Where I come from, sex-ed is pathetic. The only time I ever saw a condom was after high school when I bought a box to take with me to college. I only knew about safe sex practices from the internet. The sex-ed teacher came from our local YMCA and talked mostly about how babies would ruin our lives, but not how to make them, or rather, how to not make them. We didn’t talk about the pleasures of sex or the kinds of sex a person can have. We didn’t talk about consent or relationship violence. And don’t even get me started on the complete absence of queer representation. So, when I started learning about sex from blogs and from YouTube, I realized how much I had been missing. I talked to my sister, a freshman in high school who will likely be sexually active in the near future, and I realized how little she and her friends knew about some pretty important stuff.
I initially wanted to do a project that covered all the things I wish I had learned in health class: safe sex, consent, kinks, queer sex, polyamory, asexuality, how to properly have vaginal sex, anal sex, what to expect, what is normal, and how to talk to my partner. And I wanted to do it in a way that included all types of bodies and people. Then, I realized just how much information that would be. I would have to write a series of novels just to scrape the surface! I had all this information from my favorite YouTube channel, Sexplanations, and the webcomic Oh Joy! Sex Toy that I had recently come across and I wanted to share it all with the world! After a brief crisis and a few delirious minutes in which I considered writing that series of novels, I decided my project would cover the basics: types of sexual and romantic attraction, relationship dynamics, taboos, and consent.
From there, I put together a zine that contained as much information about my topics as possible while still being accessible to an uninformed audience. I tried to keep my fifteen year old self in mind. What information would have been helpful to me as a teenager? I wish I could have included more information about safe sex or about the physical act of sex, but I linked to as many resources as I could. Any information I couldn’t fit on a page is included in a youTube video or web link at the bottom. I’m seriously considering making a second zine that is more in-depth and that covers more topics because I feel this information is so important.
Once I finally completed all twelve pages, complete with beautiful illustrations done by an incredibly talented friend of mine, I printed fifty full color copies. Ten went to a zine distribution festival in New York. Ten to The Women’s Center on campus. Ten to UHS and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department, and the rest to friends and anyone else. I also uploaded a digital version to Tumblr. While the Tumblr version currently has a measly 84 notes, most of which are from my friends, the note count has continued steadily upward. I have yet to receive any online feedback, but I did get to see firsthand the impact I made on a few individuals. One friend was giddy for several hours after seeing an illustration of a trans woman on one of the pages. Another learned what a “squish” is and was so excited to finally have a word for all her friend-crushes. Yet another friend looked at every single link in the zine and was inspired to educate herself about LGBTQIA issues so that she could be a better ally to me and my friends.
I don’t know how many people have seen my zine, and I don’t know how or even if it has made a difference to any of them. But, seeing those three people– not to mention myself– learn something new is good enough for me to call this project and absolute success.