When you think of romance, you might think of romance’s you saw in classic rom coms from the 90s and 00s.
You know those relationships from Notting Hill, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, He’s Just Not That Into You, Clueless, Bridget Jones's Diary, or The Wedding Singer.
The relationships from those movies don’t always reflect what modern relationships look like. They aren’t always the greatest model for healthy and respectful behavior, they don’t encompass the diversity of sexuality and something that I want to explore now, they aren’t always sex-positive.
For a quick refresher on sex positivity, here is a piece that I wrote a while ago that goes over the basics.
Essentially sex positivity is having a healthy and open attitude to sex, sexuality, and sexual experiences that are safe and consensual. Sex positivity is not necessarily having sex all time the time or at all. The philosophy of sex-positivity encourages having a healthy and non-judgmental relationship to sex, whatever that means to you.
Essentially a sex-positive romance in 2020 looks like whatever sex-positive means to you. The definition of what sex-positive means to a person is individualistic and can mean different things depending on what your relationship to sex is and how your understanding of sex-positivity aligns with potential partners’.
While sex positivity can look different for everyone, some ideas indicate a sex-positive romance. So here are some things to look for in your romance, or in others to see if they are sex-positive.
A sex-positive relationship is one that has good communication. Healthy and respectful relationships hinge upon actively listening to your partner, hearing their desires and their boundaries, and sharing your own.
Conversations with your partner should hold no judgment and be open. You need to be comfortable with someone to discuss the intricacies of sex and romance. Creating a safe space for everyone involved is important when discussing sex, sexuality, kinks, fetishes, and fantasies. Open communication is necessary so that everyone can express their desires and see how their partner/s feel about that.
Discussions also include exclusivity as you may want to understand what relationship structure you prefer and what your partner prefers i.e. monogamy, polyamory, ethical non-monogamy.
You need to be able to communicate effectively if you want to have an open structure within your relationship, ensuring everyone is happy with that dynamic.
Communication is also essential when establishing boundaries. If you are comfortable discussing new things to try during sex, you need to be able to communicate what you will not do, what your limits are, and what are things your partner/s need to avoid.
This allows everyone to feel safe and heard within a relationship and guarantees that all sexual experiences come from a place of understanding your partner/s and are consensual.
Sex-positive does not necessarily translate to be willing to try everything your partner/s wants to. You just need to be able to have a conversation about what you like and what you want so your partner can communicate whether that is also compatible with things they enjoy or whether it may be an area they will be willing to explore.
Open communication allows for discussion during and after sex, where people can express what they did and did not enjoy so that everyone can learn for future sexual experiences.
Sex positivity is all about breaking down the stigma surrounding all things sex, sexual health, and sexuality. For awhile sex was thought of as a taboo topic, and sex-positive activism has focused on a normalizing conversation about sex so that people know it is not shameful and looks different to everyone.
How we are raised, the sex education we receive, and how the people in our lives talk about sex impacts what we know about sex and how we view sex. In the process of learning about sex positivity or being a sex-positive person, we have to confront that ideas that we have learned may be wrong or discriminatory. People should not be discriminated against for the appearance of their genitalia or naked body, or for having an STI.
A sex-positive mindset promotes that sex is a healthy part of life, that is pleasurable with others and with ourselves and that we should not be ashamed for wanting sex, or for how we want to have sex and if we do not want to have sex. The more we learn about different types of sex, the spectrum of sexuality, and kinks, the more open and unjudgmental we are in our thinking
If you are looking into how you perceive certain areas of sex, it will see you break down the stigma that is intertwined with sex. Stigma within sex is also tied to (internalized) misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism, fatphobia, and ableism.
Wherever we learned about sex (a classroom, porn, our parents, the internet, etc.), we need to learn that the depiction of sex may be biased. Sex positivity encourages people to critically think about how we view sex, and whether imagery we see is real.
This way of thinking has us understanding that sex more than just a penis in the vagina. Sex positivity promotes normalizing body hair, using lube, laughing during sex, period sex, erectile dysfunction, vaginismus, awkward moments and emotional realizes.
We often think of red flags in relationships, reasons why a person isn’t a good fit for us. We don't think about the green flags, the things someone does that demonstrate how they will be a good partner for you.
Green flags are important for a sex-positive romance as they highlight positive and healthy qualities you are looking for in relationships. These qualities help you find a partner that can be open with you, will match you in ways you won't and can communicate with you.
Now not all green flags will be for every person, some people look for how someone treats waitstaff, some look for emotional intelligence or independence. In a sex-positive romance, there are some consistent green flags to look for.
- Good practice of consent (this green flag is mandatory)
Look for a partner that respects boundaries. Consent is something to continuously look for within a relationship. Consent cannot be implied even if you are in a relationship with someone. As a relationship evolves, consent relies a lot on body language.
You want a partner to understand implicit and explicit signs that you are not consenting to. A partner should be respectful of safe words and the word no. There should also be a good practice of consent within sexting. Make sure your partner asks if you if it’s okay and if you want to receive a dick pic from them.
- Emotional availability
- Shared values and morals
This can encompass different things for different people, but it is things like your beliefs, how you conduct your life, and how you treat others. Shared value can even be sex-positivity.
- Mutual understanding’s love languages
If you haven’t heard of the 5 love languages by now, please give it a google and do the quiz on how to find your top love language, then get your partner to as well. Your top love language is the way you like to receive love the most. The 5 love languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Now, this is in the green flags because you need to remember that the way you like to show your love to your partner, may not be the way they want to receive love.
For example, your top love language might be physical touch and because you enjoy that, you then like to express your love to your partner by constantly touching them, kissing them, or having any type of physical contact. However, if your partner’s top love language is acts of service, so they might not interpret the touching as an expression of love.
They might prefer you instead to help them out with the dishes, take their car to go to get serviced or pick up dinner as ways to express that you care about them.
You do not need to have matching top love languages to have a successful romance, you just need to have discussions with your partner about this and try to show your partner love in ways that they want and will be able to appreciate.
- Willingness to compromise
- Can maintain long term relationships (platonic or romantic)
Sex positivity in relationships is such a healthy thing to practice. It helps maintain healthy and respectful relationships, while also ensuring everyone can openly talk and learn about sex.
You want a partner/s that are interested in exploring kinks you’ll both enjoy, can understand when your sex drives are mismatched, are and will respect your boundaries.
It can be a process of unlearning past habits and learning new ways to think about sex, but I promise it’s for the best. Having a sex-positive romance ensures that you not only have great partners but the more you learn about sex and openly communicate about sex, the better sex you’ll have.