On Being ‘Game’: What Happens When Sex Positivity Feels Like Pressure

July 2018

On being “game”: What happens when sex positivity feels like pressure

Recently I had a sexual encounter with some friends that, although enjoyable, involved a few moments I wasn’t super comfortable with. Afterwards, I mentioned these and they were taken on board (or so I thought). “Overall, I had a really good time,” I said. “Yes,” agreed my friend. “Thanks for being so game.” As a sex writer and podcaster I definitely think of myself as sex-positive but suddenly I felt like that was being used against me.

I’m not the first person to experience sex-positivity as a kind of pressure.

The mainstream definition of sex-positivity suggests that sex is something we should treat as something to constantly work on and buy products and services in order to have an ‘amazing’ sex life. This not only alienates demisexual, asexual and people with a low sex drive, but leads to self-doubt among those who do wish to have regular sex.

Even in sex-positive subcultures, where “mainstream” sex is rejected, other kinds of sex and sexual practice often take its place in the sexual “hierarchy” (as explored by Gayle Rubin). Not to mention the extra layer added because participants are also expected to be knowledgeable, confident and “game.”

In these situations the pressure to be “sex positive” is almost as damaging as the sex negative messages it is supposed to challenge. But what can we do about it?

  • I will outline the history of the sex-positive movement, its original purpose, and how it has changed.
  • I will look at some of the writing on the subject, including academic work from Gayle Rubin and non-fiction such as 2017’s Enjoy Sex: How, when and if you want to.
  • I will talk to sex and relationships therapist Meg-John Barker, and activists from FUCKED, all of whom have written and talked about the negative side of sex-positivity, as well as the founders of The Vaginismus Network and Elle from low sex drive blog Sexponential ,who speak and write about how it feels to go against the grain in sex-positive circles.
  • Finally, I will draw on my personal experience and talk to other people to add relatable anecdotes to a 1000-word report on how ideas about sex positivity can create negative situations and how we might do a better job of defining it – and ourselves.