What is ‘Positive Sexuality,’ Anyway?

At the Center for Positive Sexuality, we’re excited so many people are participating in the “sex positive” movement. However, it seems like “positive sexuality” or being “sex positive” are ubiquitous terms these days and as often happens with buzzwords the core meaning gets lost in translation. Being sex positive doesn’t mean being positive or enthusiastic about sex, or about having a ton of sex (whatever that means). It means respecting and accepting your sexuality and the sexuality of others as a basic human right.

If you search for the term positive sexuality you’ll find different definitions everywhere you look. Luckily the Center defined the term in the very first publication of our Journal of Positive Sexuality in 2015 with Introducing a Multidisciplinary Framework of Positive Sexuality which lays out the 8 core beliefs of what it means to really be sex positive.

Positive Refers to Strengths, Well-being and Happiness

Those who study therapy might be familiar with the “strengths based approach” which just means a practice that emphasizes people’s self-determination and strengths. It is a philosophy and a way of viewing clients as resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity. Too often sexuality is talked about from a negative point of view but we prefer to focus on the strengths, well-being, and happiness associated with sex and sexuality. For example, teaching teens about pregnancy prevention and STI’s is great but doesn’t focus on the positive aspects of sex. More education about consent and even the pleasure of sex is just as important.

Individual Sexuality is Unique and Multifaceted

Drawing on the World Health Organization’s (WHO, 2006) definition, we observe that sexuality involves a diverse array of aspects including roles and identities, preferences and orientations, relationships and activities, pleasures and desires, scripts and fantasies, as well as values and beliefs. These aspects are shaped by the “interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors”. Our lives and experiences impact our sexuality and we appreciate the many ways each person’s sexuality contributes to that person as a whole full being. Recognizing sexuality is multifaceted opens up the mind and heart to not only accept the choices or desires of others but feel confident in our own sexuality. Feeling accepted, encouraged, and empowered in your sex life ripples throughout all areas of your life whether you realize it or not.

Embracing multiple ways of knowing

This dimension is really about understanding there is no one way of knowing anything. Even in science you have to experiment first to find out if your hypothesis works. Academia, street knowledge, and life experience are all valid ways of knowing and learning. There is no one right way. This is why we encourage submissions to our journal from from academics as well as non-academics; we understand that different perspectives can be valuable and offer rich insight into a topic.

Sexuality reflects Professional Ethics

Do you know the difference between ethics and morals? Ethics refer to rules provided by an external source: codes of conduct in workplaces, or principles in religions. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong such as in one’s religious beliefs or other values. Regardless of how you feel about someone’s sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, race, size, etc, ethically you would still serve them and show a level of respect towards them. You can disagree with someone’s sexual choices in a moral way but ethically you would show them respect no matter what.

Positive Sexuality is Humanizing

Too often in sexuality we “other” people if we feel they’re different than us. Trans folks, kinksters, sex workers all get “othered” constantly for not being who “society” thinks they should be; having sex that someone considers “unacceptable” or weird; expressing their gender in a way that deviates from stereotypical or traditional definitions of masculinity or femininity. Being truly sex positive means not slut-shaming people who choose to be in the adult industry or do sex work. It’s about not judging people who are transgender and accepting their identity. We as humans all deserve respect despite our differences.

Positive Sexuality Promotes Open, Honest Communication

This dimension is at the core of the Center for Positive Sexuality. We do our best to be open and honest at each and every panel we present to students and professionals. Authenticity around sexuality helps others feel accepted and encourages open and honest communication. Sharing personal stories (where appropriate) can help to normalize and shed light on various activities and identities so that people feel less alone. In this time of fake news it’s important to keep this principle alive.

Positive Sexuality Encourages Peacemaking

This may be the hardest dimension to achieve. Being a peacemaker takes tact, patience, and the ability to step out of the box of like-minded people with which we usually surround ourselves. Activism doesn’t mean just standing with those who believe the same things you do. It means taking on the responsibility of reaching out to those whose views we don’t agree with in a positive manner creating space for growth, education, and change.

Positive Sexuality is Applicable across all Levels of Social Structure

Being sex positive applies to any social structure from schools to law enforcement from medical professions to media. The values laid out here can be used in any setting and for any audience, including age-appropriate ways to speak to young people.

When it comes to being sex positive, it’s not just a movement, it’s a lifestyle you should practice everyday in all areas of interaction. It’s a lifestyle that expels shame and restores respect to all humans regardless of their race, sex, gender, or orientation. Being sex positive makes you a more caring, understanding, and open person.


Get warm and cozy with the Center for Positive Sexuality this fall with our 4th Annual #PositiveSexualiTEA. Back in 2014 we started this virtual event to bring in followers and funds to help us continue to provide sex positive education and research to the masses. This year with our virtual #PositiveSexualiTEA event we want you to give your definition of what it means to be sex positive. Which of the 8 dimensions do you feel needs to be explored more? Which of the 8 dimensions resonated with you most? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Check out our social media for the latest posts using the hashtag #PositiveSexualiTEA! Feel free to post your own pics enjoying tea and tell us what being sex positive means to you.

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