Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.
To address the widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’, every Friday. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.
The column is being written by Sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr Jain discusses the importance of sex positivity and how you too can be sex positive.
We all know that sex is a loaded topic and is rarely discussed at the dinner table. Talking about sex requires sensitivity, compassion and kindness. It is important to read or listen with an open mind, without any moral judgement.
What is Sex Positivity?
Sex positivity means maintaining a healthy attitude towards sex. Sex positivity also embraces the idea of being sexually educated and staying safe. Those who are sex positive actively decide how and what they want from their sex life, rather than letting others dictate it.
If you Google ‘sex positivity’, you’ll find several lists of what it is not. Sex positivity is not about promoting sex, always liking sex, encouraging others to have sex or always talking about sex. Rather, it’s about communicating, respecting, being curious and being open.
Some Features of Sex Positivity
* Sex positivity is about communicating without shame or embarrassment.
* Being sex positive is accepting and learning about diversity in order to approach sex with a nuanced awareness of everyone’s multi-faceted, fluid sexual identity.
* Interpreting curiosity through sex positivity reimagines and dismantles the oppressive framework of taboo and judgement, thereby creating space for communication and open exploration.
How Do We Become More Sex Positive?
1. Normalise Sex: The first thing we need to do is normalise sex. Sex is an act of love or lust—both are a part of human nature—so how can it be ‘dirty’? It is our moral judgement that perceives it to be ‘sinful’. For instance, sex without/outside marriage is considered a sin, an act of shame. But sex in a marriage, whether it’s a happy one or not, is blissful and desirable. Realising that sex is a positive emotion and a positive act and treating it as such is the best way to start.
2. Communicate and Discuss: Try talking to your friends about it by asking a casual question or ask your partner what they want in bed. People you know would not mind talking freely. Of course, this does not mean asking the next person you meet on the train about their vaginal itches. But you can rely on your close circle to start a conversation about sex and sex-related issues.
3. Respect: The next step in being sex positive is to treat the idea of sex with ‘respect’ and not make it seem less important. It’s an expression of love and commitment towards your partner, and towards your own physical needs. Even when it’s casual, it shouldn’t lack respect or integrity – it is simply a choice and you should be able to respect that choice. No one is greater than the other if they choose not to have sex, or to have sex only with one partner or only after they are married – in all cases, respect is important.
4. Sex Isn’t Vulgarity: Differentiating between vulgar humour and healthy jokes about sex is important. Avoiding dirty and degrading jokes is the right thing to do because sex and vulgarity aren’t the same thing.
5. Open-mindedness and Sex Education: Sex is important for mental and physical health. By making it secretive, you make it a taboo subject. People, especially teenagers, tend to learn about it the wrong way – either by watching the wrong kind of porn or asking the wrong people. Sex education or talking about sex in a matured way can help check sex abuse.
Ultimately, sex positivity is about being non-judgmental, and openly communicating about sexuality. Research has shown that sex negativity and shame-oriented narratives have been linked to social problems such as homophobia, sexism, racism and gaps in sex education. Sex positivity can tackle these—by avoiding stereotypes and dehumanising language, people can be encouraged to have important conversations around consent, pleasure and sexual health.