I like having sex. It’s true and am not ashamed of saying so - at least not anymore.
Conversations about sex seem to be laden with societal stigmas and judgements, with people sometimes subconsciously thinking it is a shameful or dirty thing to do. People who have lots of sex are often called a ‘slut’ or a ‘fuckboy’, while those who have very little or no sex are labelled as ‘frigid’ or sad. No matter the choice you make, society’s stigmas around sex make it a terrifying and negative thing to talk about.
As I started to become sexually active and have a diverse array of experiences and sexual partners, I started to inadvertently learn more and more about sex positivity. Exploring the concept in a personal way has helped in detaching the negative stigmas from sex within my own mind. This has allowed sex to become a positive part of my life, free of shame, as it should be for those who choose to participate. Thinking about sex positivity can empower both those who choose to regularly engage in consensual sexual activities and those who choose to refrain for whatever reason; it is always worth talking about.
In essence, sex positivity involves embracing explicitly consensual sex and sexual activities as a healthy and positive part of life. This involves valuing sex; considering the needs of all the people involved; self-reflecting on what sex is and what it means; exploring the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of sex; being educated on safe sex and its importance; and being accepting of your own sexual practices and the sexual practices of others.
The first experience that shifted my mindset to one of sex positivity was my first time having sex. Something about being overseas, alone in an exotic place, free of my day-to-day life and its troubles, caused me to look inwards and finally conclude that I am gay. Despite reaching this conclusion, I felt that I had to make sure, so I decided I needed to have sex with a guy. This was when I delved into the colourful world of Grindr, and sure enough it lived up to its reputation; before I knew it I was on my way to a guy’s house. I met up with this guy, and after taking all the relevant precautions – I had read a lot about the risks of gay sex and Grindr – we had sex. While this wasn’t the beautiful story from romantic films or the special, emotional experience described by committed lovers, it was a good experience. I had fun, it felt natural, the guy made me feel comfortable; most of all it told me that I was in fact gay, and this is what was natural for me.
My parents always taught me sex is only for deepening the connection between partners in a committed relationship. I was taught that sex is not something you should engage in lightly and it is something special that should not be shared unless it is with someone special. This caused me to judge myself after I had my first sexual experience through Grindr and to judge others when they told me about sexual experiences they were having outside committed relationships. While I respect my parents’ idea of sex, after my first time I realised, for me, sex was a little more complex than that and trying to assign one meaning to it wasn’t going to work for me. My first sexual experience was a tool for self-discovery and I valued that opportunity of self-discovery and the resulting positive impact it had on my life. My life changed overwhelming for the better as a result of that self-discovery and, for me, that change was just as important as deepening my love for someone special.
Through dating guys, having sex with guys and talking to people about their sexual experiences, I also realised that sex means something different to each person and serves different functions in their lives. For some it is a way to fulfil a physical desire or a fantasy, for others it is a way to meet people and have fun and, yes, for many it is a way to deepen their love and commitment in a relationship; for some people, sex is not something that interests them, or they want to engage in. I have also discovered that sex can be a number of different things to the same person and these can change overtime. For the first 20 years of my life I wasn’t really interested in sex; at the moment, I enjoy having fun through sex with guys. I have met some great people and had positive experiences, but I am also looking forward to the day where I can use sex to fall more in love with a partner, where I can use it make him happy. Sex is a different experience for me depending on the situation I am in and the guy I am with, and that’s ok.
When talking to people about sex it dawned upon me that no matter what meaning people assigned to sex, and what place it had in their lives, they were all happy; and this was the strongest message that has stuck with me. Does it really matter what sex is to each individual as long as everyone involved is happy and no one is getting hurt? This question shifted my mindset to one where I was accepting of sex and what it means to different people and this is what caused me to stop associating it with negative feelings and thoughts like shame. This is when I began understanding what being a sex positive person meant.
By discovering sex positivity and applying it in my life, I have been liberated – liberated from shame, liberated from self-judgement. I am happier, I feel like I am getting more out of life and I am able to better develop meaningful connections with people because I am more comfortable with who I am and more comfortable with who they are. This is why I encourage everyone to engage with the concepts and ideas of sex positivity and continuously self-reflect on what sex means to them and how sex positivity applies to their life.
- Jacob McMullen