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The sex-positive movement is a loosely defined term that applies to a wide variety of elements that embrace social and philosophical attitudes promoting open sexuality with few limits.


The terms and concept of sex-positive (or, alternately sex-affirmative) and sex-negative are generally attributed to Wilhelm Reich. His hypothesis was that some societies view sexual expression as essentially good and healthy, while other societies take an overall negative view of sexuality and seek to repress and control the sex drive.

Like Reich, some contemporary advocates of sex-positivity define their philosophy in contrast to sex-negativity, which they identify as the dominant view of sex in Western culture. According to these advocates, traditional Christian views of human sexuality define traditional Western values in relation to this subject. Thus, such proponents of sex-positivity claim that under the Western, Christian tradition, sex is seen as a destructive force except when it is redeemed by the saving grace of procreation, and sexual pleasure is seen as sinful. Sexual acts are ranked hierarchically, with marital heterosexuality at the top of the hierarchy and masturbation, homosexuality, and other sexualities that deviate from societal norms closer to the bottom. Medicine and psychiatry are said to have also contributed to sex-negativity, as they may, from time to time, designate some forms of sexuality that appear on the bottom of this hierarchy as being pathological . However, Western societies which predate Christian influence, such as ancient Greece, have often endorsed forms of sexuality that strongly conflict with Christian beliefs.

The sex-positive movement does not in general make moral or ethical distinctions between heterosexual or homosexual sex, or indeed masturbation for people who are otherwise celibate, regarding these choices as matters of personal preference. Some sex-positive positions include acceptance of BDSM, asexuality, polyamory, transsexuality, transgenderism, and other forms of gender transgression in general. Most elements of the sex-positive movement advocate comprehensive and accurate sex education as part of its campaign.

One definition of sex-positivity, from sexologist Carol Queen:

Sex-positive, a term that's coming into cultural awareness, isn't a dippy love-child celebration of orgone – it's a simple yet radical affirmation that we each grow our own passions on a different medium, that instead of having two or three or even half a dozen sexual orientations, we should be thinking in terms of millions. "Sex-positive" respects each of our unique sexual profiles, even as we acknowledge that some of us have been damaged by a culture that tries to eradicate sexual difference and possibility.

An emerging chorus of voices from sex-positive theorists who are people of color from the West and non-Europeans from Global South has provided an important contribution to the movement, giving substance to the power anaylsis of sex-positivity at the intersection of race/culture, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and spirituality.

The fear of the erotic and of its power, has therefore played a powerful role in shaping institutionalized White supremacy's vision of what it means to be African, to be Black. African is wild, hot, savage, beastlike, libidinal, primal; in short, the African is the very embodiment of all that the dominating culture sees as evil and in need of being policed and controlled.


Some advocates of relational views of human sexuality claim that "sex-positivists" have invented "sex-negativity" as a straw man argument against which they can assert "sex-positivity". In this view, human sexuality is regarded as an expression of love between two people. Thus, from this perspective, pornography, and other aspects of "sex-positivity" are regarded as degradations of human sexuality with a tendency to destroy romantic love and promote heartless physical hedonism. The web site of the anti-pornography movement "Morality in Media" articulates this viewpoint: "The pornography business takes the beauty of real love and converts it into soulless, commercialized slime. The porn-fighters protect healthy sexuality with the key ingredients of love, tenderness, commitment, and the privacy of intimate moments."

Philologist and gay historian Warren Johansson criticized the concept as utopian and simplistic. Johansson argues that all societies regulate sexuality in one way or the other, and traces back the idea of "sex-positive" societies to the inaccurate and idealized notions held by some ethnographers of the South Pacific as a kind of sexual paradise. In his view, even a society that took a wholly positive view of sexuality would still be challenged with regulating sexual behavior in such a way as to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and other potentially negative outcomes of sexual interaction.

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