Dr. Kelly Neff, social psychologist and author of Sex Positive, is wary of self-help books.
“Self-help books get such a bad rap,” Neff says. “Sometimes these books will tell you how they think you should think and how to heal. I don’t want to do that. I’ve read a lot of self-help books that give you tons of advice, but it’s too specific or too prescriptive — like, 'Don’t call a guy back within five days if he calls you.' It’s too cheesy, Cosmo-like dating advice. When I sat down to write this book, I wanted to figure out how to be authentic and honest. How can we create relationships that value consent and trust and healthy boundaries and talk about them?”
Neff, who will be signing Sex Positive at the Tattered Cover Saturday, January 25, starts her book discussing cultural trends, from gender fluidity to what she calls the “technosexual revolution.” She argues there is no such thing as normal, and that living outside the gender binary or rejecting traditional gender stereotypes are accepted parts of our “brave new world.”
Additionally, she unpacks how technology is redefining the very nature of our relationship with love and sex. From sex robots to the booming virtual-reality sex business, Neff examines the impact technology and social media continue to have on our lives and desires.
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“I’m not sure what the changes are, but I think it’s inevitable that they will continue to come,” Neff says. “We’re already so integrated with machines. Think about how much time we spend on social media or with virtual apps. Online dating hurts, and you get rejected more frequently. It’s bad for self-esteem. I just did a segment about New Year’s resolutions, and the point is basically this: Get off the Internet and do meetups. Meet up with people in real places in real life. Be nice to people. Be honest. If you don’t like people, tell them; don’t ghost them.”
Neff has done plenty of research on the technosexual revolution, pointing to futurists like Ian Pearson who argue that human-robot sex will over take human-human sex by 2050.
“In ten to fifteen years, we will just have these sex robots,” Neff explains. “Whether or not people decide to have them, even it it might help a lot of people, what happens to our social skills then? It’ll be interesting to see what happens when machines play a dominant role in our sexual culture.”
The second part of Sex Positive shifts the entire narrative about sex, examining the “neo-spiritual revolution,” which combines the integration of mind, body and spirit, and Neff opens up about healing from her own sexual trauma in order to help others.
“It’s amazing and hard to put yourself out there in any creative field, and when it comes to writing your own story, I was nervous, but this is what I’ve been through,” Neff says. “It’s okay to not be okay. Trauma doesn’t define us, and it’s okay for us to admit that we’re not okay. Sometimes the revolution starts from within and with our own self-consciousness. For me, this is our awareness of ourselves as sexual beings on multiple levels. This is not only in terms of our physical bodies, but our energetic bodies, our sexual energies, our psychologies, our feelings, our learned behaviors, the totality of the package that describes who we are on all levels.”
The final part of Sex Positive explores the new era of dating and relationship types, including non-monogamy and modern online dating.
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For Neff, a big part of being sex-positive is trying new things and respecting other people's desires, identities and practices.
“I love experimentation; I think it’s so good,” Neff says, adding that being sex-positive at the end of the day means being non-judgmental, whether it’s about someone wanting “dragon cum in their own dildo” or something else that makes them happy.
“That’s my take-home message about being sex-positive: We can’t judge something, even if it’s weird or different," she says. "If no one is being hurt and everyone is consenting, it’s fine. In the sex-positive realm, that’s all good. You shouldn’t have to apologize for who you are sexually.”
Dr. Kelly Neff will be at Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street, at 2 p.m. Saturday, January 25, for a book talk and book signing. Her book, Sex Positive, will be available for purchase for $18.95. Find more information on the Tattered Cover website and on Neff's website.