This series is a message to the social justice community in general, comprising mostly of bashing people’s heads together. (I sense this is going to get a lot of clicks from google, from the title. Sorry, googlers. This is not any sort of sex guide/sexual opinion piece. The opposite, in fact). Part One- Sex-positive people, Sex-negative people and asexuals.
Because this conversation happens:
A: “Society is far too obsessed with sex. Sex is assumed to be part of every important relationship, and those who don’t want it are seen as broken and worthless.”
B: “Clearly, you’re not looking hard enough. If you did, you’d discover sex is actually treated fairly harshly. Those who show any interest in it are often ostracised or even attacked. Large parts of our shared culture don’t provide any decent sex education and all people get is a sense of shame.”
A: “No, it’s you who isn’t looking hard enough! You don’t understand the shame and fear people have to live through when they don’t want sex. If you did, there’s no way you’d make out that it was so easy for us.”
B: “But society is fundamentally sex negative!”
And so on. And on. And on. It doesn’t just happen. It happens a lot.
What the fuck made you think that the entirety of at least two continents worth of culture could express its entire view of sex as: “It’s good.” Or “It’s bad”? Why are we arguing on the basis that society is some great monolithic whole? There’s shitloads of nuance here. I can’t believe it’s passing you by.
So stop using the phrase ‘sex-negative society’. It’s a stupid phrase. Stop denying the experiences of others, or assuming that, while there might be outliers, the thing that matters is what affects you.
Also, make sure that everything you say or write supports this. If you say, for example, ‘society fundamentally wants everyone to have sex’ then you have no right to be angry when someone points out that there’s some fairly hefty social pressures on a lot of people (priests, women, disabled people and queer people come to mind, but, again, even these issues have a lot of nuance- see oversexualised queer people or women without a choice) not to engage in sex, definately not the sex they want when they want it.
And, for the love of god, don’t try to pick the nuance apart and give it a slightly new rationalisation that serves for the next five minutes but is also clearly untrue. Such as: Poorer communities are more anti-sex, richer communities are more unthinkingly pro-sex. America is more anti-sex, Europe is more unthinkingly pro-sex. Men are allowed to have sex, but women are shamed for it (Oh, there’ll be more on this one later. Count on it). Essentially, this is an exercise in poking your head out of your thought bubble for just a minute or so and checking in with reality, rather than carrying on carving up people into groups and deciding what, in your rhetoric, people’s experiences should be. It’s a skill which academicy social justice is really, really bad at.
Say it with me, folks:
“Our society, as it is, can be a harmful place to practice sexuality and also a harmful place to refuse to practice it. This doesn’t come in simple patterns, one person can be judgemental about people who have too much or the wrong kind of sex and judgemental about people who refuse to have it. Let’s accept that each other’s problems are real and aren’t a threat to our ideologies in any way, as long as our ideologies are based on the fact that people are individuals, that the world is complicated. If not, then it’s our ideologies that need to change, not the people who they erase.”
That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Join me next time for ‘Life’s complicated: Gender’.