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English 212
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

The Language of Sex-Positive Feminist Lesbianism

Kathryn McMahon

I am part of the sex-positive feminist lesbian community. I am a lesbian with a feminist stand who is concerned with the matters of gender, sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, and sexual relations. To be sex-positive is to support all sexual activity that occurs between or among consenting individuals, and to idolize the erotic. To be smart and sex-positive is to promote safe/safer sexual activity with the use of condoms, dental dams, clean and well kept equipment and sex toys. Sex is both fluids and fluidity. We play with the continuums of sexual desire/fantasy and orientation. We are women who want sex and we are sexual agents in our own right. We address this power through language. Many sex-positive sexually active women make the most of the word "slut." When used in sex-positive circles, "slut" no longer has negative connotations, but instead signifies a woman who frequently engages in empowering sexual activity. We believe that having sex does not lessen moral standing. We do not believe that sexual desire should bear guilt. We are enthusiastic when it comes to sex and sexual self-empowerment. We are pro-sex because we feel that every man, woman, and child (and everyone anywhere in between) has a right to sexual satisfaction, whether through masturbation or polyamory (possessing multiple lovers), or BDSM, as long as the sexual activity is consensual.
Sex should be accessible. We want it in our lives and in our language. As sex-positive feminist lesbians, we challenge the Right's claim that sex should occur only between a husband and wife, and only in the missionary position. We demand alternatives and the recognition of our sexual expression as legitimate and ethical. We challenge some of our "own kind": the lesbian separatists of Second Wave Feminism who proclaimed that all heterosexual sex was the equivalent of rape and that two women had sex together should not project any "values" of the heterosexual male during sex, such as penetration of the vagina by fingers or, God-forbid, dildos. While many sex-positive Third Wave Feminists agree that Second Wave Feminism was right to bring to light sex as a political issue, we do not agree that rules of conduct (with the exceptions of consent) should be enforced socially or legally in sexual activity. Sex-positive people are not anti-vanilla sex. We believe that there are simply more (and tastier!) options for engaging in sex that can be healthy and pleasurable for all involved.
We applaud free love. We discuss orgies and orgasms. We are the bodies that we reinsert into sexual language. We read and write erotica. We lube up language. We use the word "cunt" because we like it and we like what it names. We valorize the vagina. We have been called names: "queers" and "dykes." Now we reclaim those words for ourselves. We are women who have sex with other women. We are connoisseurs of cunnilingus. But we are also tops, bottoms, switches, submissives, dominants, mommies, daddies, bad girls... We pry the mystery from sex, save for its erotic value. We use the mind as a sexual organ. We shop at sex stores owned and operated by ourselves, like Toys in Babeland. We de-sanitize the language of sex. Sex is dark and dirty and we like it that way. We talk that way. Sex-positive people favor experimentation, self-awareness, the challenging of comfort zones (not the breaching of them), and the challenging of gender roles and stereotypes. We rope in the kinky, we wield vibrators. We do not hold sex at a distance. We try to integrate sex into language and we use that language. We use categories to describe who we are and what we like. We might communicate in personal ads: "Cute submissive femme dyke ISO hot butch top. Harley a +." Or we don't. Some of us don't like limits or labels.
Sex-positive feminist lesbians talk about sex with enthusiasm. We look for sex everywhere. We talk out the shame society throws at us. We talk about desire. We bring the taboo to the table. We embrace open minds and open legs. We talk about sex as a political act. We talk about desire and love as equally political entities. We talk about the ins and outs and in-betweens of sex and sexual positions. We talk about sex as a right. We talk about sex in a good light and in the dark of dungeons. We are welcoming of the queer and the kinky. We think fists are for fucking, not for fighting.
We feel like we have a secret that we want to share but shouldn't. We tend to only talk amongst ourselves. We fear being ostracized. We live in the closet. We might be out as feminists, even out as lesbians, but out as sex-positive is the last threshold to cross. We might come out by accident; we might have to explain away bruises or strangely shaped silicone objects found in our underwear drawer. We might explain why we feel that sex work has the potential to be an empowering experience. We have to explain why we might be pro-porn feminists.
Silence is stifling and unsexy, in this case. We get angry. We want action. We moan and groan and wake up the neighbors. We seek community and strength. We are very sensitive to attitudes surrounding sex. We are very sensitive to the language that surrounds sex instead of embodying it. Popular politically correct, sterile language holds sex hostage. It holds passion hostage. As sexually active sex-positive feminist lesbian sexual deviants, we cannot get much more subversive. Our simple existence demands change because our libidos will not. We think the sexual revolution has barely begun. We think the social revolution cannot happen without the sexual one. We are the beautiful, intelligent, creative, sexually attractive, perverted agents of change. We have to speak out. We do it. We put sex in art, in music, in poetry, in spoken word. Sex through art is activism. We demand visibility. We organize Dyke Marches. We say, "We're here, we're queer, and we're kinky. Get used to it." We have sex. Then we tell everybody about it.

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