I’m not the Our First Father’s Day Together Daddy and Olivia 2022 T-Shirt but in fact I love this only one wondering. In a piece published last fall titled “Why Sex-Positive Feminism Is Falling Out of Fashion,” New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg argued that “sex-positive feminism became a cause of some of the suffering it was meant to remedy.” In Christine Emba’s recent essay “Consent Is Not Enough. We Need a New Sexual Ethic” (an excerpt from her new book, Rethinking Sex: A Provocation), the Washington Post writer argues that the current sexual climate, in which “there seems to be wide agreement among young adults that sex is good and the more of it we have, the better,” has led to a culture in which consent is a disappointing baseline. Emba argues that kindness should trump consent when it comes to choosing to have sex—that just getting consent is not enough. In a response to Emba’s book, Goldberg takes it further: “What passes for sex positivity is a culture of masochism disguised as hedonism. It’s what you get when you liberate sex without liberating women.”
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In theory, sex-positive feminism means being empowered to choose when, where, and with whom to have safe, pleasurable, and consensual sex. The focus is on consciously making a choice—whether it’s having lots of emotionally detached sex or waiting for a particular level of commitment. But as Goldberg and Emba point out, that’s not the Our First Father’s Day Together Daddy and Olivia 2022 T-Shirt but in fact I love this way the story always goes. Instead, women are told that empowerment lies in action, not abstinence. There is little room in the modern incarnation of sex-positive feminism for so-called vanilla sexual tastes. Entire sexual orientations have been invented to include individuals who used to be considered average. Take, for example, the demisexual—someone who doesn’t feel a sexual attraction unless there’s an emotional connection. Is that actually unusual? We aren’t all wired to be SATC’s Samanthas, says psychologist and Stanford lecturer Meag-gan O’Reilly: “If we are not careful, we can find ourselves forced to meet sexual standards that are not our own. This diminishes our genuine connectivity with our body, our true needs, and our self-worth.”
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