While we were in Seattle, we got to meet with Alenna Gabosch, the head of the Center For Sex Positive Culture, whom I had met briefly at the Erotic Art Festival in the summer of 2012. The Center holds space for play parties plus a range of educational initiatives, including the Pacific Northwest Library for Sex Positive Culture, which is the largest library of its kind.
Several things stuck with me from our conversation with Alenna.
Her forthcoming book, “Happy Endings”, is a collection of stories and perspectives about break-ups and divorces which were warm and healthy and communicative – in which everyone involved celebrates that their lives are so much the better for having had the connection in the first place, and in which the exes are still friends. I often talk about how we need more visible narratives like this, and I am so glad she is writing this book.
The second thing that I really carry with me is how she is trying to shift the conversation around “alternative” and “normal” sexuality by eradicating the use of the term alternative, which is commonly used to describe sex acts other than vanilla sex and relationships other than the strictly monogamous. In her view (and mine!), there is not really any such thing as alternative in this discourse because each person’s sexuality is totally normal for them. I’m inspired to think harder about how I use the concept of “alternative”, and how that usage may be perpetuating some stigma and shame around parts of my own, and many other peoples’ identities and preferences.
Another big part of Alenna’s mission is to facilitate meaningful dialogue across the sexuality spectrum, or sexuality galaxy, as she put it. This is another thing very close to my heart. It is so easy to claim space as either straight or gay, or even queer or gay, either polymorous or swinger, either kinky or not kinky, either ethically slutty or asexual. It it much harder to acknowledge and embrace how all of our struggles and grievances are connected. But in doing the latter, we might realize what amazing collective power we hold; we’re all in this together!
I think it is easy for the idea of sex positivity to be misunderstood and misconstrued – as though it is rooted in the notion that simply having more sex is a better way to be. But as I see it, and as I believe Alenna sees it as well, sex positivity just means sex and sexuality that stems from a place of wholeness rather than a place of shame. There’s much more to say about the complexity of the term, and I would need to spend more time with the Center to learn about to what extent it s fulfilling its mission, but I am galvanized by Alenna’s views, and I am so grateful that we get to be in conversation with her.