The Orthodoxy of Sex-Positivity: or, a polemic from a poly-queer sex writer with a chip on her shoulder

I was so glad to read this article about the sometimes-narrowness of the kink and sex-positive communities when it comes to those of us who advocate for sexual freedom and understanding but don’t necessarily want to join in all the same things our compatriots enjoy. Especially when we write about it. As I read Tracy Clark-Flory’s opining, I was thinking, “I hear you, girl”:

“This is something I’ve come to realize about “sexually progressive” communities: They’re not always that progressive. For all our bluster about sexual liberty and choice, there is a sense in some corners that certain freedoms are freer. I’ve come across a surprising number of supposed radicals who subscribe to a sex-positive hierarchy, with private monogamy at the very bottom and public poly-whatever-y at the tippy top. My unwillingness to make out with a female friend or participate in an orgy has been greeted on numerous occasions with, “You’re the most prudish sex writer I’ve ever met!””

I was just thinking about these ideas this morning on my way to work, and it was gratifying to see that I’m not the only one out there who writes about sex, porn, polyamory, and so on, who doesn’t always drink the Kool-Aid I believe so passionately can be good for some people. I do believe it’s important for everyone to be able to do what makes them happy, but what makes you happy is what you should do, whether that’s missionary position in the bedroom with a spouse in the dark, or sploshing orgies with felt-costumed hot dogs. Whatever works for you, as long as you’re not hurting anybody and everyone involved is having a good time… go ahead and do it. I’ll cheer you on! Just sometimes it’ll be from the sidelines. And I wish that was more ok, or at least more acceptable.

But there is an inherent bias, I’ve often found… or perhaps not a bias so much as a hope… in other sex-positive people that, because I identify as a queer, polyamorous, sex-positive feminist who has spent significant time writing about the swinging community, kink community, and adult entertainment industry that I must (and I mean must as an imperative) also be an exhibitionist and/or voyeur, highly promiscuous, deeply kinky, and almost always ready to join in sexual situations. But that just isn’t my bag. It never has been. Sure, I’ve been to plenty of sex parties as an observer, and I’ve joined in the festivities from time to time, depending on the situation, but given the amount of experience I have at orgies, swing parties, sex clubs, porn shoots, and so on, I won’t hesitate to call my involvement minimal. Very, very minimal.

Sure, as someone who has spent lots of time around very open expressions of sexuality during the height of my own sexual exploration and as I near my sexual peak, I’ve gone out on a few limbs. But I didn’t get into writing about sex and porn because I want to do everything I see; I am genuinely intrigued by the psychology behind pornography, from both the production and consumption ends. And I didn’t declare myself queer and polyamorous because I want to have sex with everything that moves; I genuinely am attracted to people of many genders, and I often find that more than one relationship at a time is what makes me happy. And, frankly, after having come to this realization via years of difficult and sometimes even devastating soul-searching, I think I should be allowed to demand respect for my decisions. I might be more “vanilla” than I’ve often wanted to be–because yes, I want to be one of the cool kids–but I do what I do because it’s what makes me happy. Please stop pushing me. But sometimes sex-positivity, and the pressure to be as open and active in it as possible, is like the early days of punk rock–you’re not really punk if you just spike your hair and wear tight pants and go to shows because you love the music. You’re only punk if you get on stage and take a shit on someone’s face while cutting yourself and flinging the blood on the audience. …Ok, that’s a massive overstatement, but you get what I mean.

You wouldn’t believe the number of “parties” I’ve been invited to by swinger friends which turn out to be orgies, and which the people who invited me just “hope” that I’ll decide to join in. This after years of me politely declining and outright explaining that while I love being amongst people who are sexually open, I’m not particularly interested in being sexually open with them. Tricking me into showing up at your orgy won’t make me suddenly “realize” I’ve been wanting to get into a group sex situation when none of my partners are there. Just because I’m polyamorous does not mean that I want to have sex with everyone all the time.

And you’d be astonished at the number of very aggressive propositions I’ve gotten from people, particularly in the porn world, who assume that because I’m there to interview them or review their movies, I must want to have sex with them. Sure, some of them are insanely attractive and I think they’re fantastic. But does that mean I’m down to fuck them immediately after meeting them? Generally, no. What’s even more astonishing than the aggressive propositions is often the blatant dismissal I get after declining the offer. No more interviews, no more e-mails, no more anything. There’s a tacit assumption that my involvement in the world of porn translates into my wanting to fuck all the porn stars. And I guess there’s a reason for this assumption–I’ve known loads of people who do what I do, or some form of it, because they really do just want to get laid. And that’s fine for them. But it’s not my deal. I may be poly, as I said, but that doesn’t translate to constantly horny.

And speaking of my poly status. I know I’m poly because that’s what often works for me, and I ascribe to the philosophy behind it. But that doesn’t mean I will always be in poly relationships. I am currently, in fact, in a monogamous relationship with a man. We have very deep feelings for one another, and we have both decided that we would like to put all of our energy into getting to know one another, and to spend most of our time together while we do that. We both have always identified as poly, and it’s entirely possible that in the future we will open up the relationship that we have. But for now, we are monogamous, and we are really enjoying ourselves. I’ve been very hesitant to mention this fact to my sex-oriented friends. I feel certain that I’ll be branded a traitor. A not-queer (he’s a dude). A monogamist. A “vanilla.” *shudder*

But as Tracy Clark-Flory asked, What’s wrong with vanilla? It can be quite yummy.

I guess all I’m trying to say is that, yes, I think sex is great. I think we should all talk about it and do it and enjoy it and be open about our desires and get what we want out of them. I think it’s an important part of the human experience and the way we approach it (read: fear and silence and shame) needs to change. But I don’t think it’s fair that my loud-mouthed support of these ideas often means that people are disappointed to find that yes, sometimes I actually like it in the dark in missionary with a cis-man under the covers. (Ok… not really under the covers, but you get my point.) Does the fact that kink often doesn’t enter into it be a problem? Does the fact that I don’t want a camera there all the time make me less of an advocate of sexual freedom? I don’t think it should.

1 Comment on The Orthodoxy of Sex-Positivity: or, a polemic from a poly-queer sex writer with a chip on her shoulder

  1. There’s a reason why vanilla is the best selling flavor. It goes with just about everything.

    I’m in the same boat – Being in a monogamous relationship with a man, who is most definitely not poly, it sometimes feels surreal. But isn’t the whole point of sexual freedom the freedom to enjoy whatever we want at that time? If you enjoy anal fisting 90% of the time, does it make the missionary position in the dark 10% of the time wrong?

    There’s a bizarre amount of rules for even the kinkiest of things.. I think a lot of people aren’t comfortable with stuff if there is no order and rules and hierarchy, even if it’s order/rules/hierarchy to shit that is so out there that you couldn’t bring it up in a crowded restaurant.

    But at the end of the day, what works for you, is what works for you. If the chemistry you have with your monogamous cis-man is better than the chemistry you’d have with 5 trans-women, then that’s what you’re obviously going to go for.

    Although I can see how it must suck really badly when people dismiss you based on your views. Just as it does in any walk of life ey.

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