We find a lot of ways not to talk about sex, for something we all know exists.
Your parents (probably) had sex.
I now consider sex positivity an act of activism. When we avoid talking about sex, we lose the ability to communicate effectively – and the harm is everywhere. For LGBTQ+ and disabled people, it is important that we do not be quiet about sex.
Sex is one of the most basic human instincts, and evidence shows that sex positivity and open discussion improves health outcomes and mental health. Nonetheless, sex is increasingly being ushered off the cultural stage.
Bad (or no) sex ed increases the risk of STIs and teenage pregnancies. Sex negativity makes it harder to discuss sexual assault, woman’s and transgender health, and relationships. When sex becomes impossible to discuss, it becomes easy to spread myths.
Recently, a friend became interested in an anti-porn movement. I was curious what the movement stood for, and fell down an internet rabbit hole. I discovered a not-for-profit that is only thinly distanced from its relationship to religious organisations in America. The movement promotes pseudoscience that directly compares porn to alcohol and hard drugs. They heavily discourage masturbation, and imply that porn use and masturbation is tied to violent crime, sex worker exploitation and relationship failure.
Organisations like these are not uncommon. They take varyingly soft to hard stances against porn, sex and sexual expression. Some only attempt to stigmatise it, some argue for a complete ban on sex work and porn, and their definition of porn often encompasses any art or literature that mentions sex.
They are often the drivers of public moral panics about sex, porn, child exploitation, alleged or real, and sex education, and many are funded by religious organisations but become secular by the use of legal fiction.
In such an atmosphere of sexual purity, we can quickly find ourselves categorised as impure. LGBTQ+ and disabled people are often stigmatised for enjoying sex. A gay kiss is often viewed as more “obscene” than a straight one. Social media platforms ban words as simple as lesbian. LGBTQ+ content falls afoul of adult content filters more often than straight content. LGBTQ+ youtubers are de-monetised for the same content that straight people can place ads on.
Inappropriate and obscene are words thrown around in discussions of sex. Obscene is the same word so many laws historically used – and in some places still use today – to criminalize LGBTQ+ people and our art, literature and lives.
Unlike the 20th century obscenity laws that once banned gay erotica from the postal system and book stores, today social media platforms are deciding what gets to be seen.
There are no laws to challenge and no court to appeal. Massive conglomerates have become the arbiters of sexual expression, and often their policies are guided by the moral panics stirred up by anti-sex organisations.
LGBTQ+ people can help by being openly positive about sex. It benefits us all, and it is a critical part of LGBTQ+ activism. In the absence of our loud voices, sex negativity flourihses. LGBTQ+ people cannot be equal in a culture that doesn’t make space for sexual expression.
And sex is healthy and fun.