
How do you know if you are positive?
Despite sex positivity having such a broad scope, there are some criteria which can help one’s understanding of what it is to be sex positive. Watching empowering porn, masturbating and engaging actively in your sexuality are great components of sex positivity – but there is more to it.
According to an article in The Frisky here are some tips for achieving sex positivity. These indicators include knowing that having sex is healthy but so is not having sex; not glamorising sex; not needing to show that you have it all the time; and not slut-shaming people whose sex looks different to yours. It is also about knowing yourself, especially in terms of your emotions/mind/psyche and assessing that within the framework of the sex you are having. It also involves understanding that consent is key, for yourself and your partners, which doubles back to the idea of knowing yourself.
Why we need sex positivity round here
Despite the constant promotion of abstinence and the religious and cultural strongholds that seek to police sex, this continent experiences the highest rise in the rates of STDs and STIs of any region in the world. The highest increase in the rate of curable STDs per 1 000 people is in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO. This is coupled with the prevalence of sexual violence in many parts of the continent, children having sex at a young age, violence and discrimination against sexual minorities, as well as harmful practices in the name of sex, such as putting sand in one’s vagina to increase the pleasure for the partner. Outside of this macabre reality, there is the fact that being sex positive is not something that is a foreign concept to the continent, as can be seen in cultures from across the Africa.
Sex positivity subverts these dangers by asking for the understanding that sexuality is vast; that there is no “normal” or “correct” way to feel desire and that everyone is entitled to healthy, fulfilling sexual encounters no matter your gender, preferences or sexual orientation. At the heart of it is keeping consent essential in all interactions and fostering tolerance for identities, orientations and various sexual practices. It is also about embracing the knowledge that everyone is entitled to comprehensive sex education that teaches function, safety choice and pleasure, without moral judgment, shaming or pressure.
At the heart of sex positivity is keeping consent essential in all interactions and fostering tolerance for identities, orientations and various sexual practices
The online space offers so many ways of finding people who will help you stay woke. There are people such as Dr Tlaleng, a medical doctor who gives sex advice on Twitter and TV. There are people on Instagram who have some incredible spaces to keep your sensual life alive. There are websites such as Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women and HOLAAfrica. There are podcasts such as The Spread Podcast and The Wildness with Tiff & Manda, which discuss everything from squirting to BDSM to how much sex you need in a relationship to polyamory. There are spaces where you can get some good feminist porn to really get your juices flowing.
Is it right to be having this much sex?
Sex positivity does have its critics. After all, we love in a world of sexual violence, so how can you encourage women to go into the battle field? How can that be the core of how you view your empowerment – are you not simply rehashing the same ideas that cause violence to be inflicted on your body? However, if you understand sex positivity in its truest form, rather than as the notion of simply saying ‘yes please’ to sex, one can understand how it can be a tool for reshaping how people see themselves and their bodies.
The key here is to not only believe the notions behind sex positivity but also to practice them. It is easy to simply say that you are sex positive but then shame someone for not wanting to have sex, or for wanting ‘vanilla’ (misconstrued as boring) sexual practices. A critical analysis of one’s theory and practice is needed when it comes to sex positivity because it is not simply about having wild orgasms, wilder nights and telling your friends to get screwed.