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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Book Review: "Sex Ed for Everyone"

Above: A free sample panel from the "Sex Ed for Everyone"
comic by Sophie LaBelle. Click to enlarge.

Sophie LaBelle, best known as the artist behind Assigned Male Comics, recently came out with a new comic book entitled "Sex Ed For Everyone." Featuring many of the same characters as her regular Assigned Male series, "Sex Ed for Everyone" is aimed at teenagers who are dissatisfied with the scope of sex education they are receiving in school.

It's important to note that "Sex Ed for Everyone" is not a substitute for comprehensive sex education. Pregnancy is not covered, so you will not find adorable cartoon depictions of prenatal development (I know, I was disappointed too). There's also not much in the way of contraceptive knowledge or STI prevention, beyond a brief mention of male and female condoms.

But it was clearly never LaBelle's intent to be a one-stop shop for sexual health information. Instead, "Sex Ed for Everyone" is best thought of as a supplement to sex education, particularly on matters of sexual identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

Judged on that metric, the book does an admirable job. To give you a sense of its tone, here are a few points I particularly appreciated:
  • "I think it's a shame that we don't hear much about the variety of bodies out there. It's one thing to tell us that the majority of people aren't trans, intersex, or disabled. It's another to tell us that we don't need to learn about them."
  • Speaking about queer teens making the decision not to have sex, one character notes: "The need for belonging might pressure people into situations they don't actually want."
  • And then there's this fantastic dialogue: "I'm scared to get pressured into having sex. When do you know you're ready?" "It's true that it can feel overwhelming, but it's totally OK to take your time. Maybe you'll never 'be ready' and that's also fine."
These messages are especially important for LaBelle's trans and queer audience, because sexual minority youth are actually more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than their cis, straight peers. That might seem like a paradox, but when you consider the cultural pressure that some lesbians and bisexuals are under to "appear straight," the risk of reluctant sexual intercourse is apparent. In fact, when I was a student at the University of Miami, our pro-life student group hosted a speaker who had been in that very situation — twice. (Her first pregnancy tragically ended in abortion after she received deceptive counseling; for her second, she chose life.)

"Sex Ed for Everyone" is available on Etsy.

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