McKissick: Too much sex positivity can be a bad thing

%28Graphic+illustration+by+Trin+Bonner+%7C+The+Collegian%29

Collegian | Trin Bonner

(Graphic illustration by Trin Bonner | The Collegian)

Nathaniel McKissick, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Sex positivity is reaching new peaks on the internet. People everywhere of all gender identities and sexualities are joining sites like JustFor.Fans or OnlyFans to post pornographic content of themselves.

Ad

The number of content creators on OnlyFans more than tripled from May 2020 to September of last year, and while the ratio of pornographic to nonpornographic content hasn’t been made available, the website is nearly synonymous with sex work now.

But has sex positivity enabled the growth of hookup culture? Can too much sex positivity place us in unsafe environments with strangers whom we know next to nothing about?

How does it affect adolescents coming of age in a world rife with such a culture? Can too much sex positivity be a bad thing?

Sex experts and researchers generally define sex positivity as openness to “learning more about sex and sexual activity.” A sex-positive person understands the importance of consent, safe sex and sexually transmitted infection testing, and they are accepting of others’ kinks and consider sex to be something that is not shameful.

With that definition in mind, sex positivity is inherently a healthy, good movement and, as a rule, is nothing to be ashamed of. But in recent years, people have mistaken the movement for an excuse to have unsafe, unprotected sex with strangers. Too much of it can have adverse effects.

For example, the implications for developing adolescents and their body image may be severe. Sex positivity and body positivity oftentimes go hand in hand.

A lot of times, sex positivity online looks a lot like sharing sexual experiences or posting half-nude images on social media. In recent years, posting nudes has become an act of self-love through sex positivity. Behind us are the days of revenge porn and toxic exes leaking nude selfies.

“One of the pillars of sex positivity is observing safe sex practices, but maybe it’s time we take the term a little more literally. Use protection, of course, but also be careful of the kind of people you choose to have sex with. Value your physical safety, and beware of the pitfalls of too much sex positivity.”

While this is all good and well and there is nothing wrong with being proud of your body, this can serve as a Catch-22. Images like those mentioned above can have an impact on adolescents, especially girls.

According to Today, women reported social media has the largest impact on their body image, and research suggests time spent on social media is associated with body image issues and eating disorders.

Additionally, too much sex positivity can encourage promiscuity to dangerous extremes when misinterpreted. Is there anything wrong with knowing next to nothing about the person you’re about to sleep with or the past 10 you’ve slept with? Not at all. We’ve all had an encounter (or several) like that. But really, is it entirely safe to navigate sex knowing nothing about the person? You know nothing of their sexual health nor their intentions.

Ad

An excess of sex positivity can also glamorize sex work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sex work, mind you, but it is a mentally taxing job and oftentimes pays very little. It can leave individuals with mood disorders, suicidal thoughts or even post-traumatic stress disorder. Not to mention that it’s not necessarily lucrative. Most OnlyFans content creators only make about $180 per month.

Above all else, sex work is dangerous. Between 1970 and 2009, 32% of female serial murder victims were prostitutes, and an Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project study revealed 46% of sex workers experienced violence in their line of work.

One of the pillars of sex positivity is observing safe sex practices, but maybe it’s time we take the term a little more literally. Use protection, of course, but also be careful of the kind of people you choose to have sex with. Value your physical safety, and beware of the pitfalls of too much sex positivity.

Reach Nathaniel McKissick at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMcKissick.