To me, sex positivity is accepting that your parents have sex. And I don’t mean they did that one time when they made you and your siblings, I mean your parents are having sex now.
I probably lost a lot of people with that but let me explain why that is the crux of sex positivity for me.
It was my second year of my marriage and family therapy degree and I was FINALLY taking the course I wanted to—Human Sexuality. Despite what you may think (and what I thought), a degree in marriage and family therapy is not a choose-your-own-adventure where I could simply overload on the marriage courses while overlooking the family (i.e. children) courses. I had spent four semesters talking about children and I was finally getting to the good stuff! The Human Sexuality course was even taught by a sex therapist who got his PhD from the program I was looking at. This was going to be awesome!
On the very first day of class, he told us that being a good sex therapist meant you could picture your parents in bed having sex.
Let’s just clarify right now that that is complete and total nonsense. Being a good therapist of any specialty requires a number of different skills including empathy… it’s just that being a sex therapist requires a sprinkling of imagination and a damn good poker face with that empathy. BUT I had no idea that was hogwash at the time so I accepted what my doctorate-holding professor said as fact.
So, desperately wanting to be a great sex therapist, I spent the next half hour (hopefully nothing critical was covered in that time) essentially creating soft core porn in my head starring—you guessed it—my parents. When I could not make the mental black censor bar any smaller, I asked, “What if you can only get them naked and in bed having sex but still have a bar covering the important stuff?” Everyone (including the sad joke of an educator) laughed at me; but I was serious. I wanted to be sex positive. And if that meant picturing my parents having sex, I wanted to do that.
Before anyone totally destroys their upcoming family gathering, I do not believe you need to picture a damn thing in order to be sex positive. I also don’t believe you “are” or “are not” sex positive. I think you can be sex negative and sex positive—on some type of continuum except that there is no end point. Being sex positive is a journey that takes time and growth which you have to cover at your own pace.
I did not really have that option. Telling this story and trying to include my parents in my education to become something so perverted as a sex therapist somehow translated to my dad as an open door to ask very personal questions about his junk. See?! And even there I struggle to type that my dad has a penis. Oh I typed it. I guess I was ready to admit that. I’ll have to process that later.
That’s how I’ve decided to go about my sex positive journey. I plunge into the depths, take a huge whiff of that bad smell, ponder to myself if someone is sexual and then wait for the pressures to equalize, for my sense of smell to dull, for acceptance that they are sexual (and it’s ok!).
My mom’s sex positive journey has been different. With that, it’s been more of going through the jungle together except I’m far ahead, clearing brush with my machete while my mom hangs back asking if there are tigers. Sometimes, I let her know there are tigers and I help her navigate to a different part of the jungle. Most of our journey has been tiger-free and we’re able to see some really beautiful things. From our journey we’ve gone from me ejecting out of my seat just seeing her present me with tampons to having in-depth conversations about the sexual expertise of women in the family before marriage. Tonight we even watched multiple episodes of Masters of Sex together without being intensely uncomfortable during the sex scenes. They had oral, anal, and orgasms—oh my!
But that’s the sex positive journey to me—awkward, and funny, and weird, and challenging, and joyful, and (at times) infuriating. Sex positivity is acknowledging that everyone is sexual. You don’t have to accept their sexuality. I don’t have to accept it. That person giving you angry eyes at Starbucks for reasons you don’t understand but maybe it’s your imagination and you haven’t had caffeine yet doesn’t have to accept it. No one has to accept another person’s sexuality. Acknowledging my sex positivity as a journey to shrink the mental censor bar means that I have to accept your sex positivity as a journey too. I don’t know where you are in that journey and that’s totally fine. Do YOUR sex positive journey!
Although I will totally admit I still give myself mental tests on occasion with the most random people—“Does that person have sex? Yes, Lauren, yes that person has sex.”
Lauren Moore is the Distribution Manager for Lotus Blooms and BoundOne. In her "spare time" she is a perpetual student of psychology, kink, sexuality, neurology, marketing, eCommerce and anything else that seems shiny this week.