The divides are more accurately described as existing between liberal feminist and radical feminist ideology.

Liberal feminism is takes an individualistic perspective on women’s liberation. So the priority, for liberal feminists (for the record, it’s very rare for any individual to actually identify as a liberal feminist, so you’re going to have to make your own assessments based on their approach to feminism), is about the ability of individuals to make choices. Liberal feminism also focuses on achieving “equality” through legislative reform. What this means is that liberal feminists don’t aim to attack the root of the problem, but rather make changes within the system that already exists in order to help enable women to hold equal status to men in society. To be clear, I don’t think these aims are bad, in and of themselves, I just don’t think they will successfully address the problem of male power and female subordination. The main problem with liberal feminism is that it’s focus on individual rights and choices leads feminists to attempt to fix problems like violence against women and sexual exploitation through superficial means, for example: “maybe if we just make more “woman-friendly” porn, the porn industry will cease to be completely misogynist and exploitative;” “maybe if we just regulate the sex industry, prostitution will cease to be a violent industry that preys on marginalized women and exists purely for male pleasure, at the expense of women’s lives;” “maybe if women consent to shaking their breasts on stage for an audience and choose their own outfits (!), stripping/burlesque will no longer be about presenting women as pretty, sexy things to look at and become feminist;” “maybe if women choose to self-objectify in selfies, that act will become an empowering one;” and on and on. You get the picture.

Radical feminism looks at patriarchy as a system of power, not as something you can simply regulate or talk or imagine out of existence. Taking back words or inventing new ones won’t upset male power, nor will your own personal feelings of “empowerment.” You can’t simply change your own individual perspective on particular acts, trends, and behaviours in order to change reality. Radical feminism aims to attack gender roles and the social inequality and male violence against women that results from these prescribed gender roles. Therefore, from a radical feminist perspective, there can be no glorification of the “feminine” or “masculine” because 1) those roles are oppressive, and 2) they aren’t real, but are invented and enforced by a patriarchal society. “Feeling good” about self-objectification is fine on an individual level (I mean, feel however you want — no one’s stopping you), but has nothing to do with feminism or with changing or challenging an oppressive system. If more women make porn that is “female-friendly” (whatever that means), it won’t destroy the porn industry or make that industry one that isn’t a primarily sexist one that promotes the abuse and degradation of women. If we regulate the sex industry, it won’t change the fact that prostitution exists on a foundation of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy and is an industry that exists to benefit men and reinforce women’s roles as subordinate.

Whether or not you identify as a “liberal feminist” or a “radical feminist” is irrelevant, because the proof is in the pudding (I find that saying gross, but am using it regardless) and this is where and why there are such tense and explosive divides among self-described feminists. It has nothing to do with this mythical “sex positive”/”sex negative,” anti-feminist garbage — it has to do with how well one understands this system and how one believes it should be addressed.

For an accessible guide to the competing ideologies of liberal and radical feminism, you could do worse than reading this piece from feministcurrent.

The divide isn't between 'sex negative' and 'sex positive' feminists -- it's between liberal and radical feminism