Laura Chanoski, coming from a Catholic background, said sex wasn’t talked about sufficiently in her schools. It’s why she started an Indiegogo campaign to create a web series that teaches medically accurate and gender inclusive sex education.
Chanoski, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in media studies and production, wants to fulfill people’s right to be educated about their reproductive organs—a right which is not guaranteed in every state in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“I didn’t get anything from high school and most of what I got was online,” Chanoski said. “It’s not what I was told—it’s much more what I wasn’t told. … A big part of getting misconceptions is not being told things.”
Titled “The Young Adult’s Guide to Sex Ed,” the campaign has raised $341 of its $5,000 goal as of Monday. Chanoski said proper sex education is needed in Philadelphia and all over the United States.
According to sexetc.org, Pennsylvania state law does not require sex education and local school boards decide whether to provide it. Only with the passing of the Healthy Youth Act in 2010 was the state required to teach it in public schools. Also, according to Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards for Health, Safety, and Physical Education, schools are not required to go deeper into teaching about subjects like STI prevention and abstinence.
Chanoski said it should be the responsibility of secondary education institutions to take sex education more seriously.
“It’d be useful to have sex ed courses at Temple for the incoming freshman, or put the option out there to be taken as an elective,” she said. “But it shouldn’t be Temple’s responsibility to prepare students for their sexual experiences. It should be stuff that is taught early.”
On her Indiegogo page, Chanoski said she didn’t realize the sex education she received didn’t teach her “what the clitoris is, how to put on a condom and that your genitals do not define your gender.”
Chanoski identifies as bisexual, and another important goal for her web series is to educate teens and young adults about sexuality.
“What I think is really important about [the project] is LGBT inclusiveness,” Chanoski said. “When you identify as bisexual going through the sex ed that I had, it was pretty heterosexual … and that doesn’t really help me. What if I’m in a relationship with a woman?”
“They don’t tell you that two people with vulvas can pass STIs between each other—if you go to Planned Parenthood, they’ll tell you if you share toys, you can get it,” she added.
Chanoski mentioned cissexism, the norms favoring the gender binary and oppressing trans and non-binary, as being one of the main challenges to creating the web series, where information enforced from gender binary sources might get past the non-binary filter of her series. She said she is determined to correct any cissexist information she puts out as fast as possible with an apology.
“Encouraging binary-only sex education leaves a lot of people out, and it narrows down the way people think because right now in western medicine, we only recognize two sexes,” Chanoski said. “With intersex people, you could say they’re a different sex, but we don’t say that. When they’re born, we try to force them into one sex or the other.”
Chanoski’s web series will also cover consent, an issue actively debated on college campuses around the nation and about which she said many people still have “warped ideas.”
The series is something Chanoski wants to be successful not just for herself, but for others and how they learn something that will follow them the rest of their lives.
“I care very deeply about this project, it’s my baby,” she said. “I want it to be as successful as possible and help as many people as it can.”
Ayah Alkhars can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.