Shifting Grounds: The Future Of Sex-Positive Feminism
Look, we’ll be straight with you: there’s no one-size-fits-all standard of sex-positive feminism. It will mean different things to each individual, by design. But in a general sense, sex-positive feminism is a brand of feminism that promotes sexual exploration and desire among womxn. It encourages womxn to explore their bodies and to take pride in their sexuality, as a means to give them strength and power. Right on.
Sex-positive feminism can be a bit of a tricky concept, though. Despite its well-meaning basis in female empowerment, it’s quite often misunderstood and misinterpreted, and can be quite polarizing. Some even go so far as to describe it as the opposite of feminism – a tool used by the patriarchy to repress womxn.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of this feminist concept, and attempt to answer the question: what does the future of sex-positive feminism look like?
What does sex-positive mean?
The sex-positive movement seeks to change societal norms around sexuality, promoting consensual sexual activity in all its forms as a natural, healthy part of human existence. It encourages open-mindedness and equality between all aspects and forms of sexuality.
What is sex-positive feminism?
As we mentioned above, sex-positive feminism is a form of feminist thinking that invites womxn to explore and take pride in their sexuality. At the heart of sex-positive feminism is the belief that sexual freedom is a key factor for successful liberation of womxn.
To understand sex-positive feminism properly, we have to take a look at its origins. The movement has its roots in the 80s. During this period, many feminists became advocates of sex positivity as a means to counteract the very vocal anti-pornography feminist movement at the time. Others later joined the movement to protest what they considered to be a patriarchal control of sexuality up until that point. They argued that sexual liberation is an essential part of female liberation, and as sexuality is a natural desire, it shouldn’t be stifled.
Sex-positive criticism: what’s the issue?
In a recent NY Times article, Michelle Goldberg explored the ways that the attraction of sex-positive feminism seems to be weakening for modern-day feminists. In an era where there’s much less taboo surrounding sexual pleasure and sexual fulfillment than the past, does sex-positive feminism need a reboot?
The argument for many is that sex-positive feminism endorses sex without feeling, and sex for the sake of sex. Instead of encouraging womxn to simply enjoy their bodies and take pride in sexuality, it’s seen as going too far in the other direction. In an era that widely accepts female enjoyment of sex as the norm, and in which porn is readily available, are womxn forced to cross a line they aren’t comfortable with to avoid seeming old-fashioned or prudish? Does it penalize womxn who are opposed to casual sex in favor of meaningful connection and commitment? These are all important questions to ask.
Sex-positive feminist pornography
Porn is hugely entangled in in the debates around sex-positive feminism. We’re living in an age where porn of every persuasion is more readily available than ever before. But many consider that porn is being misinterpreted as reality (when the majority of it so isn’t), and that this forces people – mainly womxn – to try to live up to a fake standard of sexual reality to fulfill their partners. Ugh.
One potential answer to this problem is the creation of sex-positive pornography. This is porn that caters to a much wider audience. Rather than rough, emotionless, unrealistic sex, it explores sex in a more “real” sense, with feeling and connection.
Much of this porn is produced and created by womxn. It places consent and boundaries at the forefront and aims to depict genuine enjoyment and passion. It promotes equality, and therefore branches off from the typical male dominance found in most traditional porn. It turns porn away from being just another patriarchal form of female oppression, and instead leans towards sexual freedom and fulfillment for all, regardless of gender or sexual identity. So could new forms of sex-positive feminist pornography be a more appropriate way to consume porn? Quite possibly.
The future of feminism
The future of feminism isn’t an easy thing to predict, as feminism means different things to everyone. However, when it comes down to it, it seems that sex-positive feminism may not really be fulfilling all the needs of its audience. Not all modern womxn crave sex for the sake of sex. Many people are searching for sexual fulfillment in a different way – and all these differing desires need to be taken into account when it comes to feminism that includes all womxn.
Maybe an entirely new brand of feminism is necessary – one that more clearly acknowledges the different ways in which sexuality can be expressed and fulfilled. The world is always in flux, and it’s super important that feminism reflects the needs of its constantly changing audience.