For me, being sex positive has been an evolving process. Reading erotica in college was one of the first ways I learned about a range of sexualities that were different from mine. This was at the same time that I discovered I was bisexual. When I moved to New York for law school and bought my first vibrator and attended my first sex party, even more of the broader world of sex opened up to me.
Being a sex columnist, first for The Village Voice, and since then for Penthouse, TheFrisky.com and currently for alt weekly Philadelphia City Paper and women’s site DAME, though, is really where I’ve learned how to put my sex positivity into practice, because it’s meant that I have actively sought out people to interview whose sexual practices and identities are different from mine. Getting into the mindset of someone who’s turned on by something I might not intuitively understand off the top of my head has given me the skill set to approach sex in a much more expansive way.
Similarly, reading and publishing erotica about subjects that might push my personal buttons, and creating space in my classes for people to be completely unfettered and open about their sexual fantasies, has further expanded my way of thinking about sex. No matter what kind of sexual values you were raised with, it’s very easy to assume what you’re into is “normal” and what other people like isn’t. Sex positivity has opened my eyes to exploring the areas that do squick me, and allowing myself to have whatever personal feelings I might but then being able to dig into them as well, to say, “Why does this make you uncomfortable? What does it mean? How can you work through that to be helpful to this person?”
I think sometimes sex positivity is taken to mean that in our personal lives, we have to be open to every sexual possibility, and there have been times I’ve fallen pretty to that notion, gotten sucked into the idea that saying yes to sex was, on its face, preferable to saying no, simply because I was presented with a sexual opportunity. Being able to stand up for myself and truly listen to my own desires, whether they are in line with what everyone around me is doing or not, has been part of my personal journey that, in turn, has made me better able to embrace other people’s desires.
One issue that comes up repeatedly in my work is a fear of grappling with sex, whether it’s fear that one’s writing is going to expose a certain kink, or simply fear of what might emerge when a person starts digging into their fantasy life. I’ve found through my own work that the process of writing, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, can create a space to first map out what is going on inside of us, then decide how, if at all, it will manifest in our lives. Helping to create a safe space for others to explore those often buried aspects of their sexual fantasy life is something I’ve committed myself to, and something I believe is useful for the broader world in terms of seeing a variety of people, sexualities, genders and bodies represented in our erotic entertainment. So in my case, that’s often meant writing about larger men and women, not to fetishize them, but to counter the idea that only thin people are erotically desirable.
Most of all for me sex positivity has meant realizing that there will always be new areas of sexuality for me to learn about, and people to learn from, and to never make assumptions.
Rachel Kramer Bussel is the author of Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays, sex columnist for Philadelphia City Paper and DAME, and editor of 50+ anthologies including Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, The Big Book of Orgasms, Best Bondage Erotica 2015, Cheeky Spanking Stories and others. She teaches erotic writing workshops at sex toy stores, colleges, conferences and online at LitReactor.com. She lives in New Jersey. Find out more on her website: http://www.rachelkramerbussel.com
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @raquelita