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Sex Positivity

Sex is natural, normal, healthy, and pleasurable. Let’s treat it that way.

What is sex positivity?

While it’s got the word “sex” in it, sex positivity is about so much more than the act of sex itself. It’s about the way we understand consent, the way we respect sexual diversity, our relationships with our bodies, and more. Whether we’re aware of it or not, all of us are either sex positive or sex negative. So, what exactly do these terms mean?

Sex Negativity

Sex negativity is the belief we have, consciously or not, that sex is harmful, shameful, gross, disgusting, or sinful and so, can only be ok if its controlled by strict norms.”1

Sex Positivity

Sex positivity considers sexuality as a natural, normal, healthy, and pleasurable part of being alive, of being human. Sex-positivity means having positive and respectful attitudes about sex and sexuality.”1

Being sex positive doesn’t mean thinking that everyone should be having more sex, or that everyone has to be in an open relationship. Rather, being sex positive means normalizing all consensual sexual behaviour and desires, whether or not they appeal to us personally.

Learn more about sex positivity from sexuality educator Nadine Thornhill, Ed.D in this video:

What do sex negativity and sex positivity look like?

While these terms refer to ideologies, they manifest in our society in several ways. Here are some examples.

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection.

What does sex positivity have to do with sexual violence prevention and response?

Preventing and responding to sexual violence, and sex positivity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s important to use a sex-positive framework in sexual violence prevention and response work.

Sex positivity encourages everyone to have their own healthy relationship to their bodies and to sex. Through holistic, inclusive, and pleasure-based sex education, youth learn what their boundaries are and can communicate them to potential partners, as well as respect their partners’ boundaries. Respecting boundaries is central to consent and, by extension, to sexual violence prevention.

In our largely sex-negative culture, those who experience sexual violence often feel shame for what happened to them. They also might feel it’s inappropriate to disclose what happened because conversations about sex are taboo. Encouraging healthy conversation about sex can empower survivors to seek out the support they need.

1Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. (n.d.) Sex positive parenting. https://www.actioncanadashr.org/resources/sexual-health-info/hub/sex-positive-parenting