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Today's GWS:

The OED has sex-positive and sex-negative, with citations going back more than 80 years:

1931 in H. Steiner Sexualnot und Sexualreform 86   The sexual misery of the working class is caused by..the sex-negative education [Ger. sexualverneinenden Erziehung]..of children during puberty.
1953 W. Reich Biogr. Material II. iv. 81   With the change of the basic adjustment from sex-negative to sex-positive, naturally not very much was altered in the character structure.

I think that I've seen other X-negative and X-positive  coinages over the past few years, but I can't connect this impression to concrete examples.

Things like "HIV positive" and "Rh negative" don't count — I mean compound adjectives of the form X-positive or X-negative that mean something like "having a positive/negative attitude towards X".  And stuff like this (from Daniele Concina, Theologia Christiana Dogmatico-Moralis, v. 7 De Iustitia et Iure, 1750) doesn't count either:

Though it's nice to see that Google Books is now doing OCR of long s correctly, at least sometimes…


  1. leoboiko said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 7:44 am

    Judging from a cursory glance over Google results, "Trans-positive", "LGBT-positive", "queer-positive" (and their negative counterparts) seem to be quite widespread. "BDSM-positive", "fetish-positive", "poly-positive", "nerd-positive" get a few valid uses too.

    I had hoped to find someone discussing the trend for "humanities-negative" attitudes but no deal.

    [(myl) Right — rather than try to think of concrete usage examples, I should just plug a list of X's that are often negatively-evaluated into a web search: "geek positive", "fat positive", etc.]

  2. Victoria Simmons said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 11:15 am

    If you want to protest slut-shaming by staging a slut-walk, you can buy a slut-positive t-shirt.

  3. richardelguru said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    I suppose LH-positive or LH-negative dont quite count either?

  4. Coby Lubliner said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

    I would not translate sexualverneinend as 'sex-negative' but rather as something like 'sexuality-denying'.

  5. mollymooly said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    "body positive" is common, and more like "sex positive" than like "LGBT positive" (X is 'thing people have hangups about' rather than 'thing people are prejudiced against'). But "body negative" seems much less current.

  6. leoboiko said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

    I'm sorry; it might me my non-native status, but I think I'm not getting the nuances here. Is myl's reply intended as sarcasm? If so, could someone explain to me what's the difference between the two kinds of uses? Are the example terms I suggested (easy to find in the wild like: 1, 2, 3) not adequate?

    For example, "sex-positive" and "sex-negative" are used to characterize the attitude of different brands of feminism towards pornography, promiscuity etc. (examples: 1, 2). In the same manner, I've seen feminisms described as being either "trans-positive" or "-negative", as it regards their attitudes to transsexuality (examples: 1, 2). Is there a distinction between the two kinds of use?

  7. Jonathan Gress-Wright said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 3:02 pm


    But I think the sense of sexualverneinend is correctly translated as "sex-negative", given that "X-negative" means "having a negative attitude towards X", and I would definitely agree that "sex-denying" connotes having a negative attitude towards sex.

    I'm not so sure about the meaning of "sex-negative" in the second OED citation, from 1953. The context is unclear, but the source, a biological journal, rather than a book about sex education as in the 1931 citation, suggests maybe the discussion is about presence or absence of sexual characteristics in an organism. I.e. the meaning would be akin to "HIV-negative", i.e. "not possessing X".

  8. Jonathan Gress-Wright said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

    Oops, I didn't check the citation carefully enough! The 1953 citation is not from a biological journal at all. I still don't really understand it out of context, however (what does the author mean by "character structure"?).

    [(myl) This.]

  9. Coby Lubliner said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

    According to Wikipedia, "[t]he terms and concept of sex-positive (or, alternately sex-affirmative) and sex-negative are generally attributed to Wilhelm Reich." I assume that Reich wrote something like sexualbejahend and sexualverneinend, and that the corresponding English terms were coined by his translator — maybe the same one who translated Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf: Zur sozialistischen Umstrukturierung des Menschen as "The Sexual Revolution: Toward a self-governing character structure."

  10. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

    leoboiko: I didn't take MYL's answer to you as sarcastic.

  11. Brett said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

    I hadn't noticed that Reich was the source of that citation until it was pointed out. My naive response to seeing him cited would be that some his later work was so nonsensical that no rational reader could even figure out what he meant by a particular term he had coined. However, for "sex-positive" and "sex-negative" (or whatever he actually wrote in German), he probably was using the terms in a manner pretty similar to their modern senses.

    More broadly, I suppose that quacks and cult leaders are likely to generate a substantial number of new coinages and unconventional usages. I wonder how many citations Dianetics gets in the OED?

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