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I just ran across this blog post from The Sexist blog at the Washington City Paper on why sex positivity is bad for feminism. I'm getting to it a few days late but it sparked my interest since I'm planning a whole series of events focused on the topic right now. I found the author's perspective interesting, but I'm pretty sure I disagree and I'll try to articulate my views. First, here's a snippet of the article

I?m not an anti-porn feminist, and even I have to say?No. Just, no. It?s fine, but it?s not ?totally interesting,? and talking about it is even less interesting. Of course, there are a lot of feminist issues involved in the porn industry, sex work, and in human sexuality; I just don?t think ?sex positivity? is one of them. So you?re a feminist, and you like sex?well, that?s normal. So do a lot of people, including a lot of non- and anti-feminists. So what does that have to do with feminist identity?

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But there?s another reason, too: If people who like sex see sex-positivity as a part of the feminist movement, maybe they?ll see feminism as less prude and scary and icky and straight-laced and serious and anti-man. And I think it?s condescending to the feminist movement that we have to bring orgasms in to be taken seriously.

So, what does sex positivity have to do with a feminist identity? For me, it starts with the idea that for most of history, women were used sexually by men, unable to take control of their own bodies, experience pleasure, explore themselves or their partners, or feel good about their sexuality. Hell, women were burned at the stake for being sexual. Female sexual pleasure is threatening to patriarchy. I'm not sure why, but it is. How else do we explain female genital cutting or the abstinence movement? Fighting back at this doesn't have to mean bad workshops (every conference has a few) or events with no purpose but sex, it can be so much more creative (and transformative) than that.To me, sex positivity is about sexual health and what we really mean by that. As a public health student, I can tell you that when we talk about sexual health, we generally talk about avoiding STIs, controlling fertility, etc. Bad things - sex negativity, if you will. Let's take a look at the WHO definition of sexual health:

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled. (emphasis added)

That's my definition of what it means to be sex positive and it seems pretty close to what feminism should be fighting for as well. I could have all of the equal pay and broken glass ceilings in the world but if I come home and feel shame about my sexuality, then I am not truly free.As a sex educator at Babeland, I see powerful, smart, independent women living impoverished sexual lives because in some senses, sexuality is the last frontier - it's the thing we never talk about for fear that it denigrates our movements. Feminism doesn't have to bring orgasm in to get taken seriously, it does have to bring in orgasms to be dealing with the whole woman.Check out this piece for another response to the post.ealing with the whole woman.Check out this piece for another response to the post.