tl;dr: Tough Topics

Disclaimer: The following post discusses issues regarding late-term abortions.  

While I was an intern at POV last summer, I worked on promoting a film called After Tiller. The film is about the four doctors who are legally and openly performing late-term (third trimester) abortions in the United States. It chronicles their decision to continue in their profession despite the murder of a colleague, Dr. George Tiller (who was killed while attending church in 2009). It’s an uncomfortable film at times, but worthwhile if you’re interested in why a late-term abortion might be requested, and why these doctors continue to risk their lives to help families make painful decisions.

After_tiller_film

(Source)

In my opinion, it’s one of the most well made films of POV’s 27th season. But the public disagreed. Something important to know about POV is that it airs on PBS, a government funded television station. So when POV started to publicize the airing of After Tiller, the trolls were unleashed upon the film’s comment section. People were writing hateful vitriol, seething that a publicly funded television show would air any film that dare discuss abortion. Angry commenters threatened to petition PBS to get the film off the air, complaining that their tax dollars shouldn’t be used to fund something they disapproved of.*

But here’s the thing: After Tiller is a film that wants to explore why a woman might choose to have an abortion–from serious birth defects detected during pregnancy, to being financially unable to afford another child. After Tiller seeks to shed some light on this controversial issue; it’s interested in dialogue, not debate. It explores these issues with empathy and compassion, rather than with a political goal in mind. In fact, a colleague of mine at POV expressed that his mother, who is firmly anti-abortion, liked the film and learned a lot from it. I believe strongly that if the world wants fewer women to have abortions, we need to encourage strong sex education programs. And part of a strong sex ed program is talking about tough topics, including abortion rights.

After Tiller is available on Netflix.

I’d also recommend the following resources for more information on discussing tough topics–both of them are great resources to use in a classroom:

Shmoop hosts online courses on every topic imaginable, from Literature to Chemistry. The also have a great rundown on abortion rights, and the link between abortion law and the right to privacy.

ProCon is another great resource for educators. It provides nonpartisan summaries of a variety of controversial topics, including abortion.


*Hey, I’d love to not pay for a lot of things the US government spends our money on. But I do. 

tl;dr: Sex! (Need I Say More?)

At my high school, I learned very little about sex beyond what an STD is and teen pregnancy statistics–i.e, all the scary stuff, with no information on prevention.* Sex was presented as something vaguely dirty, or at best, technical (for making the babies). It wasn’t something to be explored and discussed, but something to avoid–because if you didn’t abstain, you’d be covered in warts and babies and then die.

So, naturally, I turned to the internet for my sexual education. Any parents in the audience might be horrified–the internet is for porn after all–but this method is becoming increasingly common for younger generations, and overall, I think this can be a good thing. I do think it’s important to have comprehensive sex ed classes in schools, where students are free to talk and learn about sex openly, with a licensed professional to guide them. But I also think we can’t depend on our country’s education system, and as we’ve previously established on this blog, the internet can be an excellent educational tool.

The philosophy of my high school was that the more you talk about sex around teenagers, the more likely they are to have it before they’re ready–but that has proven to be false in too many studies to count. Fun fact: the MTV show 16 and Pregnant is believed by some scientists to be a significant factor in decreased American teen pregnancy rates. Media can serve a useful purpose in encouraging responsible sexual behavior and health. So, the following are my recommendations for learning more about all things sex–including discussions on sexuality, gender identity, sexual health, sexual self-help, self-esteem, kink, relationships, and more.

Crash Course 

There is no Crash Course: Sex Ed channel, but Crash Course Psychology has done one excellent episode on the history of studying sex and human sexual behavior, and is a solid intro to the topic. Like all Crash Course videos, it does a great job of fusing entertainment with education (and includes some hilarious animations).

Sexplanations 

Dr. Lindsey Doe is a sexologist–yes, that’s a real thing–and presents topics related to sex in an academic manner without being dull, overly technical, or awkward. If you’re looking for a great teacher, check out Sexplanations and look no further. Sexplanations is also produced by Vlogbrothers’ Hank Green, so there’s a unique awesomeness to Dr. Doe’s videos.

Some of my favorites: 

A great intro to Sexplanations, this video has brief snippets of conversation on 22 topics, from demisexuality** to sex toys:

Dr. Doe feels my pain! She discusses sex ed horror stories that are much worse than mine, and discusses why good sex ed is so important:

Do you ever feel confused about the language of sexual identities? There are a lot of terms to remember, and Dr. Doe does a great job of summing them up here:

Sex + 

The title “Sex +” can be read two ways: “Sex Plus” or “Sex Positive.” Laci Green, while not a doctor as on Sexplanations, has been making videos on every topic related to sex you can possibly conceive of for years (since about 2009, but she starts putting forward a more coherent, sex positive platform beginning around 2012). She considers herself a “sex education activist” and while her videos aren’t as professional or technical as Dr. Doe’s, I think she makes up for it with exhaustive research and an engaging technique. Something I particularly like about Laci Green is that she focuses often on self esteem and sexuality, and how important self-image is in healthy sexual behavior. She’s charming, funny, and I always come away from her videos feeling better educated, as well as entertained.

Some of my favorites:

There are so many Laci Green videos, too many to choose from really, but I think these showcase her range really well: from basic anatomy to discussions on the sexual experiences of people with disabilities, if you can think of a topic, Laci Green has probably made a video about it.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Let me know in the comments!


*To the surprise of no one, my high school sex ed class was separated by gender. To my surprise years after graduation, however, the boys had a more comprehensive curriculum than the girls! Turns out, while the girls were watching videos about giving birth, the boys were actually learning about how to prevent teen pregnancy–putting on a condom. That would have been super useful to learn! Thanks for nothing, high school.

**Which my computer insists is not a word–though it does recognize bisexuality and asexuality, so I guess that’s progress.