March 2014. Scarleteen, one of the best sex education resources on the internet for the American youth and beyond, faces closure and relies on donations. All around the world, family planning centres are shutting down and many men and women don't have access to sex education.
Remember your sex ed' classes? (Assuming you had one, of course!) If you live in the US, chances are that you had one or two during high-school. If you're from the UK or France (like me), the only time you'd hear of sexual education would have been biology class and the infamous lesson on the reproductive system. You were fourteen, confused with all these changes, and the only way to get some info on why you were attracted to both your best friend and her handsome brother or what the hell was going on with your body was either teen magazines or older siblings. And yet you were still lost.
So how is it for young people in 2014? They have thousands of stories on TV or at school telling them to be ashamed of sex, that if they had sex they “would get pregnant and die”.
They live in a world where sex is glorified and vilified at the same time. They have free access to porn, yet they're told that having sex is wrong, dirty and immoral. They're told that their sexual preferences, if not heterosexual, are weird, condemnable. Their feelings are often dismissed: they love sex? Wrong. They're asexual, demi-sexual (no sexual attraction unless you're emotionally bound to another person), homo-romantic (having feelings for a person of the same sex without sexual attraction), pansexual? Wrong again. They're supposed to know everything about sex, from “best” positions to contraception, without any explanation.
But in the digital era, communities of “pro-sex” activists and sexual educators have emerged for those teenagers and young adults with too many questions and not enough answers.
Take Laci Green, 26-year-old American vlogger and probably the most famous and controversial face of the pro-sex movement. Her approach is quite simple: she posts weekly videos on her YouTube channel “Sex+” on topics such as sexual health, gender, relationships and body image, and gives lectures about sex-positivism in American universities. Laci is very passionate about sex being something people shouldn't be ashamed of, which is the core of the sex-positive movement (even if it sometimes excludes asexuality, hence the controversy around the movement). If you do a quick search on Tumblr, Laci's tag attracts both her fans who appreciate her honesty, her free speech and her advice, and her haters who reproach for her “white-cis-hetero centric” videos and talks, and her occasional mistakes and misconceptions about the LGBTQIA community.
Scarleteen was founded in 1998 by Heather Corinna and provides advice for teens and young adults aged 15-25, on topics such as sexual health, LGBTQIA support, rape and sexual abuse and other crisis care. Young people, carers and parents from all around the world consult the site and gather on the forums, seeking advice and listening ears. The site now has over 70 million page views, and mostly functions through donations and volunteering.
Laci & Scarleteen are the resources that give teenagers a way into understanding themselves and their sexuality. Questions emerge, walls of fears collapse, and for the first time in almost forever, teens are not alone and lost. This is what is missing in our western culture these days: someone who can listen without judging, someone who can advise kids and young adults so they can live their sexual or asexual lives freely. And we need this someone in our high-schools, in our planning centres (if you could stop shutting them down, governments, that would be awesome, thanks).
We need figures who can tell us that we're fine. We congratulate ourselves on initiatives like Sex Etc, on free contraception in the UK, the existence of support groups and crisis lines for rape survivors and LGBTQIA communities. But it's not enough. It's time to have a real, true and meaningful conversation with teens, young adults, men and women all around the world about their sexuality, their health, their well-being. And it's time to start today.