Laurie Toby Edison

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Positively Sexy?

Laurie and Debbie say:

We are both glad to see these two posts from Ginmar and Ren at Renegade Evolution, in which two women who have been polarized against each other for a long time pay a lot of attention to each other’s thinking, and bury the hatchet.

Ren says, in part:

There are people out there that I come to see as adversaries, without, admittedly, always seeing them or knowing them as people. Often times, it is a matter of our views are just too different. Or we’ve come at each other so hard it’s like a car crash where everyone gets carted away to the ER. Where shit is said that is infuriating, painful, and sticks in the spine like an arrow. Shit that hurts, maybe more than you expected it to, and you reach a point that no matter what, that person is the enemy, and the only fighting you’re going to see together is against each other.

And I am actually, believe it or not, willing to say that you know what, there is someone out there in blogland that I have had this sort of reversal of feelings with. And I will also say I don’t give a fuck what anyone else has to say about it. I have my reasons. I can walk away from a bad past with this person, because I don’t think this person is bad. Nah, we’re never going to see everything eye to eye, but there are things we can and do at least see close enough on…

Ginmar says, in part:

In story after story, I noticed that prostitutes were referred to as prostitutes, by the number of times they’d been arrested. I wanted to know where they grew up, what books they liked, what they wanted to be in high school, who they were. The answer the newspapers and judges and others gave was this: she was a prostitute, so it didn’t matter. Some of them were desperate women. Some chose the life. Some were trafficked into it. There were so many problems that they had to be distilled to orders of importance, and at the top of the heap was the important one: what is best for women? What do they want? Not deciding for them, but asking them.

There’s no perfection in people, and thank God, because nobody I know would meet the standard. We’d all be without friends and have nothing but enemies and judges. But I now have fewer enemies and it feels good. I feel my energy refocused on what’s important, what bedevils us all, and clarity feels so good. …

The phrase sex pox or poz is excised from my vocabulary. Strangely enough, the clumsiness of the phrase sex positive is also something Ren and I agree upon.

Everyone will have their opinions on the issues that polarized Ren and Ginmar, and we recommend the comment threads to both posts. But what it got us to thinking about was the phrase “sex positive,” which neither of us has ever liked.

So we were thinking out loud about that phrase and what’s wrong with it, and here’s what we came up with. For one thing, the minute we describe ourselves as positive about anything, we are automatically defining other people as negative about that thing. (Yes, it would be nice if it didn’t work that way. But humans are bicameral: we have two sides to our brain, two hands, two legs, two eyes, etc., and we are quite literally formed to see things as binary.)

Way to make enemies out of potential allies.

Going deeper, sex can be thought about, very broadly, on two different lines.

On the first continuum, child abuse and rape are at one end, moving through trafficking in sex workers to commoditized sex to sell automobiles or beach vacations. The other half of this continuum can’t be prioritized, because it depends so much on individual values, but things it might have on it include sex work done voluntarily, erotic art, sex with serious intimacy, and good sex with mutual respect.

But it’s not enough, because there’s another continuum that runs from the kinkiest and most socially disapproved things that consenting adults can do with each other for pleasure at one end through generally socially acceptable sex all the way to the 1950s movie kiss on the back porch at the other end.

The first line is about who does to whom, coercion (or the lack of it), power imbalance, and the presence or lack of personal choice and respect. The second is about preference.

When you think about it in this way, hardly anyone has a negative reaction to everything on both lines. And if anyone has a positive reaction to everything on the first line, they are a social danger.

In order to have reasonable conversations about what is and what is not acceptable, to whom, under what circumstances, and why, we have to eliminate the super-simplified terms. It’s no surprise that Ginmar and Ren agree about not liking “sex positive.”

Thanks to Badgerbag for the pointer to Ginmar and Ren’s conversation.

One Response to “Positively Sexy?”

  1. Karensu Says:

    My mind is trying to grasp the idea of the power and preference spectrums you describe here. It feels to me like it might be a very useful concept for wider discussion. However, my mind feels unaccustomed to it–very different from an “aha” experience, where a well-said truth feels like it easily and snugly fits with an experience. I want to think about this some more. Thanks.

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Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

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