Recently when I was on vacation with my boyfriend I just wasn’t feeling ~it~. I wasn’t feeling sexy, I wasn’t feeling comfortable in our Airbnb, and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to deal with a dick inside of me. When my boyfriend wanted to get it on, all I could think about were the parts of sex that can sometimes be a drag: a sore vagina afterwards, getting sticky and needing to shower, and having to exert physical effort when really, I just wanted to sleep.
The first time this happened, I brushed the feeling off and pushed through. The next time, I told him I wasn’t in the mood. And by the third time, I was worried: WTF was going on with me? Was I not attracted to my partner anymore? Did I just not like sex now?
I went into a full-on spiral. After all, I had always been the horniest person I knew, and now there was a sexy, naked, loving man in front of me and my body was telling me that watching a Friends re-run would actually be preferable to an orgasm. Plus, I work in the sex and relationships realm, and turning down sex made me feel like a fraud. Basically, I was feeling not only like a shitty girlfriend, but also like a failed feminist. Not the vacation vibes I was going for!
A week of avoiding sex passed, and I realized that my newly lowered libido was something that I had to confront. After a talk with my partner, and thinking long and hard about it, I came to a realization: I wasn’t being a bad girlfriend for not wanting to have sex. I wasn’t even being a bad feminist—it can actually be sex positive to not have sex.
The problem was that I was thinking about sex positivity all wrong, as though the most important part was actually doing the deed. So much of the fight for sexual acceptance has been around not only respecting a spectrum of genders and orientations, but also eliminating kink shaming and slut shaming. So it’s easy to think that expressing your sex positivity means having a lot of kinky sex, as though the only people eligible to win a sex positivity trophy are those swinging from the ceiling and having thirteen-somes with non-monogamous partners all day long. Which is why I was thrown for a loop when I didn’t want to have sex anymore—what did sex positivity mean when sex wasn’t in the picture?
Well, according to renowned sex educator Carol Queen, “Sex-positivity allows for, and in fact celebrates, sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.” In other words, actually having sex has nothing to do with it. Sex positivity is about accepting others’ sexual preferences, being opened-minded, valuing consent, and feeling empowered to make the sexual choices that work for you. No one way of being sexual is better than another, and guess what: not wanting to have sex is on the spectrum of human sexuality, so it’s totally legit.
Thinking about it, my initial logic was so flawed: I would never slut-shame myself, so why was I prude-shaming myself? Continuing to push myself to have sex and resenting it the whole time wouldn’t have been an enjoyable experience, so saying no was the right choice for me, which also made it the more empowered and sex positive choice.
A few weeks later, my sex drive came back, but my rut taught me a valuable lesson: The reason I started panicking was because I let myself give into what I thought I should be doing rather than what I actually wanted to do. But when it comes to sex and sexuality, as long as consent is involved, being true to yourself—and your vagina—is always the way to go.