A few months ago, there was a post made in response to writing by asexuals which, among other things, said that a core concept of sex-positivity is that “sex is natural and normal” and that it is this concept specifically which needs to be promoted to stop various forms of unjust violence and oppression. Furthermore, the blogger asserts that the reason why certain groups of Christians oppress homosexuals is because they find *sex in itself* disgusting, not because they are specifically disgusted by homosexual sex, and therefore the way to fight that oppression is to say that sex is positive.
I am not linking to that post because this is about the general idea, not the specific post, and I do not want to single out that blog post.
First, I highly recommend reading “On Christians & the Sanctification of Sex”. The summary is that there are very few American Christians who believe that sex is bad – in fact, most Christian sects go out of their way to say that sex is a ‘gift from God’ or something in that vein. Of course, many Christian sects only approve of certain forms of sex, but generally, religious Christians think that sex is good.
And it’s not just Christianity – I dare you to find a single mainstream religion (i.e. a religion which is not considered fringe or extremist) which claims that sex between a man and a woman in a monogamous marriage is not a good thing.
I did not come from a conservative religious background myself, but I have read the accounts of many asexuals who have (here is an example), and it seems that conservative religious people are just as likely to be make asexual people feel broken and unworthy as other people in mainstream society.
That’s why, when ‘sex-positive’ people declare that ‘sex is good’ as if there is anyone in mainstream society who disagrees with that assertion, I scratch my head. It seems that they are straw-manning the people they are trying to criticize (such as conservative Christian fundamentalists). Actually, I suspect that it something deeper. They have so internalized the extremely mainstream idea that ‘sex is good’ that they are parroting it to signal that they are being reasonable and respectable to mainstream society, rather than to break with mainstream society.
You know what would be a real break from mainstream society? Asserting a radical acceptance of sexual diversity. One which promotes acceptance of all sexual orientations and genders, and tolerates all sexual behaviors – including never ever having sex – which do not cause unjust harm. Of course, not everyone is going to agree about what counts as ‘unjust harm’ of course, which makes putting this principle into practice tricky.
Notice that this principle is neutral on the question on whether or not sex is ‘good’. The core message is ‘sexual diversity’ not ‘sex is good’.
Finally, there is this article from Psychology Today which presents research that indicates that prejudice against sexual minorities is based on their deviance from the social norm, and not, in the case of sexual minorities who have sex, based on the sex they are having. For example, the research found that religious fundamentalists were prejudiced against homosexuals who were celibate, even though they are not having sex.
Some ‘sex-positive’ people are supportive of asexuality and other groups who are less ‘sexual’ than the social norm, and that is cool. However, I have also seen many examples of ‘sex-positive’ people shaming asexual and other less ‘sexual’ people and telling them that they are unnatural and abnormal (and yes, if your core message is ‘sex is natural and normal’, you are loudly implying that people who do not have sex are unnatural and abnormal). In short, they are shaming people not because those people have done anything harmful, but because they are deviating from a social norm. In other words, those sex-positive people are acting in a completely mainstream and, dare I say it, conservative way.
The way to help sexual minorities is to accept diversity, not to join the chorus of mainstream society in saying that sex is so great.