Tobi Hill-Meyer

Porn for Education

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | March 13, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-pornography, biphobia, partner abuse, porn, sex ed, sex education, sexual purity, sexuality education

Sex education is an under-discussed topic in our community, so I'm really glad to see Alex's week-long series on the subject of abstinence-only education. With such poor education in the schools, it's no wonder so many people are getting their information from other sources. The sources people do get their information from, like friends, the internet, and porn, can be hit or miss. Sometimes giving information just as bad as abstinence-only education.

But where others only see detriment, I see opportunity. Porn doesn't have to be misinformed, but instead can be educational. Instead of fighting with zealous parents and school administrators resisting any curriculum reform, I've chosen another tactic. I'm a firm believer in life-long age appropriate sex education. As much as reform is needed in sex education for youth, it's also true that virtually all sex education disappears when someone becomes an adult, and lifelong doesn't mean age 5-18.

I first realized the power of porn as a medium after I distributed my first erotic-fiction zine. One of my first readers told me "Wow, I've learned more from your porn than from a trans 101." My reaction was, I liked writing it more than I like doing trans 101s, I should do more of this.

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The story, entitled "Escaping the Gender Police," is about two trans women drag kings dealing with real issues in their sexuality, such as disassociation, body triggers, and gender play -- Not to mention the inclusion of safe sex information, proper usage of toys, and other handy information I never learned in sex ed. I learned several things from writing and distributing that zine. First off, giving presentations or "trans 101s" meant that I was willingly subjecting myself to stupid questions, and while I was happy to do it, it also led to burnout. Writing porn on the other-hand, recharged me.

Secondly, fiction is an entirely different world for education. For one, in the classroom I was the oddity being studied and the rest of the class was clearly normal. When reading my stories, people unfamiliar with trans community become the oddity, as they are surrounded with trans characters who discuss important topics in queer and trans communities without over-simplifying it for them.

My goal was to provide readers familiar with trans communities with a wide representation of experiences and identities that aren't usually reflected in media, and I inadvertently ended up giving readers without that familiarity a whirlwind of information and perspectives creating an experience not unlike culture shock. Of course, there's enough information present to figure out what is going on and what everything means, but instead of handing out definitions I'm providing motivation for people to figure it out themselves.

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That one story turned into a series, which I've used to cover many other topics. Transcending Virginity addresses the odd notions of sexual purity that exist in both conservative communities and certain feminist communities. Bad Sex explores a trans woman's struggles with her sexuality after starting testosterone blockers. Surviving the Sex Wars deals with biphobia and anti-porn activism from the 80s. The two most recent issues, Just the Two of Us and Active Imagination, follow a character in an abusive relationship and the impact that has on her even after the relationship is over (Just the Two of Us also includes a trans-specific partner abuse resource guide).

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In the three years since I began this project, I've learned a lot. I've done numerous readings up and down the west coast, and presented on the idea of using erotica and pornography as a medium for education and social change. I've even had my first zine assigned as reading for a class or two. And I've grown more and more confident that this is an effective strategy, and begun expanding my work.

In two weeks, look for my next post on this subject where I will discuss moving from written work to the screen, and using pornography as a tool for social change. In the meantime, for my lovely Bilerico readers, I'd like to share an electronic copy of Escaping the Gender Police (but check it now as I'll only keep the link open for a week, as I normally charge for it). If you want to see more details about this project, visit www.handbasketproductions.com.


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Thanks for tackling this topic, Tobi, as well as for the offer of the free zine.

In a completely different arena, as the mother of a young son, I often see the power of educating through fiction. No reason that power should lose its effect as we get older. Thanks for reminding us.

Wait, I can't find how to get to the zine. What should we click on after we follow the link?

Oops, I had forgotten the link. It's in the last paragraph now, but you can also try it here.