Katie Thurston caused quite a stir during her stint on The Bachelor. The bachelorette, who was vying for a rose from bachelor Matt James, casually produced the sparkly pink vibrator she credited with “getting her through quarantine” on the first night of the show. Since that unforgettable debut, she’s been billed as the “sex-positive bachelorette”, a title she wears with pride.
The Sexually Positive Bachelorette
In the past, The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise was not focused on topics of consent or female sexual liberation, preferring to lead with themes of male-led romantic overtures, sexual purity, and an eventual proposal of marriage. In recent seasons, the shows had struggled with keeping up with the global zeitgeist surrounding sexual politics, consent, and sexual harassment.
Katie Thurston flipped the script with her “sex-positive” approach and opened up the conversation surrounding sex positivity as a whole. The show ran with the concept, even advertising Katie’s appearance as The Bachelorette with the tagline “See What All the Buzz is About!”
As Katie told Variety Magazine, “Sex positivity is such a thing for me. I talk about sex in a very casual way.”
As can be expected, there were some eyebrows raised and outright pushback on Katie’s openly “sex-positive” stance. However, the show decided to run with it, peppering episodes with every sexual innuendo under the sun and solidifying Katie’s role as the “sexually positive vixen”.
What is Sex Positivity?
Sex positivity is an attitude towards sexuality that emphasizes healthy consensual sexual activity and encourages pleasure-seeking and experimentation. Sexual positivity had its last heyday amid the third wave of feminism in the early 1990s. The movement was uniquely diverse compared to past movements, involving the LGBTQ community, sex workers, and feminist scholars. There were also spikes of sexual positivity among the feminist waves of the 1960s and 1970s.
The world colors today’s sexual positivity around us. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the rise of social media-based sex work through mediums like OnlyFans, sexual positivity is largely female-led and female-centered.
Famous “Sex Positive” Females Leading the Charge
Katie Thurston is not the first well-known “sex-positive” person, and she certainly will not be the last. Throughout history, notable women have leveraged sexual exploration and positive pleasure-seeking to send a message of feminine strength. Madonna is probably the most well-known “sexually positive” celebrity in recent years. She paved the way for people like Issa Rae, Amber Rose, and Rhianna, who have utilized sexual positivity and liberation in their work and messaging. In the late 1990s, shows like Sex and the City showcased sexually positive women who knew what they liked and weren’t afraid to talk about it.
Sexual Positivity Meets Safe Sex
Amid the AIDS epidemic, the early 1990s was all about safe sex. Salt N Pepa wanted to “talk about sex, baby,” and all-girl R&B group TLC even donned condoms as accessories.
In this sexually aware climate, Condomania was opened in a brick-and-mortar location on Bleeker Street in New York City. With a mission of promoting healthy sexuality and inclusivity, we sought not only to sell condoms but to educate about safe sex in a non-judgemental way.
These days, Condomania operates solely online but has expanded offerings to play to the demand and desires of an increasingly “sex-positive” populace. Just as we met the moment in the early 1990s safe-sex culture, we still maintain relevance in today’s resurgence of sexual positivity.
We have worked to foster a community of sexually positive people who can ask questions and learn about pleasure and safe sexual practices in a space free from judgment.
Judgement-free zones are where sexually positive people can be their authentic selves and continue to endorse self-pleasure and a healthy approach to sexuality.
With well-known personalities endorsing “sex positivity” and businesses supporting the viewpoint, stigmas are being struck down and sexual choices can be made without shame.
Defining the New Sex Positivity
Part of being “sex-positive” is maintaining control over your sexual behavior and maintaining healthy boundaries in your sex life.
Over the years, sex workers have been on the fringe of sexual revolutions. While some “sex-positive” movements were inclusive of sex workers, sex work remains taboo in many areas of the world, including in the United States.
OnlyFans, a London-based subscription service, provides sex workers with the ability to control their work and make a good living while still maintaining boundaries.
OnlyFans star Monica Huldt is a shining example of how one can marry a “sex-positive” attitude and sex work into a lucrative career. She is one of the site’s top earners while still maintaining the boundaries she finds essential and not doing anything she may find uncomfortable.
It’s this freedom and ability to set healthy boundaries that defines new “sex positivity.” The women are indeed in charge. With advances in social media technology, an open approach to talking about pleasure and sexual health, and an openness to showcasing “sex-positive” personalities like Katie Thurston on prime-time television, this is not your mother’s sexual revolution. We are entering a sexually positive era all our own, defined by the people and businesses willing to blaze a trail free of judgment or taboo.