What is a 'sex-positive' space?
In a context where many people today meet online, we believe that 'sex-positive' spaces are extremely important. Such spaces are not the equivalent of sex parties or swingers’ clubs, for they also include a great deal of erotic education through experiential workshops, as well as offering other non-sexual activities, including bodywork, dance, singing, music, eating together, bushwalking, swimming and socialising without pressure. What differentiates them is that they are spaces where sexual and erotic expression is allowed in the widest sense. ‘Sex-Positive’ spaces are safer than other ways of connecting with people (such as dating apps) because there is a group accountability mechanism built into the structure. Many of the same people return month after month and year after year. During this time, we accompany one another through all different kinds of life-transitions.
But perhaps the greatest value of 'sex-positive' spaces is that they break down the culturally imposed barriers between our sexual interests and the rest of our lives. The society puts a lot of judgement on those who enter these spaces, as if it would mean that they must be not committed partners, immature or otherwise untrustworthy. But the opposite is true. People who enter these spaces acknowledge that they have something more to learn about love and sexuality and see the value of doing so in the open light in a group with others—just as with any other skill or interest.
In such spaces people not only have ‘transformational experiences’, but, more importantly, they learn valuable life lessons they would not learn otherwise, for example, in terms of their partner-choices, their relationship patterns and how they interact socially and erotically. ‘Sex-positive’ spaces also present marvellous opportunities for the creation for empathy and compassion, when people open up and allow themselves to be seen and to be vulnerable. And with time they give us the courage actively to challenge the values of mainstream society and can even lead us to change our life's direction, (as happened to me).
To be honest, however, 'sex-positive' spaces are not for everyone, and I do not believe one should ‘hard-sell’ them. There is often emotional upheaval as people find themselves confronted with emotions they are sometimes not used to or patterns of behaviour they are sometimes too used to. Each year I find that I am also challenged in a myriad of ways and constantly question myself.
Peter Banki, Ph.D
P.S. For your interest here is the trailer of the remarkable film YES, WE FUCK by Antonio Centeno and Raúl de la Morena which we showed at the inaugural Exploring Sex and Disability: A Celebration in November. People who experience functional diversity are at the hard edge of our sex-negative culture, for they are often considered to be asexual and are discriminated against by others, who do not see them viable sexual or romantic partners. From them, I have learned a great deal about the value--even the necessity--of creating 'sex-positive' spaces.