Category creation: Goodbye, fear. Hello, confidence.

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By day I work in marketing. I have written and worked in marketing my whole career, in one way or another. Yesterday at work I came across a great, classic article on category creation.  

It got me thinking about my goals for this newsletter and my activism more generally. As I say above every post, my goal is to decriminalize and destigmatize all things sex. But that’s an imperfect description of my goal. It’s unwieldy for one. And as the amazing marketer and thinker Visa pointed out to me, it centers the negative. 

I also describe myself as a sex-positive feminist. But “sex-positive” is a confusing term. It’s a bit of a misnomer (a word I had to use Google to remember). It implies that sex is inherently good. But I think sex is actually inherently neutral. 

As a writer and a marketer, I want to use accurate, compelling language. It’s been in the back of my mind for a while to come up with a tagline or mission statement that’s clearer and snappier as well as more positive and compelling. 

I like the idea of taking concepts from marketing and applying them to activism. Specifically, I think there are parts of the category creation concept that apply here. 

In some ways, I’m looking to create a new category with my writing and activism. I want to help develop a better way to think, talk, and feel about sex. 

Like most parts of marketing (and writing), storytelling is central to category creation. You’re supposed to talk about the way you used to do things, how you changed, and how your life is better as a result. I’ve told my conversion story in bits and pieces over the years. But it’s something I’d love to take some time to do more fully at some point. Perhaps once I retire. 

All stories are fiction. The events may have more-or-less happened as described. But we invent the connections between the events. We also invent the meaning of the events. 

One gist of my “story” is that from birth until college, I believed there were many different kinds of sex that God didn’t want me or anyone else to have. I thought if we had those kinds of sex, our marriages would be less happy, or bodies would degrade, and other bad results would follow. 

Over many years, I came to believe differently. Today I believe that God doesn’t give a shit what kinds of sex I, or anyone else, has as long as it’s adult and consensual and we enjoy it. 

More importantly, I found a new framework for evaluating whether a choice (about sex or anything else) is good or bad. I came to believe that evidence about the likely effects of our behavior should form the basis for our beliefs. I came to see the massive amounts of compelling evidence that shame and stigma around certain kinds of sex are in nearly every case demonstrably, measurably far more harmful than the sex itself. 

I began to say goodbye to making choices about sex based on fear, shame, and superstition. And I began saying yes to making choices about sex based on research, experience, and reason. 

Statisticians use the word “confidence” to describe how sure they are that a result accurately represents reality. 

So I’m thinking about a tagline like: “Goodbye, fear. Hello, confidence.” Not sure how to work sex into that. Or if I need to. But it’s a start.