Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights


Ever sat in a room of people freely admitting that they’ve paid for sex? I dunno if it’s just awkward because I just ‘left Virginia’ months ago, but I was at a loss for words. And that’s scary for me for more than one reason…

So I just finished my weekend-long CVC/COIN workshop on Sunday, and I had a fantastic time. I learned how to survive a deliberately tough interview, unpacked more about what we’re dealing with as sexual and reproductive health and rights activists, and learned more about how the law and people’s perceptions affect the work that we do. I also spent the entire three days dealing with how I’m probably not the best-equipped person to do this sort of work mentally…

I can admit it; I had an intensely hard time dealing with the sex-positive thought in the room. Some of the three days was spent empowering sex workers who engage in that kind of risky work as a personal choice or to supplement their income as something that should be considered normal and established industry, and non-monogamous relationships or promiscuous behavior to be viewed as unimportant socially…all things that I can understand, but I’m not sure I can say I agree with it…

Some might consider this an apt description of my views around sex. I’m not inclined to agree…but I’m not strongly disagreeing either…if that makes sense…

As an activist, though, my work is for those groups. The people who want to have the freedom to have casual sexual encounters and be protected, or have open or extended relationships with multiple partners and not be put at risk, or have their ’employment’ as sex workers protected and respected regardless of whether it’s to put food on the table or a Blackberry in pocket.

But as Brendon Jeremy O’Brien, the whole thing scares me. My mother is not proud of the activist she raised all the time, but she’s immensely pleased with the sexually conservative, monogamous heterosexual male. I am strongly against open relationships, stated to my last girlfriend that there was no way we were having a threesome – with a man or a woman – and it took almost a year for this warm-blooded 22-year-old male to have sex with his girlfriend. One might say my mother raised me well. But more and more would say she raised me horribly – to be afraid of sex, afraid to explore and express myself sexually, closed-minded and eager to police other people’s sexualities. I actually had someone that I considered a friend of mine tell me that my view of relationships were ‘conservative and safe’, with a very weird disappointment in her tone. I was shattered. Honestly.

It could be very much true I don’t understand the first thing about being sex-positive. If it’s just about being in control of your sexual encounters, what they mean and who they are with, then I’m in agreement…I think. Because, for me, there are still some sorts of sexual behavior that I would warn people about, not because of STDs or pregnancy. Because of the social factors that (in my my view very rightly) govern sex and intimacy, and reclaiming the idea that sex is something intimate that builds a certain type of relationship. There are complications other than health ones that should govern how we deal with sex. Social ones, psychological and emotional ones, that I think that the idea of ‘freeing love’ has eroded. Love was never bound. I think people didn’t want to be bound by love.

From a historical perspective it can still be said that I’m talking out of my ass. Monogamy in its shape now is a new-world, European idea that was imported with colonialism, and even now there are people of certain religions in happy polygamous marriages, and even coaching websites for those who want to make open relationships work for them.

This website,, is one of those same websites catering for those curious about open relationships and open marriages. Courtesy Juju Mama’s Love Academy

But in the same way I think polygamy has taken a drastically different shape since the ‘free love’ movement. Originally, that would’ve fallen to the exact same socioeconomic factors that govern relationships today. It wasn’t meant to break down the monogamous system or display its flaws or misgivings. But is that why I see it as so strange? Because it’s a counterculture in every sense of the term? Maybe. After all, I spent the last 700 words saying I’m a prude.

This is something that I’ve been rabidly unpacking so I can be more effective – and more honest – as a sexual and reproductive health and rights activist. But for now, I think I’m defining myself as sex-negative…


6 thoughts on “Sex-Negative?

  1. “I also spent the entire three days dealing with how I’m probably not the best-equipped person to do this sort of work mentally…”

    But how many people ever are? Really? Are you equipped? Are you dedicated?

    Then you are boots on the ground.

  2. You need to lighten up…just saying. But then again you’re young and inexperienced with a great deal about life, so you’ll either learn and adapt or…not.

    1. I’m not sure that experience with life is synonymous with sexual liberalism. In fact, I think I’ve experienced a lot as a ‘prude’ where sex and sexuality is concerned. Or maybe I misunderstood you saying I should ‘lighten up’…

  3. For me, sex positivity allows for sexual conservatism. at it’s core, it simply requires that sex and sexual acts, whether or not you participate or engage, be fully consensual and that shaming others for their sexual choices does not happen.

    1. I dunno Ishara…I mean, what you say is absolutely true, but a lot of sex-positive folks have called me out on my conservatism, whether I’ve made it a big deal or not. In their defense, I’ve made it a big deal sometimes…lol.

  4. Hmmm. Some really honest stuff. You know what I always say: give it time. Never straightjacket your sexuality. In terms of “the work”, though, I think you’re a little right, and your language betrays some of that. In that if you don’t honestly believe in certain kinds of sexual values, you’re not an effective advocate for them and it becomes advocating for “those people”. Find the things you believe in about sexuality to advocate for. And don’t straightjacket yourself into being a sexual rights advocate either. Seize the opening life is presenting you to figure out why you’re a prude, and what kind you want to be. Do the personal work first. The activism can cloud that. And the blogging.

Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s