Sex-Positivity Can Be Sex-Free

January 23, 2019 5 min read
The U.S. is in an era when sex-positivity is undoubtedly mainstream Movies and TV shows are increasingly liberating their characters from patriarchal gender roles and paint-by-numbers sex Brands, increasingly unafraid of backlash, are profiting from this cultural moment. You know the movement is gaining ground when lawmakers accelerate their plot to turn the country into one where women have no choice over their own bodies.             

Sex-positivity is often summed up with “all sex is good sex if it’s between consenting adults.” It wants to eradicate the shame that so many feel around sexuality. It wants us to celebrate the body’s potential for pleasure. For me personally, this ethos helped me create a path toward sexual liberation, and provided an opportunity to help others find their own.

These are certainly positive outcomes. However, there is a tendency for sex-positive ideologies to overemphasize the sex itself. This actually swings the pendulum the other way, to the point of silencing or shaming those who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t have sex. If the whole point is for each of us to honour our bodily autonomy without cultural coercion, not having sex must be considered a valid expression of that.


Making Space to be Ace


There are so many reasons a person may not have sex. An obvious one is asexuality, one of the oft-forgotten letters of the LGBTQIA+ acronym. While queer voices are prominent in the discourse on sex-positivity, those speaking are usually allosexual (meaning, not asexual) and drawing from their own experiences.


Asexual people do not feel sexual attraction, but they still have a sexuality, and live in a social reality that sanctions few expressions of it. The perspectives of ace folks have value, and warrant inclusion in the cultural narrative on sexuality. It’s up to allosexuals, who hold the privilege here, to insist on this.     

Droughts Are For Deserts


People of all sexual orientations sometimes go without sex for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, these “dry spells" are riddled with stigma and commonly discussed like they’re to be avoided at all costs. Dry spells can make us feel embarrassed and undesirable, so it’s only natural to fear them. But the truth is that they’re totally normal, and if you decide to embrace them, they can actually provide important insights and other benefits.


Maybe you’re looking for the right person for your first time. Maybe casual sex isn’t as enjoyable as you want it to be, and you want to focus on your own body for awhile. Maybe you naturally prefer sex in the context of a relationship, and choose not to seek it out as much when you’re single.


Some reasons are more painful and complex, like trauma, illness, injury, or disability. The body, mind, and spirit are all involved in sexual contact. When these parts of us are suffering, sex does too, and many people living with pain choose to (or are forced to) seek other ways to connect.


A Better Conversation


Almost all of us have had a time when we weren’t having as much sex as we thought we should have been. What if you could find peace and contentment in the ebbs and flows of your sex life without judging yourself? It would be much easier to do this if we were collectively willing to speak more honestly about our personal journeys as sexual beings.


The discourse around sex-positivity is incomplete without featuring the voices of people who aren’t having sex. To omit them is to ignore the lived experiences of wide swaths of the population, and create yet another harmful social hierarchy. That is the danger of letting this blind spot go unchallenged: we will continue to normalize the marginalization of those who live outside of an arbitrary norm.


There are infinite ways to express one's sexuality outside of regular sexual contact. It’s important to affirm that these ways are not lesser, just different. What could be more sex-positive than making space for ideas that are accessible to more people?

Aria Vega
« Aria is a poet, essayist, and advice columnist (ASK ARIA @ Lustery POV) based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work explores sexuality, relationships, and somatic experiences. When she's not daydreaming about living underwater, she's probably talking to her houseplants or meditating under the moon. " » All posts →