I have a confession to make, dear readers: I’m a sex critical feminist. I don’t espouse sex positive mantras day in and day out; and I don’t think sex is the most liberating thing in a woman’s life.
Before you all burn me at the stake for being the world’s worst feminist, hear me out.
I don’t hate sex. I think sex can be great. I think for some people, it can be liberating. And I definitely don’t think women (or anyone of any gender) should be shamed for having sex. But I am sex critical, and I do not believe in sex positivity.
Or at least, I don’t believe in it in practice. In theory? Fantastic! It fights back against decades of female sexual expression. It promotes proper sex education; it encourages women to explore their sexualities in a way many never have; it breaks taboos and promotes open, healthy discussion.
All of those things are great, and I’ve seen many sex positive feminists doing these wonderful things, encouraging women to talk about their experiences with sex and their body openly and without shame.
And that’s great – if only more sex positive feminists were like that. Unfortunately, they’re not.
Time and time again I’ve seen people ignore the fact that, for some people, sex is awful. They seem to think that sex positivity means thinking all sex is good sex, and everyone should be having it.
They forget that some people don’t experience sexual attraction at all. They forget that for some people, sex is deeply entangled with trauma and abuse. They forget that for some people, sex just isn’t that wonderful.
Sure, sex can be liberating, and a large amount of feminism is centered around sex, sexuality, and reproductive rights. But there’s also a huge amount of work done in the name of feminism that has nothing to do with sex, and it’s foolish to pretend that being sexually ‘liberated’ will magically fix problems like rape, the pay gap, and violence against trans women and women of colour.
Of course, I’m not saying that sex positive feminists are bad feminists, or that solely focussing on sex makes you a terrible person. It doesn’t, obviously. If you like sex and like talking about it then great, you do that. I’m all for instilling confidence in women and encouraging them to own their bodies. But when we start pretending that sexual liberation is the answer to all the world’s issues, then we have a problem.
What’s more, many sex positive feminists seem unable to critique sex in anyway. They think that just because a woman is doing something, it’s fine and liberating and oh so feminist. They think freedom of choice is the ultimate goal of feminism, forgetting that every choice is automatically informed by the misogynistic and patriarchal world that we live in. A choice is not feminist just because a woman made it; and sex is not inherently good just because a woman is having it.
So whilst I applaud many sex positive feminists, remember that positivity doesn’t, and shouldn’t mean being uncritical. Until more sex positive feminists realise this, and until more sex positive feminists start questioning their belief in the inherent ‘goodness’ of sex, I’m gonna carry on labeling myself sex critical.