It's 2019, and our sex-ed curriculum still isn't survivor-friendly.

I don’t remember everything about my experiences with sexual education in middle school or high school, but as an 18-year-old survivor and female minority, I am scared and unsettled by the amount of information left out of the class conversation.

The first time I experienced sexual violence, I was barely 14 years old and just about to begin the transformative high school journey. I wasn’t ready to be sexually active. I wasn’t “asking” for it, in case you’re wondering. I was a freshman in high school who hadn’t yet found her voice and wasn’t at all in tune with her body. The night I was violated I was with a close friend—a boy to whom I was romantically attracted at the time. It started as kissing and quickly became more intimate. I started to feel less comfortable, but it took time to fully realize that I was not okay with how I was being touched and, when I eventually did, my voice seemed to not matter or be heard. So I never reported it and instead blamed myself for not being able to advocate for my needs. I blamed myself for not being able to convincingly say “no.”

In the wake of the #MeToo Movement and the subsequent media coverage, forthright conversations regarding sexual violence and sexual misconduct have emerged. Yet even with this issue receiving regular coverage and attention, momentum has not translated into legislative change, particularly regarding sex education. The importance of sex education is well-recognized—93% of parents support having sex education taught in middle school. Yet there is still a devastating gap between the amount of information students are intended to receive and the amount of information they actually receive. The overarching issue is that the United States is without a national standardized sex-ed curriculum. Sex education is taught differently not only at the state level, but at the district level too. Statistically, a majority of middle and high schools take a conservative approach to sex ed, with only 20% teaching the 16 essential topics recommended by the CDC. Because of this, school curriculum focus mainly on STIs and condoms—dismissing other contraceptives like IUDs and birth control pills. Even “comprehensive” sex education focuses heavily on human anatomy and how to prevent pregnancy, leaving no mention of how to handle nonconsensual acts of harassment and abuse. Our curriculum assumes consent and, consequently, omits major parts of adolescents’ sexual health.

But there’s still another issue at hand: our nation lacks consent education, which navigates healthy relationships and helps adolescents understand their comfort zones. The curriculum stresses decision-making and communication, straying away from strictly content and redirecting the focus toward real-life skills. Still, consent education is rarely implemented at the high school level. One explanation is the concern that consent education teaches teenagers how to say “yes” to sex. But data does all but support this notion and, instead, attests that adolescents begin having sex at later ages with comprehensive education. The reality is that consent education stresses the importance of adolescents becoming comfortable with their own bodies and understanding the value of their voice. This is so important! Adolescents going into their first sexual experiences need to know that they can change their minds and say no at any point during the experience. I know this firsthand, because going into my first time I wanted to be somewhat physically intimate but without developed expectations. I never expected sex, nor did I want it. We were moving so fast that I didn’t know I could say no. Young people need to know that they have every right to speak up if they feel even the slightest bit of discomfort.

One up-and-coming proposal to develop a truly comprehensive sex education is peer-led sex education—having components of the material covered by other students. The goal is to reduce unprotected sex and to lower unwanted pregnancies by having high school seniors teach incoming freshmen about sex, STIs, and contraceptives. While peer-led sex education cannot be the sole form of sex education adolescents receive, it’s a beneficial additive to pair with adult-led sex education. The unique advantage of peer-led sex education is that it unintentionally destigmatizes sexual violence. Seniors that choose to become peer leaders promote respect in relationships and generate much needed conversations amongst their peers. Comprehensive sex education, in its most ideal form, pairs adult-led and peer-led education so that adolescents receive both the information they need, from a credible source, as well as relatable role models to normalize candid conversations surrounding sexual health. The first step toward reducing sexual violence among adolescents is education. Empower youth with knowledge and rhetoric so that they can confidently engage in these conversations with accuracy, intention, and power.

By Maya Siegel

A conversation about ‘Booksmart’ between Julianna Chen and Hannah Yang, who each saw it twice

Booksmart has become an instant favorite of people who have watched it, garnering much praise from critics and the general public alike. Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut feels like something special made for teens of the day, but not exclusively so. It’s a comedy first and foremost, packed with laughs, but it makes room for sincerity and real emotion. The movie flits perfectly between outrageously funny, relatable emotions and experiences: anxiety, crushes, disappointments, awkwardness, love, and friendship. Booksmart has a cast of characters that are colorful and authentic. This charming film is funny and heartfelt, and exactly what we need.
How Booksmart portrays high schoolers in 2019

JC: I think Booksmart portrays 2019 high schoolers as very politically active people. You see it with the decor choices in Amy’s room, the Warren 2020 stickers on the car. I believe Booksmart gets it right there—our generation is a lot more tuned into current events and changing the world than many adults might assume. Molly and Amy are both so highly ambitious and driven, which is an accurate depiction of many high schoolers I know.
Now, one of my only qualms with the film—I’ve read reviews discussing how wealthy the high school in Booksmart seems to be; nearly all the kids go to Ivies and live in mansions. I personally felt seen and represented by the film, but I also live in an affluent suburb and attend a similarly competitive high school. And I recognize that that experience isn’t universal to a lot of teenagers.
HY: I definitely thought, “Oh, it’s one of THOSE schools,” because everyone got into good colleges and seemed pretty wealthy. It’s interesting that Molly wasn’t like most of the school population, though. It could have been explored more, and maybe that’s why she’s so motivated to excel academically, but also, I was there to laugh.  
JC: You’re right about “one of those schools”—in the movie, they obviously attend an affluent and competitive high school but, then again, I guess we can’t pretend those schools don’t exist, either. Like, rich college prep schools are very much a thing.
HY: I felt like Olivia Wilde and the writers (Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman) captured the kind of teen I am pretty well. I felt seen! The Elizabeth Warren sticker, the posters in Amy’s room, and the way feminism and world issues are just a constant part of their conversations and who they are. What I liked about that was how they didn’t make it into a liberal gag—although it may have felt that way to some, but I felt they were just accurately portraying young liberal girls who are still more optimistic and idealistic. And of course, it’s only a few people who do act like Molly and Amy—the rest of the school thinks they’re a little extra (i.e. Hope and Tanner calling them the “protest girls”).
Favorite aspects of Booksmart
JC: I loved how the “hot girls,” the sexually active ones, were portrayed as highly intelligent.
In high school, I was always taking the most advanced classes possible, and always maintained this razor-sharp focus on getting into a good college. I deeply resent this, because it felt like since I was smart, I couldn’t Girls who are intelligent are typically seen as super-nerds who make out with their textbooks every night and care more about college tours than parties or boys. So when I got into my dream school, I felt the need to post provocative photos on Instagram and present myself in a sexual manner to prove that I wasn’t one of those kids who only cared about studying. Actually, it wasn’t just because I got into a good college; I’d been doing that for a while. But the thing is, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone, and you don’t have to choose between being hot and being smart, because attractiveness and intelligence are not mutually exclusive traits—Booksmart nailed that!

How Booksmart deals with representation
HY: There has been some talk about how Booksmart is yet another film about two white girls growing up and yes, it definitely is… But it had a lot more diversity compared to other films, and the demographics in the film just felt authentic—you had a cast of Asian, black, Hispanic, gay, queer, lesbian people! Yes, funding POC voices is very important and I’m sure I would love to see an Asian coming-of-age film, but Booksmart is also a film directed by a white woman. Olivia Wilde is a great director, but I’m sure she couldn’t direct an Asian or black or Latino perspective film as well as she did Booksmart. Maybe this is a little taboo to say, but I don’t mind white people in films? This new push for diversity and representation is important, but I think in the end, the quality of the product is the main thing I’m concerned with. I didn’t feel like I was watching an exclusively white film, maybe because of how academically driven Molly and Amy were or because it wasn’t really brought up much. I understand why some people would bring it up, though. But just because there were two white leads doesn’t mean that the quality of the film and the representation it did have should be discredited.  
On LGBTQ representation, Booksmart was so fantastic. Amy’s sexuality isn’t made to be a big deal—it’s accepted by everyone (big sigh of relief that there wasn’t any typical gay angst), she gets to explore it, and we actually see some action. Her gay is pretty on point and nuanced, too (all those peace signs she awkwardly flashes), and I also like how it ended well for her, eventually.
JC: Okay, I completely agree. It is a film directed by and starring white women, and while I’m Asian-American and would appreciate more Asian-American coming-of-age films, it’s like you said—I don’t necessarily mind work by and featuring white people. I wish I could speak on this more eloquently, but it personally doesn’t make sense to me to shit on Booksmart simply for being a coming-of-age movie with white people. That being said, I do believe the coming-of-age genre will be so much stronger when stories centered on POC are celebrated more.

What makes Booksmart so funny
JC: It’s a whip-smart and super tight script to begin with, but the cast’s deliveries—Molly’s and Gigi’s in particular—of all the lines are amazing throughout.
I think what helps to make it so funny is that not every moment is laugh-out-loud hilarious. There are subtle moments here and there that really contrast with the big ones to make them feel...even bigger? Also, the casualness with which certain lines are said just makes them even funnier because it’s like they weren’t intended to be humorous. Like when Jared says “absofruitly” like it’s no big deal.
HY: The way the comedy unfolds so perfectly is just a delight to watch—Gigi’s vitamins flying everywhere, for instance. Or the iconic “Is that Cardi B?” line. I liken it to Olivia Wilde and the crew driving, and you expect them to drive straight or turn right, but they take a hard left, sort of an adrenaline rush.
JC: Exactly! The unpredictability of it all—but in the same breath, how sometimes, you can anticipate it and it gives you a feeling of dread that makes it all so much funnier. Like, whenever they put the headphones in to listen to the porn, I knew that they’d either accidentally rip them out and blast the porn or the AUX would go in, and the dread made it so much better when it actually happened.
Biggest themes in Booksmart
HY: Booksmart, for me, was a lot about individuality and how we understand other people. There are a lot of stereotypical high school characters introduced to us at first. We see Jared and we think “Oh, he’s the one flaunting his wealth with the Gucci, he’s the fuckboi.” We see Theo and he’s the pothead/coding dude. We see Triple A and she’s a girl who likes sex. Nick is the dumb one, Gigi is the weird one, and Hope is the mean one. But as the film progresses, these characters become people and not just stereotypes. We see them as people we could possibly understand and even relate to. We tend to hide our real emotions and how much we care about things because people judge and it seems so uncool sometimes. The moment when Jared gets super honest with Molly and talks about his dreams and how nobody knows him at the school—it’s a feeling that a lot of us can relate to, and it feels like the loneliest thing in the world. If we’re lucky, like Molly and Amy, there are people who truly understand us and who we can truly be honest with. It’s something that struck me—no matter what we project or what stereotype we claim, each of us have real emotions and aspirations behind it all. The true version of ourselves is so, so hard to share with other people, and because of that I think we end up misjudging each other. That’s a lesson Molly certainly learned with Jared, Gigi, and Molly (and one that Amy learned with Hope). At the graduation scene, Molly says “I see you” to her class, and that is such a beautiful concept.  
JC: I agree that stereotypes were super central in Booksmart. I think stereotypes are super central in almost every coming-of-age film, and Booksmart is very refreshing in how it tackles them. I think that another major theme was accepting your mistakes and growing from them, too. Molly has a bit of a low-key superiority complex toward her peers—at the beginning of the film, she thinks she works harder than everyone, deserves more than everyone. At the end of the movie, she realizes that she was wrong about a lot of people. So, I think that the whole realizing-your-flaws thing is big.

By Julianna Chen and Hannah Yang

A Dream Within a Dream

Recently, I read the book Ready Player One by E. Cline (now a major motion film directed by Steven Spielberg) in which reality is a nightmare and the world’s population spends most of their waking hours logged into the OASIS—a virtual reality that allows them to escape their circumstances. The book immediately reminded me of how much our lives constantly revolve around distractions. If I feel down, I can easily receive what my mind considers validation and friendship by scrolling through social media. Even beyond that, my time is constantly being filled by watching shows and movies or reading books that seem far more interesting than my own life. Escapism is something humans have employed throughout history—we’re always looking for a way to make the world we live in happier, better, and more entertaining. I titled my series A Dream Within a Dream after Edgar Allan Poe’s poem of the same title, which touches on the ideas of surrealism and the unknown. The poem may be interpreted in many ways, but I saw aspects of my own life reflected within the lines. Thanks to the internet, everywhere can be a liminal place where we exist but are distracted. It’s as if we are always dreaming, but willingly. The bright colors and lovely weather portray exactly what I envision when I hear the words "a dream within a dream."

By Anova Hou
Modeled by Wilfredo, Ellia, Mark, and Tiffany
Styled by Love To All Project with Creative Direction by Koby Chen and Justin Li

What I'm Trying to Remember During Pride Month

I’ll never forget the afternoon my best friend came out to me as bi. It was a sunny but lazy Tuesday, and I was dropping him off at his house like I have hundreds of times in the past couple of years. And he just said it.

“See you tomorrow, man. Oh, and I’m bi, just so you know.”

I want to tell that story, but we’re not quite there yet. There’s a number I’d like to discuss first. Seventy. 70. According to a Newsweek article published in April of this year, seventy UN member states around the world still criminalize “same-sex sexual acts.” As someone who was born and raised in the Bay Area, with the heart of San Francisco’s progressive tradition never more than an hour from home, it can be hard to internalize that.

Earlier this year, during the time my friend came out, the small island nation of Brunei was in the news for trying to implement the death penalty for its citizens convicted of partaking in gay sex. It’s hard to imagine—people fleeing their country for fear of being stoned at the very same time that my friend was coming out to me.

More recently, in Kenya what began as a spark of hope has ended in a major step backwards. A trial held in Kenya’s highest court considering the legality of homosexuality seemed at first like the nation preparing to take a step forward in recognizing its citizens’ rights. But in May, the court upheld laws criminalizing gay sex. Progress often feels infuriatingly incremental if not downright impossible.

Of course, that’s not to see progress doesn’t exist. In late 2018, Indian courts struck down laws banning gay sex. The ruling went even further and granted gay Indians protection under the constitution. Even with the progressive ruling, though, many LGBTQ+ Indians still struggle from immense societal pressures that have been ingrained through generations. Progress must include legislative changes, but it doesn’t end in the courtroom.

The magnitude of the injustice faced by LGBTQ+ people around the world is hard for me to comprehend. And I think for me, part of Pride Month is remembering this—not only that these injustices exist, but also that for many people they exist as a horrible part of everyday life, not something more abstract.

My friend and I met freshman year of high school. We had gone to different middle schools, and the joy of my first few months of high school was slowly discovering that we share many of the same interests. We love talking politics and pushing progressive policies. We love basketball, and we’re both bad enough at it that playing against each other is fun.

Pretty quickly, we became best friends. We’ve had the same schedule pretty much all of high school. It became a joke between us that if one of us had a funny story to tell, the other would hear it six or seven times throughout the day. We’ve talked to each other through break-ups, car accidents, and depression.

And so it felt a bit funny that he didn’t come out to me until senior year. That began to change as I saw how our local community reacted. Classmates and friends walked up to him in disbelief, asking him if it was really true. I’ve watched my best friend find powerful support groups and struggle to hide his sexual orientation as if it were some kind of poison. I’ve seen him unable to come out to friends who he’d grown up with, friends who he hung out with multiple times a week.

Even here in the Bay Area, homophobia still exists. The big, bold, progressive crowd that you’ve probably seen protesting on Market or flying pride flags throughout the city is certainly present, but there’s also a noticeable pressure in the opposite direction. A pressure which may cause even someone as progressive as my friend to feel uncomfortable fully embracing himself. For him, communities like our school’s GSA Club became important places to feel safe. But those communities were often limited to only certain classrooms, as outside of them, there were plenty of our peers ready to make fun of or treat my friend as if he’s somehow fundamentally different.

All of this is to say that, with Pride Month now here, I’m trying to remember both how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.

By Colton Wills

Queering the Myth

Arthouse4: The Kids, The Art, The Culture

Local Atlanta collective Arthouse just had its seasonal climax: Arthouse4. Founders Uncle Bendr, Chriz Vaughn, Jlenz, Kix Hendrix, Mack Walker, and Mael pulled out all the stops, booking performances by several musicians and curating a showcase featuring an array of well-known creatives.

Created by youth for youth, Arthouse binds young people to a bigger change in art culture. The refreshing thing about Artouse is that nothing feels fake, of pretense or expectation—the art simmers, intrigues. At Arthouse we get weird, and we like it that way.

This time around, the event was held in an old church in downtown ATL, an interesting choice considering the juxtaposition of tradition and youthful defiance. Kids in chains and ripped denim posed for photos under stained glass windows, black surgical masks covering the lower halves of their faces. Racks of sparkling, painted, safety-pinned clothing lined the space where the pews would have been, sparking, painted and safety-pinned; digital and oil art hung from the walls while the creators lurked beneath, eager to sell their work. Music rolled throughout the church, shaking its foundations and reaching to the vaulted ceilings. Boys in dark skinny jeans cried into the microphones on stage, and neon lights bled across their skin as the crowd thrashed to the beat. The church was brimming with young people, all eager and bubbling.

For all its breathless excitement, I think the reason so many kids flock to Arthouse lies beyond the music and exhibitions. It’s the culture it inspires, the community it fosters, and the empowerment of knowing you’re part of something bigger than yourself. It’s an experience.

By Erin Davis

Does Tyler, The Creator Really Get Over His Unrequited Love in ‘IGOR’?

Headphones on, album downloaded, lights dimmed. That’s how I listened to IGOR, Tyler, the Creator’s fifth studio album. It’s a creation filled with big features (Kanye, Solange, and Jack White, to name a few) produced, written, and arranged by Tyler himself. It’s arguably one of his best works, a true maturation and deviation from his previous albums. And at the risk of sounding too fussy about it, the best way to experience IGOR is to listen to it all at once--no stops, no distractions. Any album could be listened to that way, but with IGOR, it’s essential. Tyler even put out a statement before the album released, encouraging listeners to “fully indulge. With volume.”

IGOR is a creation more brilliant as a whole rather than in its parts. It’s one of Tyler’s most experimental albums, featuring very little rapping—a far cry from Goblin or Wolf. But it also isn’t made up of the sweet sadness that defined Flower Boy, either. IGOR is more agitated and distressed. It’s about unrequited feelings and the process of moving through them. There’s a clear narrative in all of the songs: the guy Tyler likes goes after a girl, Tyler’s feelings aren’t reciprocated, can they still be friends? There’s even a Call Me By Your Name reference.

There are still happy songs on IGOR reminiscent of Flowerboy’s orange sunsets. And there are still remnants of Tyler’s classic sound—aggressive, hard-hitting beats and raps that pierce through the haze of other sounds. But there are also more details. There is an intricacy and complexity to this album that Tyler has never achieved before, which risks veering into drowning out his own words. IGOR is also lacking in lyrical diversity, though the album as a whole is still ambitious, finely layered and emotionally nuanced.

IGOR sounds like a dialogue happening in Tyler’s mind. He addresses the person he loves throughout the whole album (on “EARFQUAKE,” he begs, “Don’t leave, it’s my fault”), eventually realizing his feelings for this person: “I think I’m falling in love / This time I think it’s for real / How can I tell you?” During these particular moments, the album teeters on nervousness. And then, in “RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” Tyler aims to have his feelings reciprocated. It’s implied that Tyler’s guy is lying to himself and maintaining some sort of relationship with her. Or is that what Tyler is trying to convince himself? Is the other person even aware of Tyler’s feelings—did he ever speak up?

In “NEW MAGIC WAND,” the emotional landscape shifts into sharp edges and rocky terrain. Tyler’s feelings have gotten more aggressive, and he’s fantasizing: “This 60-40 isn’t working / I want a hundred of your time / She’s gonna be dead / I got a magic wand / I wanna share last names.” Again, he begs, “Please don’t leave me now.” Tyler starts to acknowledge the toxicity of his relationship’s one-sided nature in “A BOY IS A GUN”: “Make your fuckin’ mind up / I am sick of waiting’ patiently / How come you the best to me? I know you the worst for me / You invited me to breakfast, why the fuck your ex here?” He needs to be with this person, but he’s realizing just how dangerous that is: “You’re a gun cause I like you on my side at all times / You keep me safe / Wait, wait /You could be dangerous to me or anyone else.”

“PUPPET” then goes further into Tyler’s obsession. He emphasizes how much he needs the person he’s in love with (“I can’t maneuver without you next to me”), and then he exposes a different side of himself—he’s willing to do anything for his love. Once again, though, he realizes this isn’t good for him. The song spirals into angst as he wonders whether he waited too long, and he questions why he’s willing to be controlled by an unreciprocated relationship.

In “WHAT’S GOOD,” it seems as though Tyler has risen from his depressive brooding and descended into a mad frenzy, like he’s trying to purge himself of his feelings. It sounds strained and unhinged at the same time, like he’s trying to convince himself as much as anyone else. Things calm down in the next track, though—“GONE,GONE/THANK YOU” is a swinging, child-like song. He claims his love is gone, and wishes the other person well. “You never lived in your truth / I’m just happy I lived in it / But I finally found peace, so peace.” Maybe this does mean that he told the person how he felt? Or is it still all in his mind? There’s a lingering sense that Tyler is trying to convince himself that he’s over it. “I DONT LOVE YOU ANYMORE” is a more resolute goodbye, a culmination of the album’s rising tensions. And finally, on “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS,” Tyler tries to reach out again. Maybe there are residual feelings, maybe they’re all gone, but he wants to be close to this person again.

In some ways, IGOR is a heart-wrenching album that goes through the process of falling in and out of love. It’s also the most emotionally vulnerable and raw Tyler has gotten, whether the narrative is real or not. He gives each word subtle meaning and emotion. We, as a blessed audience, get a multi-colored, transparent look at his experience. We hear Tyler’s words as he intends for his person to hear—the questions and the pleading and the arguments—but we are also privy to the fear, longing, and anxiety that rumble underneath the sweet synth exterior. And he puts those feelings on us so perfectly that by the end of IGOR, I am left desperately wanting a conclusion. But it’s never that simple. Tyler ends IGOR with a hopeful new beginning or a desolate future, a question that starts tentatively with the rebirth of his emotions and swells into him asking with increasing agitation and passion, as if the person he’s been addressing is walking away, “Are we still friends?”

Then, silence.   

By Hannah Yang