The Sex Positive Professional Struggle
“I sure hope I don’t lose my job for this.” – I imagine this is the thought that crosses many a mind when deciding to take that step in ownership of one’s body while clicking send on that “sext” message that we hope never comes back to bite us in the ass. As smart phones continue to get smarter, society has seemingly not shifted much of its thought on the subject of nudity versus respectability in the professional life. Although this conversation is one that I’ve had often with many friends, we have struggled to do the balancing act of exploring our sexual fantasies without fear of exploitation should it end up in the wrong hands.
Respectability politics play a big role in how we as professionals attempt to balance the often taboo subject of sexual expression. The double standards placed on people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, size, shape, etc. put them in a vulnerable place where they can be shamed should nudes be leaked or seen by others. People’s entire lives have been ruined personally and professionally for a sexual photo or video, as if our country doesn’t have industries and markets dedicated to those same things. The biggest problem I see is how community responds when one’s sexuality is displayed for all to see.
As a member of Tumblr and various social media groups that actively display nudity, I can honestly say that I enjoy the thrill of watching others performing sexual acts, or simply showing off their bodies. In the black LGBTQ community, there are many caveats that prevent some of us from being the fullest sexual beings we would like to be. In a lot of cases HIV stigma plays a big role as our rates of infection are higher than all other ethnic groups. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched a porn on MyVidster displaying condomless sex between two men, only to see the comments laced with assumptions and accusations about how every gay man has HIV. If I am seeing the comments, I know that many others are seeing them, too, knowing that if it be them caught on video, they could easily fall prey to that same type of hate and homophobia. Another issue came to light when the Jack’d leak happened a few weeks back. I remember the chaos it caused throughout the black LGBTQ community. People who were discreet for various reasons had their faces, bodies and genitalia shown for all to see. The unfortunate truth is that people must hide their faces and genitalia and bodies because of potential shaming, danger and loss of job, as we know LGBTQ people are not fully protected in the workplace. When we as a community don’t protect each other, we give permission for other groups to use this as a form of discrimination against us.
I have also seen where videos and pictures had been leaked of black folk in general out of revenge. About this very subject, I thought to myself, “if the person was confident enough to send it, who am I to shame them for it?”
Why would I not uplift and defend this person? Why are we so quick to discriminate against those whose sexual encounters are being used maliciously against them? People who shared these images out of love or lust and trust, now being shamed and blamed for doing something that the majority of people are out here doing is hypocritical and reductive. This is not community, nor does it help shift the conversation to one needed when discussing how people choose their most sex positive lives. Furthermore, this does not help when we attack those who are actively sharing their material.
Again, as a member of various groups to not be named, I have shared in the past and seen many others share their bodies up for the masses. Sometimes it’s nice to feel appreciated sexually; furthermore it’s just the naked body. It’s just sexual intercourse. The amount of cognitive dissonance that it takes for someone to shame and discriminate people for showing publicly what the majority of us do privately is uncanny. There is no real reason other than, “what if (so and so) see’s this?” My response is that “(so and so)” is probably doing it too, and maybe took a pic of it.
Sex positivity is more than just showing the goods in a sexual manner. It is the act of taking back ownership and agency of one’s body in an effort to remove the stigma and shame placed upon the actively sexual being.
One man’s story isn’t going to change the world, but then again we have seen it time and time again where living in truth has freed others to live in theirs. So I implore you to do some soul searching and self-discovery to really interrogate this notion: “why does this bother me seeing other people be sexually liberated?”
You might just realize that it’s not their freedom that bothers you, but the shackles on your own sexuality you have been unwilling to remove.