Mindfulness and yoga should not be sexualized practices, especially considering their religious and spiritual roots. Yet, they can still guide our views on how we connect to our bodies.
Our practice of actionable mindfulness considers ways we liberate our bodies from obstacles and oppression. One of the ways we can honor our bodies and support our body liberation is through the idea of sexual freedom guided by the concept of sex positivity.
There are varying definitions and understandings of sex positive. Most of these frameworks share some common features, including not being judgmental towards sexuality and sexual preferences, dismantling the shame associated with sexuality and sex preferences, and an overall liberation from oppressive societal structures that dictate how we should use our bodies.
Sex positive does not necessarily mean a person is sexually active or hyperactive — what it means is a person who practices sex positivity believes that folks should have the agency to explore their own sexuality and preferences without shame, stigmatization, or marginalization.
Our bodies continue to be marginalized in many different ways. In some way, most of us have experienced marginalization or shame for how we use our bodies, or even dress in a way that expresses and honors ourselves sexually.
For many marginalized folks, the marginalization and shame associated with our bodies and sex are greater and become internalized.
Often, marginalization, stigmatization and shaming happens in the form of society policing how we choose to use our bodies — whether that is who we choose as sexual partners, how often we choose to use our bodies sexually, and the ways and means we choose to use our bodies.
One of the most pervasive acts that produce shame and a sense of unworthiness is “slut shaming”, defined as the policing and criticizing those who violate the expectations of behavior and appearance. Although this predominantly affects women, it also relates to how society polices and criticizes sexuality and how we choose to use our bodies.
Whether or not a person has been verbally slut shamed, in the media and everyday life, we see white cisgender heterosexual men heralded and praised for using their bodies in ways that women would be shamed and marginalized for doing.
If we take an even deeper dive, we may also notice the relationship to racism, as Lutze B, a social justice advocate, points out in her article Why I Won’t Call Myself A Slut. “‘Slut’ is the default position of black women, so attempting to subvert the word or own it would only further root the false stereotype in place,” she says. Lutze recalls the ‘welfare queen’ stigma created by Reagan, and also highlights the state sterilization of Black women. The practice of policing bodies and criticizing how folks use them is not only rooted in misogyny, but also in white supremacy and racism.
What inspired us to consider sexual freedom and body liberation was our previous Meditating On What Matters that discussed tone policing, a different way that our bodies are policed by society, and dug into the power of authenticity.
Body liberation and sexual freedom, in essence, promote a person’s agency over their body and living in authenticity to be who we are and experience our bodies in a way that is honoring, loving, and kind. Sexual freedom can be a way to deepen our body liberation. In sexual freedom and sex positivity, we seek to honor our bodies and let go of judgments about how we choose to live sexually.
Dismantling the shame and internalization of white supremacy and misogyny is vital to moving towards and advocating for body liberation. Our practice of mindfulness asks us to reflect on these internalized blockages, which are externally created. In taking the steps to acknowledge the sources of the shame and marginalization, we are able to see that our sexual freedom and agency over our bodies are linked to our body’s liberation.
Honoring our sexual freedom can mean a lot of different things, and it’s unique to each person. The most important part is that we continue to engage with our bodies in conversations and connect through practices like yoga. When we open ourselves to connecting to our bodies, we get to know what we enjoy and also what we don’t enjoy, without judgment or shame. As we dismantle the shame and marginalization related to sexual freedom, we can go deeper in our journey towards body liberation.
We don’t have to explore beyond our own limitations or enjoyment. We can still find ways to honor our bodies and sexual freedom. Using sex positivity as a guide, we notice it does not require exploration; rather, to deepen our liberation, the most important piece is dismantling the moral judgments of ourselves and others when it comes to sexual freedom.
This means that we don’t need to be sexually active, or act in a way that doesn’t truly honor ourselves and our bodies. In honoring our bodies, we seek to live authentically and deepen our liberation from shame, marginalization, and oppression. As we are worthy of love and respect, we are also worthy of living authentically and embracing our bodies as we move towards their liberation.
We may also use our practice to deepen our relationships with our bodies, and to notice any tension as we reflect on these concepts.
Yoga, in essence, is rooted in connecting our mind, body and spirit, and we are often asked to drop into our bodies and see what is being held there. Do we tense up considering exploring these concepts? Does our body request to move in a way that is conflicting with an oppressive internalized belief?
In reflecting on our own practices, we may also seek to amplify teachers who are advocating for sex positivity, or teachers who are seeking to deepen our connection with our sexuality and sexual preferences through our body.
Lastly, we may also consider what groups or communities are most at risk for being policed for their sexuality or sexual preferences. Mindful activism asks us to take action, which can look like sharing information about these communities, donating goods that are needed or making financial contributions to organizations that meet the needs of these communities.
What biases or beliefs do I have about my body, especially as it relates to sexual freedom and liberation?
What beliefs, shaming, or judgments about my body do I need to dismantle and let go of to deepen my liberation?
What comes up for me when I consider exploring these areas? Do I feel tension in my body anywhere? What happens to my breath?
How can I advocate for folks whose bodies are oppressed?