Lately, we've seen lots of blog posts (including a few of mine) about sex in YA. There are arguments and counter arguments and counter counter arguments and counter counter counter arguments and . . . well, I guess you get it.
Monday, April 25, 2011
One phrase gets thrown around a lot. "Sex Positive." We've heard authors talk about sex positive YA, we've heard about sex positive education, and we've heard some argue against sex positivity. Recently, a discussion with some friends I go to school with proved to me that not everyone knows what sex positivity is. This made me wonder - do *I* know what sex positivity is? I've been told my writing is sex positive, I've identified myself as an advocate of sex positive messages, but did I know what it meant?
That's how this post came about. After a few serious conversations with friends, I came up with what "sex positive" means to me, and, more importantly perhaps, what it does not mean.
What Sex Positivity is NOT
-Sex positivity is NOT sex encouragement. Sex positive messages aren't promoting sex nor encouraging teenagers to have sex.
-Sex positivity is NOT pressuring teenagers to have sex young.
-Sex positivity is NOT advocating sex . . . well, at all, actually.
So then what does it mean? Well, here's what it DOES mean - at least to me.
Sex Positivity DOES Mean (to me, at least)
-Sex positivity DOES mean educating young people about their bodies, about sex, about safety, and about things that are natural and normal human responses.
-Sex positivity DOES mean encouraging conversations about sex, asking people not to silence themselves, to ask questions, to learn.
-Sex positivity DOES mean treating everyone - teenagers included - with respect and honesty, telling the truth - the good, the bad, and the awkward.
-Sex positivity DOES mean talking about sex as a natural thing, not as something "bad" or "dirty," not treating those who have it as shameful.
I write this post because I've seen some confusion on this matter. Sex positive sometimes gets mixed up with "GO OUT AND HAVE SEX NOW IT'S GREAT!!!" which is so, so not what it means - not in my world. Instead, it means education on all fronts and treating sex as something normal - because, hey, every species has some way of doing it - and not something to be ashamed of.
I've talked a few times on here about slut shaming and the dangers of it. Well, sex positivity discourages this. Instead of treating those who think about or engage in sex as demons, it treats EVERYONE with respect.
So what does it mean to write sex positive literature?
Again, this is my personal definition, so others may disagree here. But to me, writing sex positive literature means writing books in which the characters are not condemned for their sexual choices. Maybe they face consequences - that's life - but the reader is not told that the characters should be ashamed. Sex positive literature is honest, it doesn't moralize, and it treats its characters AND its readers with respect.
Just as a note - a book doesn't even have to have sex in it to be sex positive by my definition. I'd call Andrea Cremer's Nightshade sex positive (I actually just presented on it and some other sex positive urban fantasy this weekend - I'll do a post on that later).
Anyway, I think that's the end of my little ramble. But now I"m curious - what does sex positivity mean to you? What do you think good examples of sex positive media (books, TV, movies) are? Let me know in the comments!