NYU Campaign Expands to Other Campuses, Demanding #BetterSexTalk

#BetterSexTalk — a photography campaign by NYU students that raises awareness around the issues of embarrassingly bad sex education and its relationship to sexual assault — is set to expand beyond NYU this year to college campuses across the country.

Even if you say yes everyday, you can still say no todayCo-founded by Josy Jablons and Meghan Racklin, #BetterSexTalk provides young folks with “the sex talk they (probably) never got,” asking students in every community on campus to answer the question: “If you could give one piece of advice to a younger sibling about sex, what would it be?”

These students’ responses are everything — sharp, witty, thoughtful, comforting, funny (basically all things I hope my younger siblings say to describe me). That campaign’s guiding question elicits answers that poignantly go well beyond the sound bites and media clips of why comprehensive sex education and consent and healthy relationships are good. It captures the genuine frustration wefeel with what we were (not) taught, our concern for where this leaves those not yet in college and a desire to remind our younger sibs and friends and communities of their right to respect, consent, confidence, and pleasure.

bst1Describing the current (and failing) state of sex ed that sparked her work, co-founder Jablons writes at Ideas + Insight:


Fourth grade; half-filled classroom. We were stuck dipping tampons into cups of water. Us girls watched cotton expand, while the boys played outside in the yard. This was the start of our very flawed sex educations — and possibly yours, too.

Our friends have memories of their own:

“We watched an animated movie about puberty and then we took a quiz.” Or, “My class labeled reproductive organs on figures of adults. It was like ‘pin the tail on the donkey,’ except with a uterus.” And, a personal favorite:

“I made a poster about chlamydia. On bright orange poster board. Using glitter.

I hope California’s newly mandated affirmative consent education in high school will makes sex ed there at least less miserable. But the sad reality is that most of us grow up without substantive conversations of consent, autonomy, pleasure, or communication.

No is not an invitation for negotiation.As the organizers behind the campaign point out on their website, #BetterSexTalk highlights the connection between inadequate sex ed and gender-based violence: “How can anyone expect a culture of consent if that language isn’t used or taught during our defining teenage years?” How can we expects students to unlearn unhealthy, unhappy, or unsafe behaviors they’ve spent nearly two decades learning? Starting short orientation lessons in college (or in high school) are too little too late.

Good thing for our little sibs, #BetterSexTalk just wrapped up a kickstarter that will have the organization traveling and capturing advice from other universities’ students this year, including those at Brown, UGA, Mt. Holyoke, and Stanford.#BetterSexTalk is not just here to stay — it’s growing.



Mahroh is a community organizer and law student who believes in building a world where black and brown women and our communities are able to live free of violence. Prior to law school, Mahroh was the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization empowering students to end gender violence and a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research addresses the ways militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally.

Mahroh is currently at Harvard Law School, organizing against state and gender-based violence.

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