4. Body, Movement, & Dance

Body Positivity: What Does it Really Mean?

On my way to work yesterday, I was thinking about the meaning of sex-positivity.
To be sex-positive means to have an active sexual ethic that counters the dominant sex-negative, patriarchal, rape culture. In contrast, sex-positivity involves values such as knowledge, consent, agency, pleasure, and queerness.
As I thought about this conception of sex-positivity, I asked myself what, specifically, are the parallel values of body-positivity. What values do we want to promote in the place of body-negative, thin-obsessed, food-obsessed, fat phobia?
I realized that during my Body Positive Challenge (see past blog posts with this tag), I was doing something every day that felt like a positive step in caring for and enjoying my body. I knew I needed to do something active rather than just have a thought or feeling about it. However, now I’m thinking about it, and I’m looking for more of a theory, a conceptual goal for the process.
What are body-positive values? Can you name some? What knowledge, skills and attitudes to we need in order to effectively lead body-positive lives?
For years I proceeded with the goal of avoiding body-negativity by avoiding the topic of bodies. I clearly reversed that approach when I started the Body Positive Challenge! But now that I’ve entered the conversation, often I still don’t know quite what to say.
In sex-positivity I have found not only values, but a whole language that allows me to discuss the pleasures, pains and challenges of sex and sexuality. I’m yearning for an analogous—and overlapping, definitely—set of words and values to use to talk about both our own and others’ bodies: how we feel about them, how we think about them, and how we treat them.
I’m eager to hear your thoughts and suggestions, and I look forward to sharing more with you as I ponder this key realm of sexuality.

Published by Mimi Arbeit

Mimi Arbeit

sexuality educator, developmental scientist, feminist.

2 thoughts on “Body Positivity: What Does it Really Mean?”

  1. Daniel says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Wholly Foolish says:

    Studying Eco-feminism gave me, I think, some entry-points to what I think you are calling "body positivity." A lot of Eco-fem writers use the idea of "sensuality" to connect individuals to their flesh, and the matrix of flesh in which they are composed. To identify one's body as a node upon the whole– I think that's a body-positive practice, because it connects one's body to the universal.

    Another academic approach (one you might've expected from this commenter) would be to enjoy the Subject/Object dynamics involved in being around a body. For me, body positivity can be about seeing my body as an object given to me (no Giver), one which I can experience/exercise my will through, take care of, test the limits of… all with a spirit of thankfulness and joy. OR, even more fun is letting my body be Subject, and spending time listening to it, looking to it as a guide for the part of me that usually puts itself in charge.

    Hope that wasn't too hippie-dippy philosophical. To sum, body-positive virtues include:
    – Sensuality, and the experience of love and connection with all other bodies
    – Seeing the body as Gift, as Toy, as Tool, as Charge
    – Letting the body be Subject, learning from it, being a Student to its natural 'wisdom'

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