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FREE RADICAL: SEX POSITIVITY AND ITS DISCONTENTS

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During the summer of 2012 I was groped by a member of the Full Body Cast, the group that performs the live Rocky Horror shows in Boston. This was a pretty upsetting experience for me for a lot of reasons—besides the whole non-consensual touching thing, I was also harassed by the cast for being a frigid bitch who should have expected that sort of thing.

What I ended up experiencing was a group of people who fronted themselves as a sex-positive community but who were really ill prepared to act as a voice for that movement.

Many people interpret the term “sex positive” as meaning “very comfortable with causal touching and sexual conversation topics.” And yes, the term does have its roots in a conversation about being more open about sex and sexuality. But what is at the heart of being sex positive is the conversation. A lot of criticism that I received after I wrote about being groped was that I should have expected that kind of treatment because I went to a Rocky Horror show. Or as my groper so eloquently put it, I shouldn’t go to the beach and complain because I got sand in my bikini.

This entire painful experience could have been completely avoided had there been some kind of conversation about the policy of cast-audience touching. At no time during the pre-show announcements did anyone mention that sitting in an aisle seat could result in being groped. Some people might like that, and I would have loved to change places with them.

But instead I was surprised by a hand roughly grabbing my breast and I spent the next several minutes in an anxiety attack.

My point is that people have different boundaries—and that’s okay. The point of sex positivity is not to force everyone to be comfortable. The point of sex positivity is to be able to address these points in a constructive way. Some people are extremely comfortable with physical contact. Some people are like me and will find any number of ways to escape hugging. And still others are not interested in sex of any kind. Yes, that’s a thing, and yes, it’s okay.

It’s a conversation that we should all be having. Sex positivity should be exciting, a chance make sure that you’re not making people uncomfortable.

For someone like me, this extends past the conversations about actual intercourse and bleeds into a realm of comfort that I find endangered on a regular basis. I’ve been very clear about my need for personal space and I have turned many a friend away when they started in on a hug. And yet no matter how many times I’ve told some people that I don’t like physical contact, they at times will insist upon it.

This is when I want to call on the real sex positivity. I shouldn’t be made to feel bad about my boundaries and I shouldn’t have to constantly explain that I don’t want to be touched all the time by everyone. As it turns out, sex positivity isn’t actually about sex; it’s about the people who have it. Pushing the envelope means different things for different people.

It wouldn’t hurt if we started to ask each other where that envelope is.

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2 Responses to FREE RADICAL: SEX POSITIVITY AND ITS DISCONTENTS

  1. J. J. says:

    This article represents everything I hate about the Boston mentality. I’m the second-to-last to think along the lines of a “blame the victim” mentality…BUT: “…could have been completely avoided had there been some kind of conversation…” NO! Enough warnings, safety markers, and such. Enough with the melee-mouth art that is “safe for everybody”. Artists are in no way responsible to curb themselves to the baggage you bring with you into a performance. Sorry, but if you step out the door; then you take the risk. Especially when a) the art is almost 30 years old and b) the ENTIRE POINT of the piece is to confront the EXACT hang-up that you have. “What…so I have to should just stay at home?” Um…yes. If you’re going to freak out about any sort of human contact whatsoever (hugs from friends?); that actually is a DSM-IV sign of a disorder. Whether you’re autistic, were violated as a kid, or have some other issue; society has not obligation to adjust to your comfort level. Sorry. Seek some help, but don’t ruin 99% of everyone else’s good time just because you are a 1% having a bad time.

  2. Emily Hopkins Emily Hopkins says:

    J.– Your privilege is showing.