I love sexting...in theory. Perking up an otherwise dull day by exchanging naughty messages with my partner would have total appeal if I only I weren’t so erotically inarticulate. Yeah, I know; sex-educating writer here. But talking about sex professionally is different from dirty texting as a means to arousal. It’s easy to think of sex words when I’m working. When I’m hot and bothered and the blood starts flowing south it’s a lot...more harder...to word...good.
Is Your Teen Sexting? The Common Sexting Phrases You Need To Know
That’s why I was jazzed when my friend and colleague, Dr. Lily Zehner tipped me off to a new set of sex-themed emjois, called Flirtmojis! Flirtmojis are texting images which range from cute and playful to super explicit. According to the developers:
“Flirtmoji is a visual language designed to empower people of all sexualities to communicate their desires, concerns, and flirtations. We are a group of designers, developers, and hornballs on a mission to give people the playful, inclusive, and functional sex emoji."
In order to access Flirtmojis, you sign up on their website, which gives you free access to a basic set of sexy emojis. Some of the graphics really are graphic (NSFW, folks) but rendered in sort lines and vivid playful colours, which gave me a sense of non-threatening fun. They also reflect the creators’ sex-positive vision, representing a diverse range of skin tones, sexual orientations and safer-sex practices. They’re even anatomically accurate - clitoris REPRESENT! The creators have also included thoughtful communication aids, like a series of green, yellow and red traffic lights, which sexters can use to indicate their desire to continue, slow-down or stop the conversation.
If you want to expand your sexting lexicon, there are five expansion packs: inc;uding: Toyland; Fetish 101; Party Time and BDSMS, all available for $0.99 apiece.
Flirtmojis are an easy-to-use tool that folks can use to communicate sexual desire clearly, while keeping things hot. They’ve definitely upped my sexting game!
California recently passed legislation requiring Universities receiving State funds to use a standard of “affirmative consent” in disciplinary hearings about sexual assault. The new law has resurrected conversations about sexual permission, what it means and why it’s so important.
In a nutshell, it means that consent requires the presence of a “yes,” rather than the absence of a “no.” In the context of sex it means that whoever initiates needs explicit confirmation that their partner actually wants to join the party before getting down to business. It also means that consent needs to keep happening throughout a sexual encounter and that it can be withdrawn at any time.
The analogy I often use for sexual consent is a person’s home. When I visit someone else’s place, I generally don’t barge in. I ask if I can come over or I wait for an invitation. Once I get there, I signal my desire to enter their home by knocking or ringing something. When they answer, I wait for them to say “come in,” or otherwise indicate permission by stepping to aside and gesturing that I should cross the threshold.
Once I’m inside, I still respect the fact that this is someone else home. As my visit continues, I’ll ask “Do you mind if I use the bathroom?” or “Could I trouble you for a glass of water?” I don’t assume I have free run of the place just because I have permission to be there.
I do have freer access in certain people’s homes. I know I can sprawl out on my best friends’ bed; rummage through my mother-in-law’s fridge, and use my key to get into my mom’s house if she isn’t home. My relationships with these people are longstanding and there’s a great deal of trust on both sides. I’ve also met a few folks who are comfortable extending the “make yourself at home,” invitation to even casual guests, but again it’s never something I’d presume without being told.
Affirmative consent is about having similar practices around sex with other people. For most people negotiating consent won’t sound exactly like a visit to the neighbours (“Do you mind if I stroke your penis?” or “Could I trouble you for some anal sex?”), but personally, I think it would be wonderful if we respected people’s ownership over their own bodies at least as much as we respect their ownership over their property.
I’ve read commentary from folks who are worried, that if the “yes means yes” standard of consent catches on, it will lead to a surge of false sexual assault accusations and convictions - particularly against men. Here in Canada, sexual assault laws actually do use an affirmative consent standard. Yet the rate of false accusations remain somewhere between 2 and 8 percent - as low or lower than false reporting of any other crime. Charges and conviction rates for sexual assault are also lower than for those crimes of similar magnitude.
Affirmative consent is not a nefarious plot to brand sexual partners as rapists. It’s about taking steps to ensure that sex is mutual, that everyone is participating because they have an active desire to get with each other.
There are also concerns about the way asking for consent might ruin the “mood” of sex. Will previously hot hook-ups turn into dull contract negotiations, with all terms agreed upon before the first kiss? Will be tedious process of constantly asking “Is this okay? Is this okay?” before touching any part of your lover’s body? “If you start talking, it almost breaks the moment, it takes away from the natural flow of it,” said a 19-year-old student in a recent Globe and Mail article.
I think this quote cuts to the heart of this issue for many people. Sex-negative attitudes discourage folks from talking about sex...especially during sex. Imagine trying to prepare a meal with a friend and saying, “I was think of adding some walnuts to this pasta. What do you think?” In response, they place a finger on your lips and whisper, “Let’s not talk. It ruins the food.”
We accept that collaboration requires communication, Porn and other media perpetuate the myth that fitting our bodies together in intricate, orgasmic ways is purely instinctive - no talking required. We also send a similar message when sex education teaches young people to avoid pregnancy and STIs, but neglects lessons about communicating sexual desire or negotiating pleasure.
Talking about sex isn’t unnatural. It may be unfamiliar and at times it can be intimidating. But it is possible to move past the fear of sex talk. Doing so can lead to better, more satisfying sexual experiences for everyone.
Initiating sex with someone - especially, if you’re legitimately unsure about whether they want you back - can be an intensely vulnerable act. Like many people, I hate the prospect of rejection. I extra hate it when I’m naked. Even though I’ve been sleeping with the same person for almost 20 years, I still have anxious moments when asking my partner for something sexual suddenly feels like a big risk.
I still ask, though.
Avoiding those uncomfortable feelings is tempting. I don’t enjoy being told no, especially when I’m really turned on and wanting have partnered-sex. There are moments when the old saying “it’s easier to beg forgiveness later than ask for permission in the first place,” can be a pretty tempting alternative. Fear of rejection is a real and powerful thing.
You know what? Too. Damn. Bad.
My desire to avoid having crummy feelings, does NOT give me the right to make decisions about my husband’s body for him. Period. Furthermore, I don’t want to.
If I’m going to have sex with someone else, they have to want to have sex with me. Not grudging sex. Not passive, this-is-easier-than-getting-into-an-argument-about-it-sex. Happy, I-WANT-to-be-doing-this-with-you sex. No one, not even my husband, owes me sexual pleasure. I love when we do have sex together, but ultimately, I’m responsible for my own sexual gratification.
Affirmative consent isn’t a magical solution that will eliminate sexual assault and make everyone comfortable with sexual negotiation. But it’s an important step towards creating a standard that says we can and should be talking about sex...especially when we’re about to have it.. I hope our future films, books and television shows feature hot sex scenes, with explicit negotiation. When my son grows up, I hope he thinks it’s weird NOT to check in with sexual partners, that he needs permission before visiting another person’s body and that when it comes to consent “yes” means “yes.”
In my work and my writing, I often refer to the terms sex-negativity and sex-positivity. Both concepts have had tremendous influence on my life, both personally and professionally. Although I’ve tackled these topic before, I thought it would be helpful to revisit my take on these terms and define them clearly for anyone who isn’t familiar with their meaning
Until a few years ago, I’d never heard of sex-negativity. Once I learned what it was all about, I realized that it had influenced my ideas about sex my entire life.
Sex-negativity is the belief that sex and sexuality are inherently harmful, immoral, and dangerous. Historically, it’s been the basis for most of the sexual attitudes in our society. Of course, the big problem with sex-negativity is that human beings are a largely sexual species. In order to reconcile a sex-is-bad philosophy with the reality that people have sex, our culture had to find moral loopholes. The big one is procreation. It was like “Sex will ruin your life unless you’re doing it to advance the species, in which case, rock on!” Obviously, it’s a bit more complex than that, but basically sex-negativity gives an adult, married, monogamous heterosexual adult couples trying to make babies a thumbs up because reproduction and enforcing social institutions like marriage justify sex. Unfortunately, that also means that the farther someone’s sexual identity or behaviour gets from the marriage/baby-making standard, the more likely they are to encounter criticism, stigma, or oppression.
Sex negativity tells us that there are better and worse types of sexual activity; superior and inferior sexual orientations and genders; and right or wrong sexual relationships. Sex-negativity is about trying to establish universal rules for how sex in order to minimize it’s destructive potential.
Sex-positivity is the belief that sex and sexuality are a natural component of our physiology. The term “sex-positivity” sounds like it means “YAY, ALL SEX IS GOOD!” but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s more about seeing sexual pleasure as potentially positive; acknowledging that people have individual and diverse sexual needs; and acknowledging that we have the all right to experience our sexuality (or asexuality) however it works best for us.
Learning about sex-positivity was a light bulb moment in my life. I had been doing sex ed work for a few years up until that point. I had met people, people I would have once assumed to be misguided in their sexual practices, who frankly seemed happier and more together than I was at the time. I was slowly getting the idea that sex worked differently for different people. Then when I learned about sex-positivity and it was like, “Yes! THAT!”
Being sex-positive doesn’t mean not having boundaries. You still get to decide how, when and with whom you want to be sexual - or even if you want to be sexual at all. But instead of saying “these are the rules for everyone” sex-positivity is largely about letting individuals decide where to draw their own lines, based on what works for them personally. Charlie Glickman, one of my all-time favourite sex-educators, puts it this way:
“...there is no sex act that can’t be done in ways that honor the consent, pleasure, and well-being of the folks doing it. Any of those activities that get classified as weird or strange or abnormal? There are people who do them and end up with big smiles on their faces.”
Consent, pleasure and well-being. Feels like a much simpler, kinder framework for sexuality.
One of the most liberating aspects of sex-positivity for me is that it erases the concept of “normal.” I don’t have to worry about think about whether I’m having too much or not enough sex or if my desires are weird or my attractions make sense. And apart from those three guidelines of consent, pleasure and well-being, I also don’t have to worry about what you’re doing either.
Of course I’m not perfect. I do my have judgemental moments - not only about others, but about myself as well. But when that happens, I come back to my sex-positive principles and remind myself that no one made me Queen of How People Have Sex. Letting go of the judge-y stuff gives me more time and energy to invest in things that really matter to me like my family and watching MasterChef.
As a sexuality educator, my goal is to help people have the sexual experiences they want and avoid the sexual experiences they don’t want by providing the information than can help them make the best choices for their lives. Sex-positivity helps me draw the line between telling people what I know and telling people what to do.