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Cory Silverberg

Crowd Funding Sex Education

By July 24, 2013

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I'm not sure if it has to do with my family background, but there's something about evoking "the crowd" that makes me uncomfortable. Crowd funding, crowd sourcing, the wisdom of the crowd. It may sound sexy and new, but historically, when people become crowds it doesn't turn out too well for some of us.

And still, I love being a part of crowd funding projects. I have backed over 60 projects on various sites and I published my first kid's book through the generosity of thousands of backers on Kickstarter.

In the past few months a couple of particularly unethical projects tied to sexuality have tried to get off the ground via crowd funding. The tricky thing about criticizing crowd funding is that the goal when you are running a project is to have as many people coming to your page and sharing it as possible. So sharing the link to problematic projects at once alerts others to the problem and also, in some ways, helps those who are trying to raise money. It's a lose-lose situation for those of us who care about sexual ethics and justice.

So instead of linking to the badness, I thought I'd highlight a project that, whether it's successful or not, is definitely part of the solution and not part of the problem. The project, Sex Ed: The Saga was created by Forward Together's Youth program, an Oakland based organization that has been training Asian youth to be leaders in their communities since 2005.

I wanted to know a bit more about the project, so I emailed and asked. The collective answers came from Heather Bach, Renee Bach, Vy Truong, Fiona Tang, Ervin Lopez, Ellie Cao, Kevin Xie, Chay Tadeo, Kathy Xie, Sharmane Fulgado, Courtney Ng, Sidhartha Taruc, Kevin Lei, Christy Nghe, Irish Quach, Melissa Ma, Christine Lau, Karen Guan, all of whom are involved in the project.

Tell us a bit about Sex Ed: the Saga and why you wanted to make your own sex education.
Sex Ed: the Saga is the epic video series documenting the legendary experiences of Oakland students and their quest for sex ed. It has music, dancing, animation and a lot of funny pop culture references. It's by and for young people, and the way we're talking about sex is like nothing you've ever heard before!

Sex Ed: The Saga is a way to get young people, caregivers, teachers, and mentors to start conversations on topics that no one else is really talking about, like healthy decision-making, sexual orientation, gender identify, and acceptance.

In Oakland, like in many other parts of the state and country, students are not receiving the information and resources we need to make healthy decisions about our bodies and relationships. Our videos provide an alternative to the misinformation we get from the media, society, and often our schools.

What would you say to folks who think that sex education should be taught by professionals, adults, teachers who have been trained to talk about sex education?
We agree! We want our teachers to be trained to talk to us about sex and relationships in a way that is non-judgmental, inclusive, and information-based. We want the adults in our lives to be prepared to have conversations with us in a way that is respectful, meets us where we're at, and honors our right to accurate information.

The problem is that that's not happening right now. So we are taking it into our own hands. We are making videos that can be a great educational tool for adults to use with young people to get the conversation started.

As sex educators we all bring our own experiences, biases, and values to our work. Who we are always informs how we see the world. Can you share a bit of your collective perspective on what's needed in sex education?
We are a group of Asian, high school and early college aged youth and most of us come from low-income immigrant and refugee families. It's our families, peers, and communities that inspire us to move forward with this work. This project means a lot to us because young people usually don't get to decide what kind of sex ed is taught to us. No one else knows better than we do what we need to learn, and we want to make our voices heard.

Youth have very few options to get accurate information. The internet is one of the most common places where youth get their information and a lot of what we find, if we find anything, is inaccurate. Also, the information we do get is just about condoms and pregnancy prevention; it often stigmatizes young parents and leaves out LGBTQ youth. Plus, sex ed classes are boring. No one wants to see another gym teacher put a condom on a banana!

Our framework is about Sex Education Justice--the idea that we have the right to a comprehensive sex education that teaches us about healthy relationships, gender, sexual orientation, and that is relevant to English Language Learner and LGBTQ students as well as students with disabilities. Sex education is a core part of our lives, not a side issue that can just get tacked on to one class at the end of the semester.

Anything else you'd like to say about the project?
YOU can be part of changing the conversation about sex ed. Please donate to our Indie Go-Go campaign today!

Check out Sex Ed: The Saga on Indiegogo

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