Open Question: What Does “Sex Positive” Mean to You?

It wasn’t the intention, but it was the outcome. Now we know for certain that “sex positive” is illegal (and offensive/obscene) in Libya. It is also apparently a criminal thing (be it noun, verb or adjective). Even in the Libyans’ response, it’s clear they don’t understand what sex-positive means. They seem to think it means “porn” or “pornographic” but we know that’s not it, at all. And the Wikipedia entry seriously doesn’t cut it.

I want to know: What does “sex positive” mean to you?

I’m asking this question on Twitter and Facebook, but I am going to compile the answers here.

If you don’t want to comment here or Tweet @violetblue and want to remain anonymous, free to tell me your definition of “sex positive” in the comments, or email me – violet [at] tinynibbles [dot] com

Thank you — I think we all need to have a voice in this. Tell them what it means. Tell me. That was (part of) the point of We had a sex-positive URL shortener: that meant that while it was a general-purpose link reducer, we would not censor or remove your link transference because it was sexual in nature (from breast exam info to sex toys to titillation), nor would we make spurious editorial decisions about sexual content. We were not pretending that links to sexual content were not being made, but instead made a transparent policy around this inevitable fact. And that linking to sexual content is not a bad thing. It is, in fact, a positive expression such that a safe space needs to be made to protect it. The (open) Internet is where this can happen.

Especially now that this issue is hitting conservative press, I want our communities to show that “sex positivity” does not equal pornography.

Answers via Twitter, as they come in:

Luscious_Lily Lily Elle Sex positive is not shaming someone into complying with your idea of what sex should be.

JPBarlow It means material the URL of which should not be shortened with Nice to see you’re now from Greenland.

Noadi It means that consensual sexual activity is a positive, healthy part of being human that I refuse to be ashamed of

dpkendal Sex-positive: 1. Taking a liberal stance toward sexuality and sexual issues. 2. Actively promoting sex as a non-taboo subject.

AlistairKookie Being Sex Positive means the promotion of No Shame in Sex. Sex Is Positive.

sanguinevamp What “sex positive” means to me… “Consensual adult sexuality and gender performance is a natural and normal human experience … …that is a valid and non-shameful topic of discussion, study, education, and …. personal ethical and physical exploration and decision.”

DrAceTheGreat Sex Positive: Realizing that sexual encounters between consenting adults is not something to be ashamed of.

frhunting It must mean that it’s good or even great.

sadestwat sex positive means to me an appreciation for healthy sexual practices and the positive attitude towards said practices

_itsamanda_ to me, sex positive is creating an environment where no one feels shamed for their (consensual) sexual activities/conversations

danielle_heller sex positive is understanding that sex and desire are natural and not to be shamed, regardless of gender.

addictedimage the ability to greet any form of SSC sexual act with tolerance and respect for the simple fact that it brings another happiness. (personally I think instead of just tolerate we should actively support people in their pursuit of personal happiness.)

RedRegion To be and let be other people and promote open sexuality and lifestyles as long as it does not infringe on others.

SynthiaGynoid Sex+ is embracing joy, lust, pleasure and adult, consensual pursuits of happiness for their own sake. Death to shame.

xquitz being sex positive means to be yourself without shame or fear and to be free of hypocracy.

sexpert317 Sex positive means to be able to discuss sex openly and to see sex as a natural part of life.

RoccoErnest sex positive: any consensual sexual act between adults results in a net positive gain of goodness for mankind, a’course.

UPDATE 10.10.10: Nice post on Loves of a Sex Geek answering the question — Sex-positive: definition and importance (

UPDATE 10.13.10: Geek Porn Girl writes a beautiful definition of “sex positive” in Sex Positive Means a True Desire to Get Wet (

Share This Post


  1. I’ve written a lot about this topic:

    Since sex-negativity is the idea that sex is inherently bad, sinful, dirty, shameful, a lot of people think that sex-positivity is the idea that sex is inherently good. And that’s not true because it’s all about how you feel about the sex you have. A lot of people have negative experiences with sex (even when we set aside things like sexual assault).

    I think that the key is learning to let go of judgment around sexuality. I’ve heard it said that we’re not responsible for our first thoughts since they’re deeply influenced by culture, family, religion, experience, etc, but we are responsible for our second thoughts (i.e. how we respond). I don’t believe it’s possible to be non-judgmental, but I do think we can learn to let go of our judgments without letting them affect how we act.

    Within that framework, what I look for is whether the consent, pleasure, health, and well-being of the participants are being cared for. I strive to remember that each of these will be defined differently be different people, so I try to use the other person’s definitions. And if they tell me or act in ways that show me that those ingredients are present, then I celebrate their joy and pleasure, even when they do things that don’t work for me.

    Ultimately, sex-positivity is about creating a positive relationship to sexuality. My own, yours, and anyone I come into contact with. It’s about honoring and celebrating sexual diversity. It’s about healing from erotophobic and sex-negative messages. And it’s about pleasure.

  2. I think (and this is the simplest definition I can come up with) that sex positive is a way to describe education that makes no moral judgements on a person’s sexual desire and that supports all sexual activity done between consenting people so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

    but it’s complicated because of how power relationships and privilege complicate our ability to communicate effectively

    also because “harm” is tricky to define (just look at the SSC versus RACK debates in kinkland)

    i have more to say, so I made my own post
    thanks vb!!!

  3. Sex positive (and I learned the term here) to me means you are open to embracing your own happiness.

    That’s not so easy to do.

    Think about the things that you have internally repressed at some point in your life. It doesn’t even have to be anything that is at issue in our greater society. If you have nevertheless repressed “something” (anything in fact), you were not embracing what makes you happier.

    Embracing what would make you happier, especially sexually, makes you ‘sex positive’. We could all do with more happiness both within ourselves and others.


  4. Here’s my original definition of “sex-positive” from before I wrote this post and asked you all:

    “Sex positive” is a term that acknowledges human sexuality, human sexual pleasure, sexual expression, sexual orientation, sexual desire, sexual education, sexual speech and gender acceptance as containing inherently healthy, good, and positive values. Sex positivity takes for granted that human sexuality in all its consensual variations is a good thing.


    Sex-positivity indicates viewing human sexuality and sexual pleasure from a positive, nonjudgmental, encouraging, and also limit-respecting perspective. It counters certain cultural views that sex (expression, desire, orientation, education, enjoyment, speech) is inherently negative by seeing sex as inherently positive — and healthy, especially when individuals are provided accurate education and tools to make appropriate and healthy (self-defined, individuated) decisions about sex. It is not a judgement-based model of sexual prescription, repression or censorship. It is not “anything goes” because it necessitates respect and consent as part of sexual tolerance: what is good for you is still good for you, even if it is not good for me. Sex positivity grants that each person has the right to decide the sexuality that is right for them.

    Having a “sex positive” attitude or perspective means that the first interpretation of anything sex-related is to see the good in it or its positive effects. It is taking for granted that sexual *anything* is good by nature — before jumping to assumptions and conclusions about negative effects.

    A sex-negative approach is one in which it is taken for granted that sexual *anything* is going to be bad, harmful, immoral, shameful, uncontrollable and contains consequences. Sex negativity, widespread in many cultures, removes individual ability to engage with sexual topics and content on free thinking terms and disallows enjoyment of sexuality. It removes agency by judging sexual interest, expression and pleasure as harmful.

    A sex-positive education would allow access to factual, non-judgmental information so individuals can make age and culturally appropriate decisions based on accurate facts. (e.g, here, masturbation is a healthful activity as defined by proper context)

    A sex-negative education would disallow access to accurate information in lieu of harsh moral judgment and discourage individual sexual agency. (e.g., here, masturbation is harmful, if it is even discussed)

  5. Sex positive means joyfully embracing our bodies and being open to exploration of many different sexual expressions – and not judging someone else’s definition.

    It also means not being afraid to be talk about sex in open public forums (like this one!)

    We love the question and the forum you are providing. We’d also like you and anyone else to visit our website – Moving Beyond Erection Dependent Sex – it is a site for people living with erectile dysfunction, exploring how we too can have a great sex life.

  6. To me sex positive means believing that sexual expression is a natural and valuable part of being human. Sex is something to be embraced in all its complexity and joy.

    Being sex positive means being accepting of behaviors in others that I might not be interested in myself, as long as it falls within the bounds of consent. For me sex positivity is an extension of a consent based ethics in which what we do is only restricted by what we can freely negotiate with equally situated partners.

    Living a sex positive life involves being true to your own desires, while trusting that your partners will be giving enough and thoughtful enough to try to meet those desires. It means being willing to try things instead of rejecting them out of hand, it means living with the belief that sexual expression and communication is a positive force in relationship and lives when it is done thoughtfully and with care.

  7. Wonderful project this is, Violet.

    My main definition of what I call “Sex-Positive”?? Simply, the right of sexual self-determination. The right to have your own personal sexual boundaries accepted and respected by others…even as you reserve the right to expand and redefine those boundaries yourself.

    And, to quote from the classic tome The Ethical Slut: “Sex is nice, and pleasure is good for you.” Mutual respect, mutual informed consent, and mutual pleasure.


  8. That sexual encouters between adults should be consensual and safe, with pleasure as the goal, without judgment as to how that pleasure is attained. And that those who have positive sexual relations (be it with themselves or partner/s) should not be shamed, guilted or otherwise poo-pooed for their enjoyment.

  9. It should be a human right, but it isn’t.
    I know I don’t feel comfortable allowing my sex life out in the open for all to know because not all people agree with it and find it fine to brand, label, and criticize.
    To be sex positive is to NOT do any of those things.
    It is to allow other people the freedom to make choices about how they wish to live and not judge them for it.
    To be sex positive is to promote awareness and understanding of peoples choices in regards to their sexuality even if it doesn’t mesh with your own.
    It is allowing others to feel good about themselves.
    As long as a person does no harm to others they should never be chastised for doing what makes them feel happy and whole.

  10. I think it’s pretty clear (and something I strongly felt) — that the definition on Wikipedia of “sex positive” just doesn’t cut it. No one here referenced it, and the entry just looks very confused and dated compared to what we’re all saying.

    A lot of you seem to see it as a human right.

    Before I wrote this post, I wrote *my* definition of “sex positive” — my sex-positive guideline definition. I saved it in a text file on my desktop before I published this post. It is unedited, and I’ll put it up as-is after we get a few more personal definitions. I held back on posting it because I didn’t want to set the tone. I’ll be curious to see how it resonates here.

  11. More from Facebook:

    William Hassinger: Being sex positive, to me, means that I’m as willing to talk about sex as I am literature, or movies, or the Red Sox. When sex as a subject holds no particular weight as a subject other than what the conversation its self imparts. Sex positivism is not what you do, but what you don’t. It’s not always about speaking up in defense, sometimes it’s just speaking normally.

    Bob Hooker: I think any valid definition of sex positive that works for any good faith person would be invalid in a state like Lybia. They also are not too fond of drinking their either.

    Jonathan Cunningham: Sex positivism is the encouragement of sexual exploration and expression in and between consenting adults.

    Andrew Mabey: Sex positive, to me, means having an honest understanding of ones own personal sexual identity and understanding and acceptance of one’s own personal limits on the matter, regardless of associated cultural and social baggage and the acceptance of that state in others in spite of the distaste, or pleasure, one may have of those other’s choices. Be honest, with yourself and others, and do no harm.

    Lalena Parkhurst: In the word of The Kinsey Sicks “God wants you to get laid!”

    Mateo Ptmd: not sure i can give a dictionary def but: people expressing their sexuality/sensuality for the enjoyment of all involved.
    a good example might be:

    Kd Grace: Sex positive is creating an environment free from censorship in which people can safely explore and discover their own sexuality without pressure, interference or the shaming influences of religion, politics, propaganda,’ or any other anti-life-affirming influence. Actually, I just blogged about this topic!

  12. Sex positivism is basically about a positiv approach towards sexualitiy and anything related to it and that you are able to speak and discuss these themes whitout any constraint. I think that it is also about the conviction that sexuality and sex is something good and related to fun.
    Sex positivism is about opend minded persons who accept that there are as many sexual preferences as there are different people and that any one of them ist perfectly ok if it is consensual. And no should feel ashamed just because he has a sexual preference which does not seem to be “mainstream”.

  13. To me the sex positive Holy Grail is being able to discuss sexual activities and preferences in the same way you would discuss a fitness regimen, diet, or sporting technique, in the same socially acceptable circumstances. You don;t discuss fitness with a stranger, but its fair communication amongst friends.

    I have a close group of around 20 friends and in a crisis there is nothing we cannot say to one another. I appreciate and champion that environment but to me the sex positive mindset should mean that we don’t have to wait until a crisis to discuss how we feel about sex.

    “How did you hurt your elbow?”

    “Soap dish gave way in the shower with my husband yesterday – damn tilers!”

    Thats how easily sex should fit into peoples everyday life.

  14. When I first saw the phrase “sex-positive” on the site, I wasn’t sure what to think, for I had never heard it before. However, as I thought about it and Violet’s mission more, “sex positivity” came to mean to me that any sexual orientation is supported, any link is shortened, and nobody’s going to try to say that any kinds of choices are wrong. “Sex-positive” to me means uplifting those in flux who may need advice, and being grateful for all life and all backers of the cause and sexual movement.

  15. I think back to a class I took on sexuality from — of all people — a Roman Catholic priest and a Roman Catholic nun. The class was not what you might think (“No.”) but rather about how sex is not just a thing we do with our genitals for procreation or recreation. “Sex” is intrinsically part of this whole mass of erotic, creative, generative, spiritual energy that is fundamental to being human. Even vowed celibates (as the instructors were) cannot, if they want to remain whole, simply suppress that erotic energy; instead, vocational celibacy is about intentionally directing that eroticism somewhere else (in this case, towards a life of devotion to God.)

    To me, that awareness — that sexuality is part and parcel of this creative power, whether or not you choose to express it via intercourse, and this power is essential to healthy human beings — that understanding is being “sex positive.”

  16. Being “Sex Positive” means the acceptance that sexual acts consensually negotiated being two – or more – people is seen as healthy and life affirming, and the promotion of said “sex positive behavior” is articulated through education to the general public as a means of encouraging a healthy and life affirming existence.

  17. To me, “sex positive” means embracing consensual sexual activity as a natural and healthy part of human life, and dismantling the idea that sexual activities and preferences can be lumped into the over-simplified categories of “normal” and “taboo.”

  18. … *sex positive* means, first and foremost, a *positive attitude* toward sex – and sexuality in general – including being non-judgemental and positive toward and accepting of all consensual human sexuality … imagine a culture which is so sex-posiitve that there is no power in anyone trying to ridicule or ever trying to ‘shame’ anyone for their honest sexual expressions … a sex-positive attitude includes recognising that we’re all sexual creatures and that this is a *positive* and not a negative thing – and being free to explore and enjoy our sexuality without fear of ridicule or shame or condemnation or negativity …

  19. Anonymous email submission:


    Dear Violet,

    I learnt the term “Sex Positive” from you. Before I heard the term I had no idea that the concept existed and the second I did I realised I had been doing it all wrong! Since then I have practised, learnt and tried ever so hard to get it right (boy has it been fun :))

    Sex Positive is to me being empowered to say yes! Enthusiastically and to people I want to without seconding guessing what I want. Its saying yes and meaning “Hell yes!””Please Yes” “Fuck yes!” “God yes!” Not saying yes and meaning “Ok”
    Its about not being afraid of sexuality, of being excited about it instead! Being sex positive is being positive that you want sex, and that’s awesome!

  20. Anonymous email submission:


    I identify as sex positive.

    I am sex positive because I don’t feel shame when I think sexual things.

    I am sex positive because sex feels good and *everyone* has the right to feel good about themselves.

    I am sex positive and I try to spread the sex positive message because sexuality is too big of a part of human nature to be ignored or shamed.

    Sex positivity is not merely pornography, although that can be part of it. More importantly it is a state of mind.

  21. I’d say it means sex without villainy: that there’s more options than a)be a chaste hermit living on a pillar somewhere, wishing goodwill on everybody and going months without looking at your genitals or b)be a vicious, gang-raping evildoer who smiles a lot.

  22. More from Facebook:

    Paul Carroll: I’m positive I like sex. :)

    Richard Stringfellow: Sex is a part of our lives and it should be celebrated, studied, understood, shared, and not closeted or shunned.

    Kendra Holliday: Sex positive is recognizing that humans are animals, not mannequins.

    Craig J Stadler: per sexaudia- “an overall open attitude toward human sexuality.”

    Justin Laws: That sex is pleasurable and good for you.

    Nicholas Polimenakos: Freedom

    Danielle Sipple: i miss it. :(

    Sonya Jasmine Berg: To me it means: Recognizing sexual pleasure as an evolutionary gift and approaching it with intelligence and passion.

    Klara Kadar: sex is a celebration of life and health. do it.

    Andre’ Duckworth: Recognizing one shoe does not fit all. Recognizing your preferences, while respecting others without judgement. Recognizing that sex is healing…

    Shawn Keith Phillips: I’m not exacty sure at all. Its a term I have never heard used before.

    Chloe Hollingsworth: To me, sex positivity is recognizing that sex is as much a normal, natural part of life as eating, thinking, and wanting to do something meaningful with your life. Therefore, to deny our sexuality, no matter what form it takes, rather than learn how to use it responsibly is as destructive as it would be to deny ourselves food or education — and like an earthquake, the pressure can build and build until it explodes, and then destruction ensues. (As opposed to carnal passion, in which that pressure can build and build until *you* explode, and then happiness ensues.)

    Milly Payne: To me, Sex positive means living my life and conducting my feminist work in a way that incorporates sex and celebrates everything sexual, everything from kinkfest to vanilla, and knowing that sex is a positive and powerful force in our lives and most important, to me anyway, is celebrating PLEASURE!!

  23. It’s all about acceptance: acceptance of the two guys next door who kiss goodbye on their front step in the morning; acceptance of a little boy wanting to dress up and play with makeup; acceptance of gays in the military; acceptance of sexual experimentation as normal… you get the picture. It’s rooted in the belief that gender is whatever we want it to be and relies on an absence of fear about our own sexuality.

    When I started to answer this, I was thinking that sex-positive is the absence of sex-negative but as I write, I’m realizing that it’s more proactive than just an absence. It must include a willingness and desire to stand up against those who live in sex-negative and think they can demand that others believe as they do.

    Sex-positive is a smile at someone different, a full body hug rather than the fake A shaped hug, an agreement that we control our own pleasure and a willingness to stand up with a raised fist in front of those who think they should control ours.

  24. Being sex positive means that I try to combat the shame that I’m taught to feel about my
    own sexuality, and to place on others due to their various sexualities. Means understanding that people come to sex from lots of different pasts and places, and some of them contain hurt and harm. Hence, sex positive means thinking hard about and practicing good consent all the time. Some people are very sexual, some are not so sexual, some are not sexual at all. Sex positivity can be part of all kinds of drives and approaches to sex. Beyond personal involvement, being sex positive means knowing that slut-shaming is bullshit, not doing it and taking it on whenever it gets up in your face. It means knowing that all sorts of sexual possibilities are open to me, and that I can choose to engage or not engage with them. I think mostly sex positivity means having a shitload of respect for myself and my body and my
    sexuality, and for everyone else’s selves, bodies and sexualities regardless of whether I am sleeping with them/want to sleep with them or not.

  25. To me, sex positive is sex as personality. Fundamental, ineluctable, human, as much a part of each and everyone of us as the color of our skin, hair or eyes, or our character or temperament – inseparable from who any one of us is, including each and every person (Libyan or otherwise) trying to suppress that part and in doing so, actively deny who he himself/she herself is.

  26. Sex positivity: The ability to look at someone wearing a head-to-toe, skin-tight PVC suit, cock-and-ball restraints, a studded leather collar (*with matching leash!), full native feathery headdress, maid’s apron and 6″ platform spike heels and saying “well… it’s not what I’m personally into, but rock the fuck on, anyway, man!”

  27. To me, sex positivity means beign honest and confident in my own sexuality, having the freedom to express sexuality, and having respect for other’s sexual expressions and consentual actions.

    I think sex positivity is important because it validates myself and others’ sexual and gender identities, bringing respectful dialog, education, and celebration of pleasure.
    It is especially important for sexual minorities, and all affected by sexual and gender oppressions such as those associated with shame, judgements, insecurities, censorship, and prosecution. The pursuit of pleasure is a human right.

  28. What “sex positive” means to me:
    “Consensual adult sexuality and gender performance is a natural and normal human experience that is a valid and non-shameful topic of discussion, study, education, and personal ethical and physical exploration and decision.”


  29. Sex positive means to me that I can express and share my views and interest in topics of an adult nature (Helth, practices, concerns, ideas) boath positive and negative without fear of censorship, score, ridicule, or being outcast.

  30. So far, from Facebook:

    Andre Justin Riddle: that sex can have positive effects on some people and that sex doesnt have to be looked down upon but honestly ive never heard that phrase before

    Hercules PleasureCoach: Oh I could go on and on but a big part of it being open-minded about sex.

    Clinton Hammond: To me it means, “Yes, let’s!” ;-)

    Brian Terrill: It means showing your sex instead of being gender neutral.

    Bob Alberti: That sex is natural and not shameful, and shame is unnatural and not sexy.

    Suzanne Huffman: ‎”Sex is natural, sex is good, not everybody does it, but everybody should.”

Post Comment