In queer sex
positive-spaces you can often meet the expectation and assumption that we all interact in the
same way with our bodies – and there is most definitely hierarchy involved.
The notion that the coolest, most radical, sex positive queer is one who loves BDSM, casual sex at sex parties and is a sex worker IS a problem and it is not that casual
sex, BDSM or sex work are problems, quite the contrary, if you like it, great -
the problem is the hierarchy. There is not one way of being sex positive.
In queer sex positive-spaces you can often meet the expectation and assumption that we all interact in the same way with our bodies – and there is most definitely hierarchy involved. The notion that the coolest, most radical, sex positive queer is one who loves BDSM, casual sex at sex parties and is a sex worker IS a problem and it is not that casual sex, BDSM or sex work are problems, quite the contrary, if you like it, great - the problem is the hierarchy. There is not one way of being sex positive.
Some people are asexual, some people only like having sex with people they have an emotional connection with, some people like to fuck a new person every day - all of this is fine as long as it is done in a respectful manner. We can not create a hierarchy around these issues, where one way of interacting with your body makes you ”The most liberated”, while other experiences are erased. For me sex positivity is to feel no shame or pressure around sexuality no matter how much or how little sex you choose to have. Neither should anyone feel that there’s something wrong with them if they aren’t interested in exploring advanced sexual techniques. It doesn’t have to meen that they’re repressed, it can just mean that it’s not something they prioritize in their life.
Sex is not per se something liberating, it is liberating when it actually feels liberating. Having a lot of sex with a lot of people is not always something positive. It can just as well be about a self-destructive compulsive addiction to approval or adrenaline kicks, trying to do what is considered ”cool” within the community - or an emotionally detached way of deflecting the vulnerability that often is necessary in order to deal with trauma (Especially sexual and emotional trauma). Having sex with a lot of people can mean different things to different people in different periods of their life. Having a lot of sex with a lot of people far from always constitutes a destructive compulsive relationship to sex, for some it can be fantastic and liberating - however how the hell are we going to be able to distinguish the difference for ourselves if the topic is never discussed?
I think many people within sex positive-spaces have an understanding of this, but these discussions are being had in private, not in public – because we are conditioned by capitalist society to hold in our woes, and flaunt our wows. We are all too fucking afraid of being uncool when speaking up about our woe’s, therefore cementing a situation where we all feel pretty alone with our woe’s, because all we are seeing and hearing about is the wow’s, which never is the whole story. We owe eachother honesty, the truth and the whole story. It’s time to Kill Coolness - Murder it viciously with our bare hands. It’s what the (Audre) Lorde would have wanted and always preached beautifully about.
The problem is Hierarchy and Hierarchy creates pressure, something that is extra dangerous in a society that already has so many pressures surrounding sexuality. Sex positivity is very easily coopted by and confused with compulsory sexuality - a context where people feel pressure to have a lot of sex and advanced sex with a lot of people, not because they want to, but since it is considered ”cool”. I think in general queers are extra sensitive to ”fitting in” since a large portion of us have a history of being bullied and not fitting in – and that is one of the reasons why queer culture has an extra large responsibility to be friendly, inclusive and free from coolness. Cuz if you’re a queer freak and don’t even fit in the queer community – where are you going to turn if you feel the need for community?
So, discussions have to be broader and we can’t have a situation where there is only one way of interacting with ones body that is proudly shown within queer circles. There are so many things that need to be brought up. Like how masturbating is not less cool than having group sex. Like how asexuality is a way of interacting with ones body that is just as fine as having lots of sex. Like how there can be 100 reasons why one is uncomfortable with having group sex or sex with strangers that has nothing to do with being prude, conservative, boring or sex negative. Like how sexual trauma shouldn’t be an issue that is hidden under the rug – to be dealt with privately, while publicly all you hear about is how healthy and happy everyone elses sex lives/sex drives seems to be. If it seems so simple for everyone else, it makes you think you just must be too complex and complicated and insecure to be in this space. It just isn’t a space made for opening up about insecurities.
The point of this is: We all have totally different boundaries and needs and wants and all of these are just as wonderful as the other. We are the only ones who can define what makes us satisfied and what we are interested or not interested in exploring. And we need to be free to talk about our negative experiences and traumas in order to create a truly liberating and healing space.
I feel the need for radical emotional politics within sexpositive queer spaces. It would broaden many discussions. As I mentioned earlier a large portion of people in the queer-community were bullied in school and many also come from precarious family situations. The fact that we are barely talking about mental health issues in these communities is terrible, because it is very much needed. Statistics show that LGBTQ-people as a group have a lot of mental health issues. We need to talk about our feelings and we need to talk about sex /relationships and feelings and not just assume that we’re happy and ok with everything.
Capitalist society keeps us busy with showing off a positive image of ourselves – it makes us marketable, well-liked and popular. Spiritually I do believe that only being allowed to be open about positive things is killing us – twitter, facebook, instragram – we’re always busy reproducing this picture of us as happy and successful, making everyone feel further alone with their unhappiness and failures – although they are just as abundant as the successes. Everyone just feels the dumb need to hide them.
On the emotional spectrum, sadness is the most taboo – the emotion people have the hardest to deal with – the emotion that capitalism wishes we never felt cuz it’s not productive. Within radical spaces I do believe one is aloud to show anger, but sadness - No. This has a lot to do with patriarchy and capitalism as well. Anger is considerd ”masculine” and seen to symbolize ”strength” and patriarchalcapitalism revears strength. While sadness is considered feminine and seen to symbolize ”weakness” and ”weakness” is looked down upon. We need to be given space to embrace the full emotional spectrum, no emotion is wrong in itself as long as it isn't used to mistreat or injure someone else.
Within queer sex positive-spaces I believe we aren’t allowed much space for sadness, some space for anger (at the system), but mostly we are expected to act happy, especially when it comes to sexuality. I’ve had many periods where I’ve been far from happy all the time, especially when it comes to sexuality – because of trauma. The inbalance is obvious. I’m hardly alone in this, but in sex positive queer spaces I’ve felt alone.
People also have different ways of relating to their sexuality. Because of emotions or integrity when it comes to their body they can have trouble having casual sex. People also have different ways of relating to relationships. Poly/relationship anarchy can be great for some and a problem for others. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with who is the most radical. And poly without really good communication is not radical, instead it becomes all about power – where the person who has a more ”masculine” way of emoting often gains power over the person who has a more ”feminine” way of emoting. The masculine rational one who thinks their partner(/s) is constantly over-reacting, over-sensitive, being too emotional and wants to talk about everythiiiing. And if you’re emotional and/or have experiences with trauma that make it harder for you to trust people – poly can be a step that is 10 times harder for you than for other people. We need to acknowledge this. I am speaking from the perspective of a person who is dedicated to poly but who is also super emotional and has experiences with trauma. I can understand that many have the need for monogamy in periods of time for trust and safety-issues. This should not be judged.
And to finish off this series: Sex is just one of many aspects that make us humans. A few squares on the 64 squares of the chess-board of life – and therefore the sex positive movement has to be broader in order to be a radical social justice movement. It can’t just talk about orgasms, BDSM, fantasies and pleasure, it also has to talk about structures, oppression, emotional politics, healing from sexual assault and lookism relating to all the ism’s that tell us what a desirable body looks like.
If the sex positive revolution is focused on fucking as much as possible it’s not my revolution – it’s more like mainstream gay party and cruising culture. The over-simplified ”Everytime we fuck we win” of the Queer Nation Manifesto should be replaced with ”If we, despite all the bullshit going on in the world, are able to have a positive relationship with our body and it’s ability to experience pleasure, while respecting our limits and integrities and not feeling pressure to fuck/not fuck a lot nor shame if we do/do not fuck a lot, we win”. It may not be as good of a punch-line, but most of our realities are too complex to be constrained by punch-lines.
Queerfeminist sexpositivity must be very political, deconstruct and build something new – celebrating pleasure while simultaneously acknowledging and discussing openly all the complexities, problems, different journeys and different ways of interacting with ones body. If these two things can not be done at the same time, than I simply do not want to be a part of the movement. At the moment there is too much lookism, too little radical reflection and too few discussions on less privileged experiences (as if it would interfere with a playground for privileged experiences). We all have different experiences and different positions and it is privileged arrogance to assume that we are all on a level playing field. The sex positive-movement is sometimes on auto-pilot, especially in queer mecca-cities like San Francisco and Berlin (and I’m annoyed with a lot of things in both of these cities, especially SF) – and there needs to be more constructive criticism and self-critical discussion. I hope that what I’ve written can be a part of that. We can not be just positive, we must be able to combine the positivity with being critical.
Tumblr-post "Sex positivity is rape culture in disguise" (though I don't agree with the title or with everything in the post, the author makes some interesting points)
The fantastic Kitty Stryker addresses sexual assault within the BDSM-community and why criticizing within some BDSM-movement's is nearly taboo because it is so criticized by mainstream culture