Updated: Oct 11, 2021
SPW has been working hard to ensure that our organization is inclusive. The SPW Board and some chapter leadership have wrestled with what it means to be a force for sex positivity in a multicultural society at a time of focused attention to oppression and marginalization of many kinds. Differences in sex, class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and expression, etc., and the power structures behind them require us to consider what does it mean to proclaim that “Pleasure is for Everyone”.
As a result of the importance of these issues, we have met regularly with the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) members of our Advisory Board, launched a sex-positive 21 day Anti-racist challenge, explored, as a community, the writings of Kevin Patterson (Love’s not Colorblind) and Adrienne Marie Brown (Pleasure Activism), and are in consultation with sex educators and professionals about the development of a class on intersectionality and sex-positivity. Our progress has been substantial. At times our conversations were difficult and as a Board we were challenged to be firm and clear in our vision. Ultimately, we received the support we needed in order to reach a very important milestone.
We are pleased to announce that Sex Positive World has adopted a values statement which articulates our stance against oppressive forces that serve as a barrier to people’s pursuit of pleasure. In releasing this to the world, we are indebted to our BIPOC Advisory Board members who provided challenge, guidance, feedback, and accountability in this process. We are also thankful for the feedback that was provided by a self-selecting group of attendees at Convergence 2021.
Before, briefly unveiling the statement below, it is important to frame it. The statement is one of values. It articulates a new contributory stream to the river that is Sex Positive World. It builds on the existing current that moves toward a safer space for the exploration of sex, sexuality, and sexual expression for our members. In expressing these values, we are providing context to and establishing the foundation for the building of new courses and the articulation of any future policies or procedures that move us toward inclusion.
The statement is not an action plan or list of concrete next steps. We know the value of actionable items and the need to avoid performative gestures. That process is unfolding and, with the establishment of these values, we will turn our attention in this area. We have already received recommendations for how to embody these values and are still pursuing additional insight. This statement is the “what” and “why”, not necessarily the “how to”.
We have provided three ways for you to engage with our values statement.
The points are briefly outlined below and we have a short version of the statement as well as a longer form. Here, you will find a brief 1-2 sentence summary of each of the premises. In the long form, you will find fully articulated examples, definitions, and an expansion of the key ideas in narrative form. In the short form, you will find a bullet-pointed list of the content of the long form. The information is the same across these forms. For the greatest understanding of our values, the long form is best. Lastly, while our value statement is applicable to experiences of oppression that are a result of power structures, we find it especially critical, at this time, to highlight the experience of racism.
Pleasure is for Everyone: A Statement of Anti-racist, Intersectional, and Social Justice Values
Pleasure is for Everyone
In Sex Positive World, we believe that pleasure is for everyone. This simple statement holds immense power. It communicates what we want and for whom. It is also a call to action. It requires us to reflect on whether we are living up to our aims. It causes us to ask the question “Who doesn’t have access to pleasure?” and, consequently, “What factors are limiting their access?”.
In some instances, the answers to these questions and the solutions to the problems posed are direct and even tangible. Does the location of an event place an undue burden on attendees without a car? The cost of an event can be offset through donations or a sliding scale so that those with less or no disposable income have the opportunity to enjoy our community.
Other barriers to pleasure are less direct, not quite as clear, more subtle, or even implicit; but their impact is just as evident. The solutions to these barriers are equally as ambiguous and often lack a clear consensus, but are no less important to our cause. It is the existence of these barriers, the biases that exist as a result, and the duty to address them, that makes our community is not unlike the societies that we intentionally operate against.
Though averting environments of sexual repression, heterosexism, shame and exclusive monogamy, SPW is not immune to the influence of other power structures. Our culture and even our members can carry biases that have a clear power dynamic which favors some while also systematically marginalizing others; power structures that limit in intangible but real ways based on: class, disability, body size, skin color, gender identity, immigration status, and other factors.
We (our community) must recognize that even if we do not explicitly endorse or seek to maintain these power structures, many of us have spent our entire lives immersed in ideas and values that directly support these sorts of power structures. We must also recognize that, because of our exposure, we may unknowingly perpetuate or contribute to the barriers of pleasure for others.
Premise #1 We are all exposed to language and customs that maintain existing power structures. Often through no fault of our own, we are socialized to think that there is a “right” way to exist and interact in the world. This often leads to some ways of being and behaving being perceived as “normal” or “better” The notion of right and wrong is supported by power imbalances and we may unwittingly perpetuate these imbalances.
Premise #2 We prioritize the work of hearing and stopping harm to those that are marginalized. We want to provide safer spaces of smaller community for those that have been marginalized and brave spaces of diverse company in which feedback concerning power structures is freely given and received.
Premise #3 Growing accessible community means gracefully accepting criticism. We choose to connect sensually and sexually within this community. In order to do this safely and consensually, we must also foster vulnerable communication such that we can become aware of things we are unaware of.
Premise #4 This is a long-term process - we have a lot to overcome. Addressing issues of power within our community and in ourselves is not easy. This is something that must be practiced. It is not about perfection, but is about growing in compassionate communication.
Premise #5 To stand for sex positivity, we must stand against the harm of white supremacy culture. We believe that it is important to speak bluntly about the reality that racism affords privileges to those considered white and disadvantages Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. We see it as equally important to recognize that issues of structural inequities and cultural biases that explicitly maintain racism operate with other power systems or ideologies to further perpetuate injustice. This has been termed white supremacy culture. We acknowledge that our organization exists as it does, in part, because of elements of white supremacy culture. Ultimately, however, elements of white supremacy culture are antithetical to sex-positivity, SPW and our proclamation that Pleasure is for everyone. For a full articulation of how, please see this section of the full version of the statement.
Premise #6 Our understanding of sex-positivity must be intersectional. We recognize that multiple systems of power operate at once and thus gaining access to pleasure is nuanced. We understand intersectionality as the overlap of multiple forms of oppression and privilege acting at once to provide unique experiences and different barriers to pleasure for each person. We profess that Intersectionality is not about who has it worse, but about appreciating that addressing one challenge does not alleviate other challenges.
Premise #7 Organizational growth and change are essential. We recognize the complexity of leading a community toward inclusive pleasure as predominantly white board. We are committed to making space for marginalized groups on leadership and are committed to our own continued growth. We recognize that making space for marginalized communities does not absolve SPW leadership of doing necessary work with members of these communities.