Philly collective talks sex-positive resistance in American politics

When Wilhelm Reich moved from fascist Europe to America in the 1930s, he brought with him the idea that sexual freedom is the core of all liberation. Reich actually coined the term “sexual revolution,” and said “freedom without sexual self-determination is in itself a contradiction.”

He made the case that fascists are able to control populations not just because of overt acts of force, but by infesting our minds – through sexual guilt. If we internalize sexual shame, it affects how we think about ourselves and determines what we do with our bodies, as well as how we treat others. If someone can control that, he argued, there really isn’t anything they can’t control.

Legislation today, as either passed law or on the table to become law continues to make it harder to be a woman or a sexual minority – curtailing access to education and health care and allowing religion to be used an excuse for old-fashioned slut-shaming and homophobic bigotry. Those hardest hurt are already the most marginalized, people of color, the disabled and low-income earners.

Sex negativism is the idea that sex is only acceptable under very specific conditions, and only truthfully for procreation within a legally recognized marriage.

And the idea at its head scratching core?

That the pursuit of pleasure is a vice, only certain people are allowed to be sexual, and all deviations deserve to be punished.

Enter SEXx, a sex positive collective in Philly holding their fourth annual event on May 17th, entitled SEXx: Sex as Resistance. The event is divided into two segments: a series of TEDx style talks about sexuality and a slate of live performances. The content ranges from professional and academic to the deeply personal. The TEDx portion will be emceed by nationally renowned activist and author Feminista Jones, with the event as a whole aiming to focus on sexuality’s power for political liberation.

“It’s incredibly important that we continue to have open, radical conversations about sex and sexuality, particularly during a period of great movement and change,” says Jones. “SEXx creates a space for people to come together and engage in these necessary discussions and experiences.”

Topics of speakers will include relationship anarchy, the rarely discussed orientation of asexuality, giving voice to survivors of sexual trauma, and how the ideas of gender and health are invented constructs. The live performances will range from drag kings and queens to poets and singers.

This author is one of the co-founders of SEXx, along with Elicia Gonzales. Gonzales says of going into this fourth year of the event that, “We will only be more queer, more brown, more black, more gender affirming, more kinky, more body positive, and more unapologetic than ever. Join us.”

According to those who study authoritarianism, sex negativism is essential to maintaining power. An “exaggerated concern for proper sexual conduct” is a feature of fascist regimes seen over history and across the world. Meanwhile, sexual freedom is key to liberation movements: releasing women from the tyranny of endless pregnancies, decriminalizing interracial relationships, de-pathologizing same-sex attractions, kicking government out of private relationships, and asserting that each person has full bodily autonomy.

Bottom line: Being the final authority on your own sexuality is part of deconstructing sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression. Expressing sexuality that is outside the socially acceptable bounds is an act of resistance.

All of which will be the main topic of conversation when SEXx kicks off, May 17.

SEXx: Sex as Resistance take place May 17. There will be a live TEDx style talk from  7-9pm at the William Way LGBT Community Center (xxx), followed by live performances from 10pm-12am at Franky Bradley’s (1320 Chancellor St). Entry is sliding scale, a portion of the proceeds go to benefit Project Safe. For more information, visit:


    • Timaree Schmit Headshot

      Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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