Sex positivity is a big buzz word these days, especially on college campuses, and even more especially on campuses with a reputation for being politically correct or hyper-liberal, such as my own UC Santa Cruz.
And while sex positivity in a literal sense means that all sexual orientations and sexual choices (including abstinence or withholding from sex) are to be respected and discussed openly, it is often wrongly interpreted as encouraging a climate of rampant sexual expression. This has many implications for students living in sex-positive cultures, as it can create an unintended pressure on young adults to be sexually free, insinuating individuals have multiple partners or have sex frequently, and that if they are not that they should be. But this is only one iteration of sex positivity, and while it is important to give a voice to those seen as sexually promiscuous or inappropriate who have been silenced in the past due to their "immorality" it is also important to emphasize that theirs is not the only stories that should be told.
In many ways, the days of women being shamed for hooking up with men while men are applauded are waning, and instead, we are entering an era where women face the same pressures as men to have sex in order to seem cool and with the times. The infamous hook-up culture that is often discussed in regards to millennials is one such example of the pressure on young people to be comfortable not dating, but instead having sex, often with multiple people regularly; it puts the focus on the physical rather than the emotional. This may be something that many students feel comfortable with, myself included, and I'm happy to not feel the sense of shame that I know many women before me have had regarding their sexual liberty. But I also have seen how these pressures have affected a number of women (and men) I know who aren't too keen on putting aside relationships and emotional intimacy in order to have sex. Such societal standards put an unnecessary stigma on virgins on college campuses or those who want to date and settle down rather than party and take someone home for only a night.
And, in part, I think all of this is a significant contributor to the culture of rape, sexual assault, and harassment that is near ubiquitous on college campuses. When young men and women are expected to want sex so fervently, many more people find it acceptable to try to persuade their desired partner into hooking up with them, even if they don't want to initially. It makes every student at a party a potential target because rather than looking around at a room full of individuals with individual sexual preferences we see a bunch of students looking to have the same sort of "good time." Then when you include the oft-used drugs and alcohol amongst students, these ideological understandings of sex amongst young people can lead to a lack of communication, thus a lack of consent and a number of potentially unfortunate resulting scenarios.
So it is time for the very people victim to these unfortunate stereotypes to reclaim sex positivity for its true intention: ensuring that people are having safe and consensual sex, or not. As long as what you are doing is healthy and makes you happy, it falls under the sorts of activities that sex positivity advocates for. If you don't feel repressed by your sexual choices then you're doing it right, and you should be celebrated along with everyone else. Join the conversation, help us reorient it, and maybe we can break down some oppressive barriers to true sexual positivity along the way.