The Cutting Room Floor: Ms. Magazine/Future of Feminism

As we've done in the past -- like here and here -- today we've got the whole of a short interview that was excerpted in small part for a piece over at Ms. Magazine yesterday, Future of Feminism: Sex Education As a Human Right.

Given some of the content and certainly some of the comments on another (just a note: a lot of the comments there are really rough, and there is intense transmisogyny afoot) of those pieces, one that I saw right after I'd sent this interview back to the author, I feel like the second half of this interview is particularly important, and I was sorry to see it didn't make the cut.

Q: How would you define feminist sex education?

A: I consider that a work in progress, ever-evolving, but you can see how I do that currently here:

Feminist sex education:
• Emphasizes -- for all sexes and genders, not just one or two -- autonomy, personal responsibility, full and active consent, sexuality in the holistic context of a whole, well-rounded life and healthy, equitable relationships self-esteem, nonsubordination and nonviolence, safety, health, happiness and pleasure and very real equality in sexuality, in which equal voice and accord are given to and issues from any and all partners in sexual partnerships and sexual activity.

• Operates under the given that all people have an inalienable, inarguable right to the complete, inarguable ownership of their own, individual bodies and desires, and that sexuality and sexual pleasure is a positive and valuable experience in its own right, not merely or only a side effect of reproduction, health, biology or romance, nor a means for material exchange.

• Recognizes the sexual desires and sexuality of women as complete on their own, rather than as an answer to or product or adjunct of men's sexuality, sexual partnership or marriage, as well as acknowledging a wide diversity of sexual desire, experience and identity among women and all people.

• Recognizes the bodies and genitals of all people as active, engaged parts of a whole, rather than passive or as object. (You can read the rest here.)

Q: What inspired you to be an activist for safe/comprehensive sex-ed and healthy sexuality?

A: Ultimately, I found myself in the position of being asked to step up and do it -- particularly online, where, at the time, there really wasn't much of any sex ed to be found -- and being able to do it. I kept being asked, I keep being asked, it's yet to ever stop, and I keep being able to do it, so I keep doing it.

It didn't hurt that as it turned out, I loved it. I already had an interest and education in and around sexuality, was already an activist, had a background in alternative education to work with and a passion for writing, so the stars were certainly aligned. :)

Q: What is the importance of a feminist sex education considering recent events/legislation (war on women's reproductive rights, abstinence only sex-ed, etc.)?

A: I don't think we can emphasize its importance enough, and if ever we had some clear examples of now nonexistent or crappy a lot of people's sex ed has been, we sure have it now by listening to the kinds of things politicians have been saying about sexuality, gender, bodies and reproduction.

It's also hard, I think, for all people to understand how very important their rights -- their sexual rights, their reproductive rights, their human rights -- are if and when they haven't had access to information and education to understand how their bodies work, how their sexual lives can be, and the impact restricted rights can have on our whole lives, including our sexual lives.

The added bonus of aiming for truly inclusive sex education is that it can also inform people about the sexualities, bodies, identities and lives of others different than their own, helping them to understand that even if and when their own rights aren't or don't seem to be impeded, the rights of others are and that needs to matter.

Q: How does a feminist approach to sex education represent the future of the feminist movement?

A: Well, even in just the fifteen years I've been working in sex education, I've experienced a pretty radical change in feminist support for sex education and frank discussions about sexuality: when I first started doing this online in the last 90s, I had a lot less support -- and a lot more questioning about if what I did was feminist at all, if I could be someone who worked in sexuality and still be a "real" feminist.

But I certainly do think -- and I really hope, too -- that the feminism we're walking into now is a more inclusive feminism, one that does a lot better with intersectionality and with addressing all aspects of women's lives (and for all women, not just white women, middle-class women, cisgender women) than feminism has in the past.

I think understanding that sexuality and sexual health are important, central issues, not "special interests" is part of that.