I want to address and respond to an article I read recently in The Independent, entitled:
“Sexual pleasure isn’t the sole key to women’s freedom – just ask sex workers and Muslim women”
The bulk of the article suggests that sex positivity as a part of feminism is causing sex workers and Muslims to feel discounted/left out/misrepresented.
I firmly believe that all groups deserve more representation and I hope that we will work towards that, but I oppose any leaning towards sex positivity getting left behind, lest it offends.
We’ve worked too hard to get to this point. Sex positivity, whilst the initial definition is “sex positivity feminism affirms that consensual activities are fundamentally healthy and pleasurable”, there is now a new and safe arena of potential, to open up a floor to welcome discussions about all relationships with sex. To me – and on further research it appears so many feminist writers have varied views on the subject – sex positivity isn’t as basic as the title suggests, in that all sexual experiences are positive. It’s deeper than that. Sex positivity is about taking away the aversion of talking about sex openly, or not being shamed because of your views towards sex and sexuality, whatever they are. It’s about welcoming diversity and respecting attitudes that differ from our own.
The full article can be found here:
So let’s just take a walk through this article and address the points:
1. “putting emphasis on sex in liberation movements ignores that we all have different relationships with it”
No, it doesn’t. Or at least, it doesn’t have to. There is a dangerous trend currently of drawing unnecessary negative attention to sex positivity as an overuse of the concept of intersectionality to make any point whatsoever.
2. “the message is forced down women’s throats”
Is it? Or is this just a new way of thinking brought to the forefront of the public realm at last to help women identify with it if they wish to?
3. “For sex workers and Muslims, it’s much more complex”
Is it? Why even put these two groups in the same argument? They have no comparable similarities; it feels as though the author has just randomly selected two minority groups to band together a weak argument lacking in any real knowledge or substance.
4. “sex positivity feminism affirms that consensual activities are fundamentally healthy and pleasurable”
Is this wrong? I don’t think so. We can wholly and supportively promote sex positivity and still be respectful of those who may feel differently or have an experience of sex negativity. This movement can actually allow women the freedom and liberation to know that they can choose to have whatever relationship they want with sex. The key to all this, and which I feel so desperately passionate to protect, is that women feel they have the freedom to talk openly.
5. “But framing sexual pleasure as central to feminism….”
AAAAAARRGGGGGHHHHH!!! I’m sorry. I don’t see it. It is totally ok to include sex positivity as an element of feminism. It’s an important subject. But again, every feminist has their right to define their stance on feminism as they see fit.
6. “Sex workers often care little about the liberal imagination of sex positivity”
Oh really? Are we not massively over generalizing here? Not to mention that the author is demeaning the profession in their own way by presuming all sex workers must dislike or be switched off from the art of their craft. Are we in fact creating a need for yet further intersectionality within the intersection of sex work?! Do you see how ridiculous this notion is of having a positive movement criticized because it might not be 100% applicable to every single person? By attempting to speak on behalf of groups that the author has taken upon themselves to categorize using their own heavily laden assumptions, they’re effectively actioning their own means of discrediting an entire demographic.
7. “It discredits sex for work rather than just for pleasure”
NO IT DOESN’T! Celebrating one stance or opinion does not automatically negate room for alternative opinions.
8. “sex positive feminism doesn’t fully act in service for workers in the industry”
Er, YES IT TOTALLY DOES! Don’t use these lame ass attempts of thinly veiled opposition to halt what has been a major progressive achievement in the societal attitude towards sex workers. Let me tell you something, sex workers genuinely couldn’t care less about your personal speculation as to whether they enjoy their work or take pleasure from it or not. In the same way any woman in literally any other profession couldn’t! What sex workers care about is freedom of speech, breaking down stigma and striving towards the decriminalization of sex work to better protect their personal safety.
9. “Muslim women are expected to showcase their sexuality”
I understand there may be extremists enforcing their views onto Muslim women about embracing their sexual freedom and desires. And yes, this is wrong. Totally and unarguably wrong. No one should feel forced to adhere to principals that are totally against their personal beliefs or wishes. But this is not the time to laser focus on the extremists and undo all the hard work that has gone into the bigger picture. Are we really about to let extremists monopolize a movement that’s been around for 100 years and is finally gaining more momentum for women’s rights and freedom of voice?
10. (On the subject of the Netflix show; Sex Education) “With one swoop of a digital eraser, there are already attempts to position the show as “the inclusive feminist show you need to watch” – erasing many very real experiences of young Muslims (especially young Muslim women) who reject the premise that casual, sexual pleasure has to be the centrepiece for social freedom.
WHAT THE ACTUAL F***???? What the author is almost suggesting is a complete blanket ban on celebrating sexual liberation because it might not cover every single demographic. This is as ridiculous as me watching a programme around the constructs of modern families, celebrating diversity with representations of same sex parents and stepparents, and being offended because no one in the show is being represented as coming from a lone parent family with an absent father. It’s totally ridiculous and unreasonable to expect ONE TV show to cover all bases. Otherwise we would have to look at all the other groups that were not represented within the show. Diversity and inclusion are not about representing all the people all of the time. It’s not always possible and that is actually ok. It is sometimes just about celebrating one way of life without it being to the suffering or degrading of another. I genuinely feel that we can grant Muslim girls with the common sense to not be offended that in this case they have not specifically been represented. That is a gross difference to being misrepresented. The reasonable premise of what the show is about is a comedic look at a mother son relationship and how it is connected to the mother’s work as a sex therapist. There were too many groups to count that weren’t represented in this one show.
11. “Put simply, women who wish to wear things that have personal significance to them should not only be free to do so, they should have that choice respected.
a. YES!!!!!! I agree with this 100%. In the same way I strongly believe women should be allowed the freedom to celebrate their personal sexual liberation and freedom without being deemed as discounting those who are different. Do you see where I’m going here?
I really feel that the author is hypocritical in their approach. How can you say that you are more considerate of intersectional feminism, whilst simultaneously demonizing anyone who chooses to celebrate their liberated sexuality?
True sex positivity is not all about sensationalizing pleasure. True sex positivity is about the freedom to talk openly about one’s relationship with sex in whatever shape that takes. Sex positivity can accommodate “sex isn’t a big deal for me” “sex is of no interest to me” “I have an aversion to sex for pleasure” These are all, in my humble opinion, sex positive statements because they open up a healthy and positive line of communication around the issue.
Lastly, don’t bunch together two groups to make your point when it doesn’t make any sense. That was a total reach on the author’s part and presumes that these two groups share commonalities in which they might form an alliance, based on them facing discrimination that no one else understands.
As women who have been silenced for too long, can we please not rip apart a movement which is finally giving us a voice to embrace our relationship with sex and sexuality, whether we enjoy it or not?
For a much more rounded and reasonable assessment of what sex positivity is and isn’t check out this blog from everyday feminism.