I want everyone to be included in the sex positivity movement. I know this may be difficult for some cis-hetero men to believe, particularly those who complain of feeling “attacked” by women and queer folx, but I think there should be space in sex positivity for one and all. Unfortunately, while the sex positivity movement is theoretically for everyone, it has been predominantly populated by women and sexual minorities. This, according to Dr. Justin Lehmiller, an expert for adult retailer Lovehoney and author of the book Tell Me What You Want, is largely due to the fact that sex positivity is rooted in anti-patriarchy. As Lehmiller explains, “Any time there is a re-centering of power, those who previously held the most power are often resistant to change.”
We need straight men to participate in sex positivity in an active and meaningful way. But before that can happen, we need to address one major, glaring issue — one that has a tendency to rub many of those straight, cis men the wrong way. We need to talk about toxic masculinity.
Toxic masculinity is the very reason it often feels like there is so little space for cis men among sex-positive folx. Heterosexual men have a reputation for crossing boundaries, which has conditioned women and queer folx to always be on guard in their presence, ready to fight or flee at a moment’s notice. We feel on edge.
Cis-heterosexual men don’t know what this feels like, leaving them unaware of — or perhaps simply unwilling to address or acknowledge — the inherent and often destructive power they wield over those not born into the privilege of maleness. Those people, in turn, feel the effects of that power, even when it’s not actively weaponized.
“Many men don’t feel comfortable talking about their emotions or any sexual insecurities. And because of this, they don’t want to have hard talks that address how the ways they’re behaving towards women are both harmful to women and [to] themselves,” says Zachary Zane, sex columnist and sexpert for Lovehoney. And because those men have always felt in control and safe, they don’t have to.
However, it’s harmful to men themselves to be left out of sex positivity. It alienates them and only feeds the dangerous notion that sexual minority groups and women are “against” straight men. That said, I understand why men feel this way. There is a lot of anger, resentment and fear projected onto men — not without reason, of course, but it’s pretty obvious why men feel left out of sex positivity: they are left out.
“Over the years, I’ve heard many sex-positive people say things about straight men that essentially treat them as a monolith and characterize them in pretty negative ways, such as being lazy and selfish in bed or being inherently predatory,” Lehmiller says.
I want cis-het men in the sex-positivity movement. Guys, I want you here. I want you all here. I applaud those cis men who stand up against sexist, heteronormative bullshit and fight for equality. I just wish there were more of you.
“The sex positivity movement is built on great intentions and has the potential to help all of us improve our sex lives by eliminating sexual shame, breaking barriers to sexual communication, enhancing sex education and empowering people to take control over their sexuality,” Lehmiller says. This means not leaving men out.
But how? We need avenues that may be available to men who are interested in entering the sex-positive safe space and we must do the work, collectively, to create those avenues. We need to find real, tangible ways to get men into this movement because leaving them out is causing serious damage. “Listening to women and trusting our perspectives is the best place to start. The beauty of sex positivity is there’s no one way to experience sexuality, so naturally it calls for diverse perspectives,” says Kristin Fretz, Co-founder and CMO of Emojibator, a shame-free, accessible pleasure-tech brand.
This means men need to be willing and able to work on themselves. “I think women are more open to working through their emotions, while men push them down. I think therapy is a great avenue to undo toxic masculinity,” explains Joe Vela, CEO of Emojibator.
Kenneth Play, an international sex educator and creator of the Sex Hacker Pro Series, says the easiest way into the sex positivity movement is to attend sex-positive social events, of which there are many. For instance, Play runs the sex-positive collective Hacienda House, which throws a bunch of events that all are welcome to attend. He does offer a cautious reminder to newcomers, however: “If you’ve never been to a sex-positive event and you’re a single guy, don’t go and hit on all the girls.” Instead, Play recommends making friends with the men, who will then probably be more than willing to provide introductions — and maybe even put in a good word — to the women there. Basically, be genuine and chill and you can come party with us, literally. Honestly, intentions are everything. If you’re there with good intentions and no ulterior motives, they will shine through.
Men, we want you here, but some serious things need to change first.