From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The sex-positive movement is an ideology which promotes and embraces open sexuality with few limits.
The terms and concept of sex-positive (or, alternately sex-affirmative) and sex-negative are generally attributed to Wilhelm Reich. His hypothesis was that some societies view sexual expression as essentially good and healthy, while other societies take an overall negative view of sexuality and seek to repress and control the sex drive.
Like Reich, some contemporary advocates of sex-positivity define their philosophy in contrast to sex-negativity, which they identify as the dominant view of sex in Western culture and many non-Western cultures. According to these advocates, traditional Christian views of human sexuality define traditional Western values in relation to this subject. Thus, such proponents of sex-positivity claim that under the Western, Christian tradition, sex is seen as a destructive force except when it is redeemed by the saving grace of procreation, and sexual pleasure is seen as sinful. Sexual acts are ranked hierarchically, with marital heterosexuality at the top of the hierarchy and masturbation, homosexuality, and other sexualities that deviate from societal norms closer to the bottom. Medicine and psychiatry are said to have also contributed to sex-negativity, as they may, from time to time, designate some forms of sexuality that appear on the bottom of this hierarchy as being pathological (see Mental illness). However, Western societies which predate Christian influence, such as ancient Greece, have often endorsed forms of sexuality that strongly conflict with Christian beliefs.
The sex-positive movement does not in general make moral or ethical distinctions between heterosexual or homosexual sex, or indeed masturbation for people who are otherwise celibate, regarding these choices as matters of personal preference. Some sex-positive positions include acceptance of BDSM, asexuality, polyamory, transsexuality, transgenderism, and other forms of gender transgression in general. Most elements of the sex-positive movement advocate comprehensive and accurate sex education as part of its campaign.
Some sex-positive theorists have analyzed sex-positivity in terms of intersection of race/culture, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and spirituality. Farajaje-Jones (2000) highlighted the connection between white supremacist ideology and what he termed "erotophobia".
Several definitions of sex-positivity have been offered by sexologist Carol Queen:
Sex-positive, a term that's coming into cultural awareness, isn't a dippy love-child celebration of orgone – it's a simple yet radical affirmation that we each grow our own passions on a different medium, that instead of having two or three or even half a dozen sexual orientations, we should be thinking in terms of millions. "Sex-positive" respects each of our unique sexual profiles, even as we acknowledge that some of us have been damaged by a culture that tries to eradicate sexual difference and possibility.
It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.
The term free love has been used since at least the 19th century to describe a social movement that rejects marriage, which is seen as a form of social bondage, especially for women. According to this concept, the free unions of adults are legitimate relations which should be respected by all third parties whether they are emotional or sexual relations. In addition, some free-love writing has argued that both men and women have the right to sexual pleasure. In the Victorian era, this was a radical notion. Later, a new theme developed, linking free love with radical social change, and depicting it as a harbinger of a new anti-authoritarian, anti-repressive pacifist sensibility.
While the phrase free love is often associated with promiscuity in the popular imagination, especially in reference to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, historically the free-love movement has not advocated multiple sexual partners or short-term sexual relationships. Rather, it has argued that love relations that are freely entered into should not be regulated by law. Thus, free-love practice may include long-term monogamous relationships or even celibacy, but would not include institutional forms of polygamy, such as a king and his wives and concubines.
Laws of particular concern to free love movements have included those that prevent an unmarried couple from living together, and those that regulate adultery and divorce, as well as age of consent, birth control, homosexuality, abortion, and prostitution; although not all free love advocates agree on these issues. The abrogation of individual rights in marriage is also a concern—for example, some jurisdictions do not recognize spousal rape or treat it less seriously than non-spousal rape. Free-love movements since the 19th century have also defended the right to publicly discuss sexuality and have battled obscenity laws.
In the 20th century, some free-love proponents extended the critique of marriage to argue that marriage as a social institution encourages emotional possessiveness and psychological enslavement.
1960s and onwards
In general use, the term "sexual liberation" is used to describe a socio-political movement, witnessed from the 1960s into the 1970s. However, the term has been used at least since the late 1920s and is often attributed as being influenced by Freud's writing on sexual liberation and psychosexual issues.
During the 1960s, shifts in regards to how society viewed sexuality began to take place, heralding a period of de-conditioning in some circles away from old world antecedents, and developing new codes of sexual behaviour, many of which are now integrated into the mainstream.
The 1960s heralded a new culture of "free love” with millions of young people embracing the hippie ethos and preaching the power of love and the beauty of sex as a natural part of ordinary life. Hippies believed that sex was a natural biological phenomenon which should not be denied or repressed. Changes in attitudes reflected a perception that traditional views on sexuality were both hypocritical and male-chauvinistic.
Sexual liberalisation heralded a new ethos in experimenting with open sex in and outside of marriage, contraception and the pill, public nudity, gay Liberation, liberalisation of abortion, interracial marriage, a return to natural childbirth, women's rights and feminism.
Celibate hippies were not critical of others who chose the paths of “free love” and “sexual liberalisation”.
Historian David Allyn argues that the sexual revolution was a time of "coming-out": about premarital sex, masturbation, erotic fantasies, pornography use, and sexuality.
Andy Warhol commented on mainstream America through his art while disregarding its strict social views. Nudity, graphic sexuality, drug use, same-sex relations and transgender characters appear in some form in almost all of his work filmed at the Silver Factory. Considered socially unacceptable, even appalling at the time, theaters showing his underground films were sometimes raided and the staff arrested for obscenity.
However, by making the films, Warhol created a sexually lenient environment at the Factory for the happenings that they staged, such as fake drag weddings, porn theater rentals, and vulgar plays. A large amount of free love took place in the scene, as sexuality in the 1960s was becoming more open. Sex was practically a must for anyone hanging around, and was encouraged by Warhol, who used footage of sexual acts between his friends in his work.
Also part of 'the scene' at the Factory were famous drag queens such as Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis, and the transgendered Candy Darling. As an artist, Andy Warhol frequently used these women and other sexual non-conformists in his films, plays, and on-goings.
Because of the constant drug use and the presence of sexually liberal artists and radicals, drugged orgies were a frequent happening at the Factory. Andy met friend Ondine at an orgy in 1962.
Ondine "I was at an orgy, and [Warhol] was, ah, this great presence in the back of the room. And this orgy was run by a friend of mine, and, so, I said to this person, 'Would you please mind throwing that thing out of here?' And that thing was thrown out of there, and when he came up to me the next time, he said to me, 'Nobody has ever thrown me out of a party.' He said, 'You know? Don't you know who I am?' And I said, 'Well, I don't give a good flying fuck who you are. You just weren't there. You weren't involved...'"
Sex-positive feminism, also known as pro-sex feminism, sex-radical feminism, or sexually liberal feminism, is a movement that began in the early 1980s. Some became involved in the sex-positive feminist movement in response to efforts by anti-pornography feminists, such as Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan and Dorchen Leidholdt, to put pornography at the center of a feminist explanation of women's oppression (McElroy, 1995). This period of intense debate and acrimony between sex-positive and anti-pornography feminists during the early 1980s is often referred to as the "Feminist Sex Wars". Other sex-positive feminists became involved not in opposition to other feminists but in direct response to what they saw as patriarchal control of sexuality. Authors who have advocated sex-positive feminism include Ellen Willis, Susie Bright, Patrick Califia, Gayle Rubin, Carol Queen, Avedon Carol, Tristan Taormino, Diana Cage, and Betty Dodson, who could be regarded as the grandmother of the movement.
The Ethical Slut
The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities is an English language non-fiction narrative written by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt (a pseudonym of Janet Hardy). It is credited with raising awareness of the possibility of consensual non-monogamy as a lifestyle, and providing practical guidance on how such long-term relationships work and are put into practice.
Philologist and gay historian Warren Johansson criticized the concept as utopian and simplistic. Johansson argues that all societies regulate sexuality in one way or another, and traces back the idea of "sex-positive" societies to the inaccurate and idealized notions held by some ethnographers of the South Pacific as a kind of sexual paradise. In his view, even a society that took a wholly positive view of sexuality would still be challenged with regulating sexual behavior in such a way as to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and other potentially negative outcomes of sexual interaction.