Sex Positivity, Pornography and Feminism

, Sex Positivity, Pornography and Feminism, The Habari News New York
, Sex Positivity, Pornography and Feminism, The Habari News New York

To the Editor:

Re “Sex-Positive Feminism Is Falling Out of Fashion,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, Sept. 25):

Ms. Goldberg asserts, “It’s no longer radical, or even really necessary, to proclaim that women take pleasure in sex.” I disagree. I was 26 the first time I heard a woman speak publicly about women’s pleasure. In a world where women face danger, it’s still courageous — and important.

Many women today are starting businesses addressing women’s sexual wellness — and fighting the discrimination their businesses face. A feminism affirming pleasure is not over. We’re barely getting started.

While it’s true that 1980s sex-positive feminism was a response to antipornography feminism, sex positivity takes a different shape. Sex positivity is about me being me, and you being you, and both of our experiences and desires being valid — within the contexts of consenting adults. It’s about consent. Acceptance. Freedom from shame. Being able to make authentic choices. Sex positivity embraces the choice not to have sex.

Jackie Rotman
New York
The writer, a millennial, is the founder and chief executive of the Center for Intimacy Justice, a nonprofit focused on women’s sexual equality.

To the Editor:

I really appreciated Michelle Goldberg’s column. It gave a perspective that is in line with the experiences I witnessed in 2013 as an employee at a pornography addiction recovery nonprofit for teenagers.

This younger generation is coming to realize how pornography has shaped their perspectives of sex, and how unhealthy and out of touch with reality those perspectives really are. The one thing I will never forget about the work I did at that organization is the countless disturbing and heartbreaking stories from youths who recounted how others — both adults and their peers — sexually assaulted them by acting out on them the pornography they had just viewed. I came to understand how harmful and misogynistic pornography really can be.

Good for the younger generation today for seeing those harms and calling them out. Their futures will be better by doing so. I hope they turn the tide for their own sakes and for the sake of women and girls everywhere.

Heather Cox
Eagle Mountain, Utah

To the Editor:

Michelle Goldberg’s column misses a lot of what sex positivity was about. Though some feminists saw value (or at least potential) in pornography, it was never a prerequisite for exploring ways to have the sex you wanted, uncontaminated by power relations, convention, drama or myth.

Sex-positive feminists held that sex could be different things for the same people at different times: a language of love, a solitary pleasure, an erotic thrill, a form of play, an itch. And all such possibilities were OK, as long as they weren’t secret; open, respectful negotiation and contracting between partners were essential.

I don’t think this vision of sex positivity is dead or dying. It’s just not very visible, because it’s hard work, and because most women never identified either as feminist or as sex positive. Most remained conventional and insecure, and most still get squirmy about any ideology of sex that isn’t judgmental, particularly about polyamory.

, Sex Positivity, Pornography and Feminism, The Habari News New York

Deborah J. Kayman
New York

To the Editor:

I take exception to Sara Clemence’s Opinion guest essay, “Let’s Be Better Tourists” (nytimes.com, Sept. 29).

First, given our fraught social and political environment, how can she blithely lump all Americans together for any kind of critique? Second — and this underscores my first point — my experience does not mirror hers.

My wife and I and another couple travel frequently to the United Kingdom and Europe, and I have yet to encounter more than a handful of loud or rude Americans. I’m sure there are Yanks who behave as badly overseas as they do at home. But to call them even the majority seems crass.

No doubt Ms. Clemence conducts herself with Poppinsesque decorum as she rubs elbows with fashionistas. But beyond her exemplar, whom can we seek for guidance?

She and I must haunt different arrondissements. I lost a lot of sleep during our last trip to Paris, and the all-night rowdies were baying mostly French and German; I heard no English. And as far as considerate traveling companions go, I’ll take personal hygiene over haute couture any day.

Ms. Clemence starts by excoriating Americans for their behavior and ends by scolding us for not meeting her standards for our itineraries. I’ll thank her not to instruct me on how to conduct my own travel.

Although I share a few of Ms. Clemence’s sentiments, I resent being lumped together with all Americans and branded as “terrible tourists.”

Bob Campbell
Noblesville, Ind.

To the Editor:

It’s ludicrous to suggest that going on a tour group is a more locally sensitive way to travel. Virtually all tour operators will take you to exactly the most overtouristed places because that’s what most people want and expect.

Tour groups bring throngs of people all at once rather than more naturally spaced out. They make it largely impossible to have a natural, personal and authentic interaction with a local. They also funnel people to the shops, sights and restaurants already most touristed and clichéd, and most culturally removed from the local community.

Tour groups make their participants into consumers of sights and experience, rather than providing authentic experiences.

Nick Canfield
Brooklyn