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Q&A: Being More Comfortable in Sex Positive Spaces

October 25, 2012
The CSPH

Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted anonymously through Formspring. This week’s question is:

Do you have any tips for someone who would like to become more comfortable in public/educational spheres like yours talking about their sex positive ideals and practices? It makes finding similar people difficult.

In short: one of the best ways to become more comfortable in sex positive spaces, be they educational, activist-oriented, or solely for community building, is to start slowly.

The long answer is that, depending on your personality and speaking style, you may want to approach pushing your boundaries in different ways.  For example, I would recommend that an introverted and/or shy person begin by integrating themselves into online sex positive communities.  By starting one’s journey over the Internet, you have more control over your image and name, with varying degrees of anonymity depending on your Internet habits.  (For example, for greater anonymity, I would suggest that you use usernames unrelated to other Internet activity, utilize GoogleChrome’s Incognito mode for private browsing, and perhaps even use proxies to circumvent your IP address.)  You also have control over who sees each of your responses, as the only reactions witnessed by others are those you choose to submit through comments.  Furthermore, the Internet will allow you to engage in sex positive content from the comfort of your own home, so that you may guide yourself into greater comfort at your own pace.

In terms of where you should begin online, Tumblr in particular hosts a variety of sex education and sexuality blogs, such as FuckYeahSexEducation, TheSexUneducated, SexIsNotTheEnemy, and The CSPH’s own Tumblr.  While these blogs specifically do not allow non-moderators to post content, Tumblr’s format allows for the “reblogging” of material so that individuals can add commentary and respond to other users.  Reddit* is another avenue towards online communities that you may want to pursue.  More specifically, r/sex is a “subreddit” that focuses on user-submitted questions and conversation topics to which people can then respond.  Another helpful resource is Fetlife, a social networking kink and BDSM website that allows users to join groups based on their interests, learn about skills and techniques, and be updated on local kink and BDSM events. However, please note that all these websites are not *entirely* sex-positive or “safe” platforms, and that you may find content triggering and/or problematic.

Another suggestion is that you take the time to educate yourself on matters regarding human sexuality, thereby familiarizing yourself with the topic as well as the language that is often used to discuss such issues.  By doing so, you will be more prepared for conversations about sex, not only in terms of being an active listener, but also by contributing to discussions with insight of your own.  This process in particular may take the longest, for even those generally knowledgeable about sexuality still have much to learn.  In this vein, I’d implore you to not be self-conscious or embarrassed of whatever knowledge you do not possess; everyone starts somewhere, and good intentions and a willingness and desire to learn will take you far.

Some online sexuality resources include, but are not limited to:

  • The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, which not only boasts a vast array of resources on topics such as sex and dis/ability, sex work, medicine, and beginner’s guides to lubricants and sex toys.  The CSPH also has a blog and Tumblr that provides daily updates on sexual studies, sexual aid reviews, Q&As, information on local conferences, and much more!
  • Scarleteen, an inclusive, comprehensive sex education resource predominantly targeted towards young adults
  • The Kinsey Institute, which provides free access to a number of research articles in the area of human sexuality
  • PassionU and KinkAcademy, which are websites that host sexually explicit, educational videos about sexual technique and kinky play.

As you find yourself ready to step away from online communities, perhaps the next step is to try to attend a sexuality presentation and/or workshop of some kind.  Unfortunately, the difficulty of this may be dependent upon where you live, but if you are able, this environment will be a great introduction to social environments where sexuality is discussed.  Audience participation tends to vary depending on the workshop and educator, so I’d recommend doing a little research on the specific events so that you may gauge your desired participation level.  Furthermore, depending on your comfort level, you may want to attend sexuality conferences, which occur across the country and are a great way for people interested in human sexuality to learn and connect with one another.  Check out The CSPH blog posts on upcoming conferences for a peek at what’s out there.

Aside from workshops and conferences, you may also want to turn to the friends you already have.  Depending on your comfort level, you may want to start by choosing one friend and as you become acclimated to sexual discussions, open up to more friends.  On the flipside, you may want to initiate such conversations with a group first, which poses the possibility of creating greater intimacy in your friend group and is frankly less of a drawn out process.  Furthermore, as I state in my Q&A: Discussing Masturbation with Roommates, there is no single right way to jump into talking about sex.  While some prefer being blunt, others may choose to subtly move in the direction of sex and sexuality by bringing up crushes and hook-ups to gauge peoples’ comfort with discussing sex.

Finally, it’s important to remember that while not all spaces are sex positive, it’s still possible to talk about sex positive ideals in ways that are comfortable and welcoming.  To be specific, certainly not all spaces are suitable for sexually explicit conversations, as not all people are agreeable or otherwise at ease with topics that are more blatantly within the realm of human sexuality (namely, pleasure, sex toys, masturbation, etc.)  Still, the subject of human sexuality encompasses many issues, including but not limited to body image, age, disability, race and ethnicity, formative experiences, education, communication, and consent and boundaries.  These conversations are in fact integral to understanding sexuality as a whole, and you can express your sex positivity with these topics by challenging yourself and by being open to discussion and accepting of others (and of yourself!)  For example, when talking about body image, you can be sex positive by being body positive and celebrating all bodies, not just those deemed attractive by mainstream media.

All in all, I ask that you work at your own pace and comfort.  Try not to be hard on yourself should you find yourself anxious or the process arduous.  We all start somewhere, after all.

* A note about Reddit: The CSPH is aware of the controversy surrounding the propensity of Reddit administrators and moderators to condone the circulation of material that is contrary to The CSPH’s mission and ideals.  While this is a wholly legitimate reason to not get involved with the website at large, I do feel that certain “subreddits,” such as the one I noted, may be educational and otherwise valuable towards those seeking community.

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