The Importance Of Sex Positivity
TW* Sexual Harassment, Eating Disorder, Depression, Anxiety
My name is Avery Collard, I’m the Ambassador of Northeastern’s CHAARG Chapter, + I am a sex positive woman. Before I dive into my experience with sex positivity, it’s crucial to understand the history + key components of the movement. The Sex Positive movement was a socio-political movement that started in the 1960s that has morphed into a modern social + philosophical movement emphasizing sexuality as a natural ++ healthy part of the human experience, while promoting exploration, body positivity, ++ comprehensive safe sex education + awareness.
You may be asking yourself why I feel this is so important, + why I identify so strongly with this movement. I matured very quickly growing up [when I was graduating middle school people thought I was graduating high school], which led to a lot of attention from men, both my age + older. I would have grown men coming up to me when I was 14, boys at school groping me + throwing things down my cleavage in class, men online harassing me + sending me sexually explicit messages, + grown men who would grab my butt in a crowd.
There are too many other examples to name, but the point is that from a very young age, the only “positive” attention I was given by males was sexual. At the time, I thought the attention meant I was mature, which I saw as a positive thing. Nobody told me otherwise. Now, at this same time I was also battling an eating disorder + depression, which made me crave any sort of attention + praise – even from these men who knew better. As I turned 16, 17, even 18 – I saw a pattern emerging in my life. I thought that if I didn’t give the men in my life sexual attention, they wouldn’t want me, + I wouldn’t be worth anything. In my head, the only way to make sure I wasn’t left alone was to be hypersexual, because I had been groomed that way.
Not to mention, the media + social expectations for women are incredibly toxic + twisted, shaming women who dare to be sexual while praising men for the same thing. As women, we are taught that our bodies have to look a certain way to be desirable, or we’re worthless. That’s how I felt. I hated myself for not being the media’s idea of perfection, because in my eyes, perfection was dictated by how other people saw me. I have struggled [+ still struggle] with body dysmorphia since I was 13, which as I mentioned above, led to the development of an eating disorder + severe anxiety. I remember countless days when I would be trying to get dressed in the morning, + I would give up ++ sob because nothing fit me right. I remember not wanting to look in the mirror because I was so disgusted with myself.
In 2018, I was diagnosed with Depression + Anxiety disorder + was prescribed medication as well as started to see a therapist. As I started to peel away the layers of my illness, I started to re-claim my sexuality in a way that was my own. I came out as bisexual after breaking up with my boyfriend + began to experiment with different sexual experiences + partners – focusing on what I wanted + what made me feel comfortable + empowered, + just having FUN. Being sex positive allowed me to be vulnerable + courageous, while re-claiming my body + my sexuality after years of men using me for their own pleasure.
One big focus of the sex positivity movement is body positivity + self-love. Every human is beautiful, every human is deserving of love, + every human is perfect in their own way. There is no universal idea of perfection, no pressure to be a certain way, + no one telling you you’re not enough. Throughout college, I have continued to explore + express myself, while educating others about sex positivity + normalizing sex in daily life + conversation, particularly around women. Being open + honest about sex has created a supportive + healthy environment in my apartment + makes me feel comfortable with myself + my identity.
When I started CHAARG, I was worried that the community wouldn’t accept this side of my personality, because I found that east coasters tend to be less sexually liberal than the Bay Area, where I grew up. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to be an effective leader because of people’s misconceptions about sex positivity + tendency to make quick judgements. However, being a part of the CHAARG community has only made me feel more comfortable with myself + my self-expression. CHAARG is a community of open minded, compassionate people who support you no matter what + accept you for who you are. Having a community on campus where I felt comfortable being 100% myself helped me push myself outside of my comfort zone, because I know that no matter what, I will always have a community of 10,000+ people behind me. The love + support that this community creates truly allows me to be my authentic self + bring my passions into conversations, no matter how unconventional. The CHAARG community is like nothing I’ve experienced before + I am so grateful I found my home within CHAARG.
I’ll leave you with this: sex positivity doesn’t mean you have to have a lot of sex. You can be a virgin + still identify as sex positive – it’s about the community + values behind the movement. Sex positivity is about uplifting + celebrating ourselves + our bodies, while freely seeking pleasure, in whatever form that may come in. It’s about making sure that schools have comprehensive sex education, + de-stigmatizing “untraditional” sexual activities. It’s about love + support. Most importantly, it’s about making sure that no other girl has to grow up feeling like her body is an object, + that no other girl has to experience the trauma of what I, + hundreds of thousands of women have endured.