When Lauren Chang writes at F-Bomb about “SeXT”ing, that term doesn’t mean what you probably think it means.
Sex Education by Theatre (SExT), a youth-led, theater-based sex education program, … was created by Shira Taylor in 2014 as her PhD thesis. SExT started in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park, neighborhoods in Toronto made up of majority South Asian and Muslim immigrants/newcomers. Shira was inspired to start SExT to put youth from a community where talking about sex is cultural taboo center stage in a way that celebrates diverse identities. In 2015, the Ontario government finally implemented an updated sex education curriculum for the first time since 1998. The inclusion of topics such as gender identity, masturbation, same-sex marriage, and consent seemed inappropriate to some parents in the community, who even pulled their kids out of their local schools and staged protests that garnered national attention. In 2018, a new government was elected and Doug Ford, the new premier, scrapped the updated curriculum.
Chang, who wrote the post, is a peer educator at SeXT and the star of the above SeXT video, “Bodak Consent”, which is a parody of Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.” Here are some of the things she has seen/learned with SeXT:
The truth is, when I perform as MS.G (my alter ego) I feel totally in control of my body. I was really inspired by Cardi B’s confidence in her body and her words in the original song, and I wanted to emulate that same feeling in my parody. I wanted to do a fun and empowering take on consent where I establish that I am in charge from the get-go. The first lyrics I wrote say it best: “Listen up, you ain’t touching me unless I want you to.”
Throughout my experience with SExT, especially during my time on tour, I’ve learned that no matter where they are, young people are all going through the same types of things and are all itching to be heard. I’ve seen students cry in reaction to a powerful rap performed by a fellow cast member. Students come up to us after every single show to share their stories or to teach us new dance moves. I remember after one performance a girl came up to us and asked if she could share her poetry; We all sat in a circle, captivated as she shared her pain with us. Once we visited a school struggling with attendance, yet even after the final bell rang, the gym was full of students waiting to ask us questions weighing on their minds. Students also message our Instagram account because they don’t know who to turn to in their own communities.
I know a little bit about Ontario under Doug Ford and I’m not surprised that the sex education curriculum was dismantled under his government; I wouldn’t be surprised if education was dismantled under his government (just as major pillars of the U.S. educational system are being dismantled under my federal government). But the SeXT cadre handled him brilliantly:
We want to work with you these next 4 years of your term to educate and protect youth. These are our peers, our friends, our siblings; and we want the best for them, as do you, I’m sure. Before you make any decisions about what to do about the new sex-ed curriculum, I urge you to watch our show for yourself. I want you to see the audience go crazy with laughter. I want you to hear their silence when we talk about abusive relationships. I want you to see their excitement when we use popular dance moves to rap about consent. I want you to see what we’re all about, first.
That being said, I would like to formally invite you to a viewing of our show, “SExT: Sex Education by Theatre” because it’s time for teens to give the talk. I really do hope you take us up on this offer.
So SeXT is not only, as Chang describes it, water in the desert for the under-informed, unheard youth in the audience. It’s also a profoundly radical organization, continuing to operate under the Ford government, challenging their leaders to attend to them. They use their clear, loud, unmistakable voices to gain attention and to offer it to their fellow students, to tell the truth and to expect the truth. In the parlance of another generation of young people, they “tell it like it is.”
I am 100% sure that Doug Ford isn’t listening. And I’m hopeful that the young people who are listening are the people who will replace the Doug Fords and Donald Trumps of this world. It can’t happen soon enough.
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