Culture

Gen Z Is Calling Out Toxic Sex Positivity

By Chloë Lemaster··  6 min read
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Gen Z Is Calling Out Toxic Sex Positivity

Sex. Everyone seems to have a lot to say about it. It’s for fun, it’s for procreation, it’s for bonding. You’ve probably heard it all.

And if you heard those few lines, you’ve most definitely noticed the rising popularity in sex being a praiseworthy gateway. It’s an adventure, it’s empowering, it’s sexy. What no one’s talking about, though, is the toxic views on sex that have become normalized under the guise of positivity and empowerment.

If there are mixed signals about anything, sex is probably at the top of the list. There doesn’t seem to be a straight answer on what’s right and what’s wrong, who should be doing the deed, and when the right time is. Our media says one thing, our parents another, our own minds are something entirely different. Yet the thing we should be agreeing on is that throwing the questions we have about sex out the window isn’t the way to go. However, that’s exactly how the sex positivity movement works.

Oh Media, How You Lie

It doesn’t take much scrolling on Netflix or Hulu to find another hit teen series, TV-MA plastered across it, like the teen-targeted show before it. Hookups beneath the bleachers, supposed 16-year-olds on dating apps, affairs with the teacher. We’ve seen it all before, and yet rarely if ever do we see the repercussions sex has on teenagers jumping in far too early due to pressure and culture. Teen pregnancies, heartache, and sexually transmitted diseases never seem to grace our screens when it comes to the glamorous lives of our sex-crazed fictional icons. Asides from the obvious, television and Hollywood have painted with too broad of a brush when it comes to the sex lives of teenagers seeing as less than half of high-schoolers are having sex. Not quite the number Netflix and HBO alike seem so fond of. 

Pregnancy, heartache, and STDs rarely grace our screens when it comes to teen characters’ glamorous sex lives.

With our media showing it, our culture promoting it, and our sex-ed encouraging it, it seems as though sex is just another vogue way to pass the time. Everywhere around us, Gen Z is being told how to explore sex rather than why. It’s like we’re being given answers before questions are ever asked. 

The pressures put on teenagers and young adults to engage in sexual relationships is existent everywhere. Our favorite television, novel, and film teens are doing it. Our teachers are telling us how to protect our bodies, but not our minds. In trying to be a more accepting society, what we’ve really done is undervalued sex and its impact. We’ve gone from taboo to glorified, skipping over that sweet spot of accepting that sometimes teens have sex, but sometimes they don’t. The pressures are real and felt by Gen Z across the board. A movement that’s tied to terms like positivity and empowerment has done a pretty good job at hiding negative effects and oppressive truths.

Crossing the Consent Bridge

Sex positivity has made room for the acceptance of all kinds of sexual explorations. But in doing so, both the terms sex and positive have become muddled in the revolution. Not only has sex in its entirety become glamorized, but individual acts and sex byproducts have made their way into everyday sexual encounters. Porn, sex work, OnlyFans, and sexual turn-ons have all become gray areas, popularly discussed by individuals and professionals alike. With less traditional sex acts being popularized, more Gen Zers are feeling the persuasive insistence to do things they wouldn’t normally. 

Consent is hard to give when many feel coerced into sex acts they’re uncomfortable with in the name of being positive.

Consent is a buzzword among feminists, sex activists, and legalists alike. After all, sex can only be empowered if those who are doing it actually feel empowered. But the definition of consent is hard to pin down, especially with so many being coerced into sex acts they’re uncomfortable with in the name of being positive.

But the Patriarchy!

We might all have differing opinions on feminism and sexual empowerment, but one thing we should be able to settle on is that it seems a bit surreal that women’s empowerment makes everything easier for men. Especially sex. It’s hard not to question the intentions of men and the part they play in women’s sexual autonomy. While women are searching to be equally venereal as men, men are seeing women as being equally promiscuous. 

Rather than modern feminism seeking to even the playing ground when it comes to sex and accountability, we’ve created an environment that promotes sex as being insignificant and androgynous. Rather than balance, we’ve created a competition between men and women. In striving for equality, what we’ve really done is made sex a matter of indifference, ignoring whatever dichotomy might exist between men and women and their sexual experiences. 

Put Aside Preference

Sex positivity is often flanked by other social movements, most notably body positivity, LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and race relations. Just like with individual sex acts, sex positivity has given little room to disagree with sex itself. If you aren’t shouting “Let’s do it!” to having sex with everyone in every way, then you must be sex negative, right? Again, the toxic side of the movement shines bright, putting aside personal empowerment to stroke the pleasure of all. 

Empowerment should look like accepting someone’s “no” and preferences as reason enough. 

After years of fighting for equality, you’d think we’d have found better ways to empower individuals, rather than using sex positivity as a blanket statement. Empowerment should look like accepting someone’s no and preferences as reason enough. But what we have now is a society that labels preference as discrimination. 

Closing Thoughts

This isn’t your mother’s world and it’s not your grandma’s sexual venture. Sexual liberation has made room for new questions and new answers, leaving confusion in its wake. Without solid direction when it comes to sex, empowerment can’t truly be put first. What might be a positive sexual experience for one certainly isn’t for another. And since we’re not being able to define that as preference or discrimination, each of us is walking on eggshells when it comes to figuring out sex. While the movement may have some modern benefits, nothing should go without questioning. 

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