SEXed: Accentuate the Positive

Freud student crafts useful label for talking about sex

This is not your typical sex column. My approach to sex education comes from a concept you’ve probably never heard of —sex positive.

Sex positive is the idea that pleasure is natural and healthy and that you have the capacity to experience as much or as little pleasure as you want, as long as it’s consensual and safe. It means I believe it’s important to be educational, medically accurate and supportive of diverse needs and desires.

I didn’t make this up. The idea of sex positive and sex negative was made popular by a student of Sigmund Freud named Wilhelm Reich.

Reich believed that “sexuality, fundamental to our being, and yet a source of shame for centuries, had the power to heal much of what ailed us, if only we would let it.”

The modern sex positive movement builds on that idea with another adage: not all people enjoy sex to the same degree. It’s important to state that if sex is not important to you, that’s just fine too! Many people who identify as asexual lead happy, healthy lives and maintain fulfilling relationships.

Growing up in Santa Fe gave me great insight into diversity and acceptance of ‘other’ lifestyles. Moving to Albuquerque and attending the University of New Mexico gave me even more perspective on how most New Mexicans have room for improvement when it comes to accepting sexuality as a natural, healthy part of life.

Another aspect of sex positive education is that I won’t shame you if you like being tied up, or you want to use a male chastity device. I won’t shame you if you want to have sex in the missionary position for the rest of your life and never want to be spanked. I won’t shame you if you if you want to be consensually non-monogamous and you enjoy having multiple partners. I won’t shame you if you love one person, and don’t want to bring others into your relationship. I won’t shame you if you have a fetish that doesn’t personally jive with my fantasies and desires. As a consenting adult you are able to make your own choices about your sexuality, your sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

As the store manager at Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center; New Mexico’s only woman-owned and operated, sex-positive, education-based retail shop specializing in non-toxic sex toys — I also want to raise awareness of the incredible diversity of human sexuality. I want to help reduce shame and fear of discussions around sex and masturbation, and to help those conversations come out of the closet. These are lofty goals, I know. But you might be surprised at the number of people who crave this type of discussion around sexuality. Almost every day in my job someone tells me they have so many questions to which they want answers, but they don’t feel comfortable asking a doctor or partner.  I have visited with couples who’ve been married for 30 years, and are just now talking to each other about what their desires are, and what they want to try next.

So, let’s create a dialogue around sexuality and gender in Santa Fe that will be valuable to a diverse audience.

Next month’s November column will look at polyamory and what it means, (loving more than one person in an ethical, honest way). Santa Fe is home to a strong voice and activist for polyamory, Mim Chapman.

I welcome feedback and story ideas, which you can send to Additionally, I will answer your anonymous questions about sex and sexuality, so please feel free to send those too and check back at

Hunter Riley is a Santa Fe native living and working in Albuquerque. She is the store manager of Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center.

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