Editor's Note: Today, we introduce our newest columnist, Roland Hulme. Roland, a.k.a. Militant Ginger, is a fellow with opinions... and lots of them. Nemesis of the politically correct and fond of a good cup of tea, Roland bravely faces the new horizon of sex positivity in the technical age and denounces the defenders of unbridled entitlement and the knee-jerk, namby-pamby "people as sheep mentality" that is fast becoming the most strident vox of the populi.
Of course, being a Brit, he does have his own sense of entitlement. And, while we at SexIs will not always agree with his opinions, whether food for thought—or fodder for fire—we relish the opportunity to present them. Let the tempest in a teacup begin!
Once upon a time, somebody blogged: “Arguing on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded.”
Precisely 13 seconds later, a commenter responded: “I find that offensive! How dare you make fun of people with mental retardation?!”
On the ’net, there’s no shortage of people who’ll “find that offensive,” no matter what “that” is.
Amongst those who write about sex, the phenomenon exists, too—except the cry of “I find that offensive” is often joined by: “Especially coming from somebody who claims to be sex-positive.”
Sex-Positive: Badge of Honor? Or Bull’s Eye?
The notion of “sex-positivity” plays such a pivotal role in a sex writer’s identity that it’s an easy target. But the problem with challenging a writer’s sex-positive credentials is that nobody’s ever been clear about what “sex-positive” means in the first place.
Which is why there’s a problem with bloggers taking writers to task for their perceived betrayal of something that has no concise definition. It’s all based on the (big) assumption that the person making the criticism has the authority to declare what is and isn’t “sex-positive.”
Can somebody tell me what “sex-positive” means?
Plenty of people have tried to define sex-positivity, but for most writers and regular folk, the notion remains infuriatingly intangible. We say we “know it when we see it” without necessarily being able to put down on paper what “it” is.
But we know what it’s not—or claim we do.
Which is why you’ll most frequently find the term “sex-positive” used in relation to a post, article or comment that’s perceived not to be sex-positive.
The problem with taking this approach is that it results in hypocrisy.
Far too often, I’ll see one writer vilified for “ crimes against sex-positivity,” while another blithely writes the same stuff and gets away with it.
For example, I once witnessed a blogger derided as racist for using the term “nigger” in an interracial fantasy, yet later saw the “sex positive” consensus that condemned him celebrate the launch of a sex toy company that distributed a DVD (among hundreds of other titles) My Daughter is Fucking a Nigga!
Why was one considered a betrayal of “sex-positivity,” while the other was not?
Cynically, I suggest the motives were mercenary: It’s easy to vilify a lone, male blogger, but less attractive to target a shiny new sex toy company that’s recruiting new reviewers and buying banner ads on people’s blogs.
But the motives for accusing bloggers of being “sex-negative” aren’t always so obvious. One of them, I firmly believe, is reverse sexism.
Reversal of Fortunes
Sex blogging is a female dominated arena—and, in my opinion, is all the better for being so.
Yet as a male blogger, I occasionally witness a consensus of self-proclaimed “sex-positive” bloggers summarily pronounce a male writer “isn’t qualified” to write about something because of his gender, or dismiss his opinions as the “sex-negative” side effects of testosterone poisoning.
Rape culture, body image, abortion and feminism are all topics female bloggers might be understandably touchy about a male blogger discussing—but expressing a dissenting opinion doesn’t necessarily make it sex-negative.
Sometimes it’s obvious why a post might be considered less than “sex-positive.”
• “Female ejaculation is unsanitary.”
• “If you have anal sex, you’ll have to wear a diaper.”
• “Condom companies lie. They don’t protect against HIV.”
These are all real examples of dubious statements I’ve read online. (That last one, from an “abstinence only” website, is the one that upsets me most.)
But I’ve seen similar accusations of sex-negativity aimed at people who weren’t making statements, but expressing opinions:
• “I think sex during menstruation is gross.”
• “Women who don’t shave their pubes turn me off.”
• “I don’t think fat women are attractive.”
Is it right to argue that these statements are “sex-negative?”
Apparently so: The menstruation comment was equated to reinforcing “tribal traditions,” while the comments about pubic hair and fat women led to cries of: “Why should women match your expectations?”
Valid critique, perhaps—but less so in light of comments made by others that didn’t raise the “sex-negative” flag…
• “I don’t want to have anal sex.”
• “I prefer men with circumcised penises.”
• “I don’t find redheaded men attractive.”
Because they were simply “expressing their opinion,” these writers weren’t accused of being “sex-negative.” (As a redhead, I’d like to point out that the lady who wrote the last one doesn’t know what she’s missing out on!) The problem is that while some opinions were considered valid, others were demonized as “sex-negative.”
It’s fine for a woman to think that anal sex is gross, but not for a guy to get turned off by menstrual sex? It’s okay for a woman to dismiss redheaded men as unattractive, but a guy who doesn’t like fat women is “fat phobic?” Please.
Part of being “sex positive” is accepting what turns others on, even if you aren’t into it yourself. But that definition also requires accepting what turns other people off.
Stop using sex (positive) as a weapon
These days, it’s more and more common to see somebody attack an unpopular post as “sex-negative” because they disagree with an opinion, rather than because of any valid criticism. Are there valid times to accuse someone of betraying “sex-positivity?” Of course. Using false information to prevent people from expressing their sexuality is “sex negative.” Those who do it should be called out for their behavior.
In a recent SexIs column, Sinclair Sexsmith defined “sex positive” as “accepting the sexual practices of others, regardless of your own.” I think this theory should extend not just to sexual practices, but to sexual opinions, as well.
What we bloggers need to remember is that sex writing in general is considered “offensive” by most. We’ve more in common with those we erroneously accuse of being “sex-negative” than anybody else. Until someone can come up with a universally accepted definition of just what “sex positive” is, we’ve no business staking claim… or laying blame.