Sex Positivity Self-Assessment

How sex positive are you, really? Here are 80 questions to help you figure it out.

Content warning: This article includes questions about your views on bodies, reproduction, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual preferences, as well as references to non-consensual sexual experiences. Please exercise self-care and take breaks or skip sections as needed.

Wondering where you land on the scale of ‘puritan’ to ‘hedonist’? Trying to be a more sex-positive person, or feeling like you’re already the champion of sex positivity?

This questionnaire is for you!

I got this idea after my talk on Becoming More Sex Positive (video above) and I just had to run with it. These questions are open-ended and are not meant to ‘score’ you or anyone’s level of sex positivity. This isn’t a contest.

Rather, think of these as journal prompts or conversation starters. Reflect on your responses, share them with friends, and decide for yourself where your areas of strength vs. improvement lie.

There are no right or wrong answers. Sex positivity is a journey, not a destination.

This assessment is designed to get you thinking, and perhaps draw your attention to something you hadn’t yet considered. Mark your calendar and take it again in a year to see which of your responses have changed.

What is sex positivity?

Photo by Vanessa Garcia

Sex positivity is the idea that sex is healthy and pleasurable, and that everyone should be free to embody, explore, and learn about their sexuality without judgment or shame.

In this context, the words ‘sex’ and ‘sexuality’ refer to consensual sexual activity, embodiment, exploration, and learning. Consent is freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific. Nonconsensual sexual activity is not sex.

On the other hand, consensual sexual activity of any kind is sex. Oral sex, solo sex (aka masturbation), queer sex, group sex, kinky sex, and sexting are all healthy and pleasurable examples of sex. The list of ways to have sex is literally endless, and not at all limited to specific body parts doing specific things.

Every person who becomes more sex positive gains more ability to hold sex-positive space for others. The more of us who do this work, the more sex-positive space exists in the world, and the less space there is for sex negativity.

Let’s make sex negativity go out of style!

The Sex Positivity Self-Assessment

Photo by Pew Nguyen

Before we begin, I want to point out that this is far from a comprehensive assessment. I think it’s a great start, but it would make me super happy if we could come together to add even more to it and clarify/improve in places where I may have fallen short or messed up.

So, if you notice something I’ve missed that should be on here or something I could have phrased better, please feel free to comment or reach out to me!

Let’s get started.

Section 1: The Basics

A great place to start with your self-assessment is with the definition of sex positivity provided above.

  1. Do you feel that sex is healthy?
  2. Do you feel that sex is pleasurable?
  3. Should everyone be free to embody their sexuality free of judgment or shame?
  4. Should everyone be free to explore their sexuality free of judgment or shame?
  5. Should everyone be free to learn about their sexuality free of judgment or shame?
  6. Should you or anyone feel guilty or ashamed for enjoying sexual pleasure?

Great! Now let’s dig a little deeper:

  1. What are some words you know for nonconsensual sexual acts?
  2. Do you see nonconsensual acts as separate and/or distinct from sex and sexuality?
  3. What are some consensual sex acts you don’t personally engage in?
  4. Does it bother you that other people engage in those consensual sex acts (the ones you don’t engage in)?
  5. Do you feel that a sex act must involve more than just consent to count as sex? If so, what else must be involved, and why?

While these questions are based on the definition of sex positivity provided above, there are many definitions out there. Try searching ‘definition of sex positivity’ online or reading Sex Positive: Redefining Our Attitudes To Love and Sex to decide if there’s a definition that works better for you.

Section 2: Common Topics

Important note: None of the topics below are inherently controversial. This is a list of topics that I find frequently come up when discussing sex and sexuality with adults. It is not a list of issues; rather, it’s a list of fascinations birthed from our culture’s limited view of and comfort with sex and sexuality.

A few items below likely describe you and your sexual experiences—some positive, some negative, some neutral.

Taken to the extreme, a completely sex-positive society would include comprehensive, lifelong sex education, access to reproductive health resources for all, and diverse sexualities and forms of sexual expression in our communities. In this scenario, things on the (incomplete) list below would be understood as natural, expected parts of communal life and sexuality.

However, many people feel uncomfortable with or have conflicting feelings around at least a few things listed here. (Even I’m still working through my feelings on some of them.) Please take care of yourself if items here (or their presence on the list) are distressing for you.

What feelings and thoughts come up for you for each of these topics?

  1. sex ed in schools
  2. contraception (for minors and adults)
  3. sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  4. age gaps between adult partners
  5. sex and disability
  6. pregnancy (unplanned or planned)
  7. miscarriage
  8. abortion
  9. sex work
  10. pornography
  11. masturbation
  12. high/low libido
  13. bisexuality/pansexuality
  14. homosexuality
  15. asexuality
  16. gender affirmation
  17. nonmonogamy
  18. kink/fetishes
  19. BDSM

More Notes on Common Topics

Being sex positive doesn’t mean you have to be 100% comfortable with everything on this list and the many things not included on it. It also doesn’t mean you can’t be sad about a miscarriage or scared if you get an STI diagnosis.

Your feelings about your personal experiences with sex and sexuality are valid. When it comes to understanding why others are comfortable with things you’re not, try to explore the source of your discomfort and listen to others’ experiences and understandings.

YKINMK: Your Kink Is Not My Kink, but your kink is okay, is a common phrase used in sex-positive kink circles. It applies well to many aspects of sexuality.

Someone else’s kink, sexual orientation, reproductive decisions, or sexual expression may not be for you, and that’s okay—you’re never required to participate in something you don’t want to (that’s how consent works!). Sex positivity simply implores you to not shame others for these things.

Being sex positive isn’t about being into every possible sex act or expression. It’s about not judging others for their interests, orientation, and choices even if they’re not your thing.

Boundary-Pushing Exploration

A common hurdle even sex-positive people bump up against is fantasy play that involves scenarios that would not be consensual outside of the fantasy. This includes discomfort with fantasy play where adults pretend to be animals, children, or victims/perpetrators of assault, rape, or torture, for example.

It’s important to remember that if the people involved are adults who have negotiated informed, freely given, enthusiastic, reversible, specific consent then there is nothing necessarily wrong with these acts.

A caveat I usually add here is that there are sometimes situations where not enough attention is paid to ensuring physical, emotional, and mental safety. Sometimes, one or both parties aren’t informed enough to understand what they are consenting to and unintended injury or harm can occur.

Concerned about the physical or mental health of loved ones engaged in boundary-pushing exploration? Find some private time to gently, non-judgmentally express your concerns and keep an open mind to their response. If you don’t feel capable of this, ask someone you trust to do it for you.

See or hear about someone engaging in nonconsensual acts or saying they’d like to? Say something! Ask any nonconsenting party if you can advocate on their behalf. RAINN is a great resource here if you need support.

Section 3: Personal Practices

Photo by freestocks.org

Let’s talk about how you privately navigate and regard sex, consent, safety, your body, and what media you consume.

How do you feel about sex?

  1. What are some positive or neutral words you could use to describe sex?
  2. What are some negative words you could use to describe sex?
  3. Do you ever feel guilty or ashamed of enjoying sex or pleasure?
  4. Do you ever feel guilty or ashamed of wanting sex or pleasure?
  5. Are you comfortable engaging in sex acts?
  6. Are you comfortable with the parts of your body you use for sexual pleasure?
  7. Are you comfortable with the fantasies, erotica, and/or porn you enjoy?

How do you handle consent?

  1. What steps do you take to ensure you have someone’s consent before touching them or making sexual advances?
  2. How do you handle rejection?
  3. How do you handle someone withdrawing consent?
  4. What steps do you take to ensure you clearly communicate your consent or lack thereof?

How do you practice safer sex?

  1. What steps do you take to ensure your and any partners’ mental, emotional, and physical safety during sex?
  2. What health considerations do you keep in mind while making decisions about sex?
  3. If you’re currently having partnered sex, have you been tested for STIs in the last year?
  4. If you’re currently trying to avoid pregnancy, what steps are you taking to do so?
  5. Are there ways you could improve your safer sex practices?

How do you feel about your body?

  1. Are you comfortable with your body?
  2. Do you feel your body is sexy?
  3. Do you ever wish your body was different?
  4. Do your feelings about your body negatively impact your sex life?

How do you feel about nudity?

  1. Do you feel nudity is inherently sexual?
  2. Are you comfortable being naked?
  3. Can you be naked without it feeling sexual?
  4. Would you go or have you gone to a nude event or location, like a beach?

What do you read or listen to?

  1. Do you read books, blogs, and publications with limited or broad ideas of what constitutes ‘acceptable’ sex and sexual expression?
  2. Do you listen to podcasts, radio shows, or music that casts sex and diverse sexualities in a negative or positive light?
  3. Could you stand to better curate your reading and listening towards more sex-positive content?

What’s on your social media feeds?

  1. Do you follow sex educators, LGBTQIA+ individuals and organizations, reproductive health providers, sex workers, and/or others who provide diverse views and knowledge about sex and sexuality?
  2. Are you uncomfortable when posts about sex or sexuality appear on your feed?
  3. Do you follow anti-LGBTQIA+, anti-abortion, anti-reproductive rights, anti-sex work, or other sex-negative accounts?

Section 4: Interpersonal Practices

Photo by cottonbro

Now we’ll delve into your comfort with sexuality in the public sphere:

Do you talk about sex?

  1. Are you comfortable talking about sex with others?
  2. Do you have people you can go to when you have questions about sex?
  3. Do you have anyone to talk to about the great sex you’ve had?
  4. Do you ever use humor to mask discomfort when talking about sex?
  5. Are you able to ask for the sexual interactions you want from partners?
  6. Do you speak positively about your sexuality?

Who do you choose to spend time with?

Do you seek the company of people who make negative comments or judgments about:

  1. consensual sex acts?
  2. people’s sex lives?
  3. people’s number of sexual partners?
  4. sexual interests different than their own?
  5. the LGBTQIA+ community?
  6. sex work or sex workers?
  7. creative sexual expression, such as erotica, burlesque, and music about sex?
  8. sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
  9. people’s bodies?
  10. pregnancy planning (or lack thereof)?
  11. contraception or abortion?

If you spend time with people who check a lot of these boxes:

  1. Why is that?
  2. Do you agree with them when it comes to these views?
  3. Do you want to continue to hear their thoughts on these topics?

A Note on Identity and Community

Being a member of the LGBTQIA+, kink, nonmonogamous, or similar communities doesn’t guarantee sex positivity or give anyone a ‘free pass’. However, having those identities and/or engaging with those communities does often help.

Because these communities’ orientations and preferences go against the grain of conventional sexual practices, members have often had to think a lot more about consent and be more open-minded when defining sex and embracing sexuality.

Not being a member of those communities doesn’t mean you’re sex negative. Participating in allyship and working to ensure the communities you are in are welcoming for people of all sexual and gender identities is a great way to exercise sex positivity.

If you notice discrimination against people for their sexual orientation, gender, or sexual preferences, say something or remove yourself from the group if you can.

Volunteerism, Advocacy, and Activism

Finally, a great way to publicly exercise and spread sex positivity is to put time and effort into spreading it beyond yourself.

This could mean volunteering, advocating, or becoming an activist in the realms of:

  • LGBTQIA+ rights
  • reproductive justice
  • decriminalizing sex work
  • sex ed in schools
  • …wherever you feel called!

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Looking to be More Sex Positive?

Whew! That was a long one. I hope you found at least one prompt that inspired thoughtful exploration

Interested in digging deeper? Head over to Facebook to join my Sex Positive Book Club, then snag yourself a free copy of Talking About Sex: A Sex-Positive Communication Activity Book for Relationships and Life:

$14.99 value —FREE!

This 30-page activity book is chock-full of reflective prompts and information about consent, sex positivity, sexual communication, and sex in relationships.

Designed to spark important conversations and help you reduce barriers to great sex, this $14.99 value is available free for a limited time. Enter your email below to get it in your inbox now!

Looking for something more conversational? Check out my new classes and see if there’s one that’s right for you.

And as always, stay sexy. ❤

$14.99 value — FREE for a limited time

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Published by Shannon Burton

Sex educator and writer by day, poet and flash fiction author by night, I occasionally manage to get out of the house to enjoy New Orleans as it's meant to be.

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