I felt oddly liberated this weekend.  I sat in a room of media personnel and advocates for minority communities such as LGBT people, sex workers and persons infected with HIV and AIDS.  What struck me, in addition to the fact that these people were willing to put their faces out there on behalf of these communities, was the openness with which they were willing to discuss sex with relative strangers.

Advocates at a Media Training Workshop at the Hyatt on June 30, 2011

For you to understand why this was so amazing to me, you have to understand where I come from.  I grew up in Jamaica, in the Caribbean, where sex is something to be whispered about, and anything other than sex in the missionary position can be looked on by society as being “strange.”

As social activist and former Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Verna St. Rose Greaves says here, there’s still a lot of “hush-hush” when it comes to talking about sex in the Caribbean, and these are conversations that we should be having.

In the last few years, I made the decision not only to be more open about my sexual past, but also to not be ashamed of it.  What I have done in my past is in my past and while I might not be entirely proud of it, I refuse to continue to feel guilty and to let anyone else make me feel guilty.

As I read and researched, I realized that I wasn’t alone and that particular way of thinking is known as being sex positive.  What is sex-positivity you ask?  Here’re some definitions, but for me, it means that I shouldn’t and won’t criticize CONSENTING ADULTS for whatever decisions they make about their sex and sexuality.  Now, before someone jumps down my throat, there are things I will still frown upon, specifically promiscuous unprotected sex and abuse (and maybe stuff I haven’t thought about yet).

I’ve found this difficult to do in real life though, because people tend to label you when you start to make certain statements.  I’ve had arguments with at least one close friend about my attitude towards sex and how it differs from his and therefore in his eyes I was a lesser person.  Other than that, I’ve only been able to have those types of conversations in relatively small, close groups of friends who all felt comfortable enough around each other to open up about these things.

HIV/AIDS, LGBT and sex worker advocates at COIN/CIV media training workshop at the Hyatt on June 30, 2012

That’s why this weekend was so eye-opening and liberating for me.  These were people who I had never or barely met before, who were willing to admit that they had paid for sex, or were sex workers, or were lesbian/gay/bisexual, or had had abortions, or had HIV, to a room of comparative strangers, and be comfortable in the knowledge that nobody was going to judge them for it (or if they did, they’d keep it to themselves).  They were also comfortable in themselves.

That’s the kind of mental strength that I wish to have when talking to others about sex and sexuality.  Who knows, maybe if everyone had that kind of strength, maybe our society would be a little better off?

9 thoughts on “Sex-Positive

  1. Light is a powerful disinfectant for all the nasty mores and norms that our societies implant into us. Open and frank discussion is also good. I suspect that these people have had life experiences such that they no longer have fucks to give about what their society thinks. But that knowledge is hard-won.

  2. Interesting.

    Glad that there are people who can be that open to discuss that. And good on you for adopting the sex-positive way of thinking.

    I don’t judge anyone’s sexual practises, well mostly I don’t judge them, but it might be a while before i’m that comfortable discussing my past with essentially strangers.

  3. The language we use reflects how we think of people and their behaviour. The language we use reflects how we have learned about people, places and things. Great article and I am glad we are putting sexual behaviour and sexuality on the table. Yes, It’s time, human sexuality and sexual health is indeed a public health issue; not something that belongs only in the bedroom or kitchen floor. Now, I suggest that instead of the word promiscuity or promiscuous behaviour, we use neutral words that empower – that reclaim our identities and sexualities, words that moves us towards autonomy, human agency, self-determination, justice (fairness), citizenship, and pleasure. Notice, there are no prescriptions for people here. People have the right to exercise their sexuality in ways that are healthy for themselves and their partner(s). So instead of promiscuity which is a moral judgement, we can use sex with multiple partners. But let us dig deeper. Instead of only seeing “unsafe sex”, let us begin to see the underlying, undergirding reasons for unsafe sexual behaviour. These may include psychosexual variables: love, attraction, trust, passion, legitimate reasons for flesh to flesh intimacy, arousal, pleasure-seeking, etc. Then there are psychological reasons: self-esteem, sexual self-efficacy, sexual intelligence, sexual self-esteem, body image, self-concept, genital image and relationship with self. Psycho-social reasons include: isolation, loneliness, heterosexism, heteronormativity, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, whorephobia and its impact to sexuality including sexual behaviour. These social/structural barriers (including poverty… many different kinds of poverty from economic to social poverty) to sexual health must never be underestimated.

    • I don’t have a problem with people having multiple partners but I do have a problem with unsafe sex. I also understand that there are many factors that could lead to people having this type of sex and I can’t throw stones because I’ve been in both positions myself. Even with all that, I still can’t agree with it, maybe because I’ve been there. But what I think we need is more education and better understanding of what makes people tick.

  4. Some things that flourish in the dark – mold, mildew, fungus, vermin, ignorance. Some things that flourish in the light – life, vitality, health, education, knowledge and wisdom.

    Sex is one of those topics that remains largely in the dark in this part of the world, despite sexual expressions being quite pervasive. Forums like this one can help to illuminate this kind of topic and hopefully provide not only relief and comfort for those distressed in silence, but eventually affect public policy, attitudes, and behaviour.

    Silence is an enemy of progress. It is time to talk about this.

  5. i love this article and i am really glad to see that these type of forums are being held because we need more of this in Trinidad and Tobago. thanks for sharing this with us Paula Lindo 🙂

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