What Does It Really Mean to Be Sex Positive?


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The term "sex positivity" may seem like it involves feeling 100-percent comfortable and confident with your sexual identity and preferences, but Janielle Bryan, M.P.H., a public health practitioner and sex educator, says that's only part of the equation.

Yes, it's incredibly important to develop a healthy, loving, shame-free relationship with your body and your sexuality (including, of course, your sexual organs) and to take the time to learn what you like. But "when I think about a person being sex positive, it's not just 'I embrace sex for myself,'" says Bryan. "That's great — that's the first step. But also, do you not put your sexual shame on other folks? Because that's also very important to being sex positive. It's not just how you view yourself, it's also how you view others and their sexuality."

Put simply, sex positivity is having a positive attitude about sex, and feeling comfortable with both your own sexual identity and the sexual behaviors of others, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine.

It's all about allowing everyone to be their own "sexual being" (with consent, of course), to develop their own sexual identity and live freely with it, and to do whatever they please, whether that's having a handful of partners or having none, says Bryan. It also involves recognizing that pleasure looks different for everyone, and even if the activity that brings one person pleasure doesn't sound appealing to you, that's okay, she adds. (Related: How to Deal If Your Partner Won't Go Down On You)

Considering the loads of sexual shame that society has unloaded onto most people, being sex positive isn't exactly as easy as it sounds. That said, it's worth it; there are quite a few benefits to being open to discussing and hearing about sex and pleasure, says Bryan. "A sex-positive environment allows people to live more authentic lives," she explains. "If we're able to have that conversation, I might know upfront that what I want and what you want might not align, so I won't waste my time dealing with someone who isn't compatible...Being sex positive allows you to love your authentic self which allows you to align with folks who want what you want or are willing to explore with you in that way." (Related: 10 Ways to Upgrade Your Sex Life)

So, how can you get an idea of how sex positive you are? Take this quiz to find out if you're a sex positivity superstar or have some room for improvement, then score tips from Bryan on how to become more sex positive.