‘Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book’ by Saiya Miller and Liza Bley
Author: Cathy Camper
September 12, 2013
Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf (Soft Skull Press) started in 2008 when authors Saiya Miller and Liza Bley put out an open call for young people to contribute comics that addressed subjects often ignored by traditional sex ed programs. They wanted to include topics like body image, safe sex, consent, and relationships, and include comics that challenged hetero and gender normative practices in sex education.
Chapter headings are large and loose, for example: Beginnings, Bodies, Identity and Health. “Beginnings” of course features tales of first sexual experience, but it also includes comics ranging from a child’s explanation of where babies come from to an adult’s backward look at sex lessons learned over time.
These personal accounts do something traditional sex education lessons often overlook. Instead of emphasizing what to do, or more specifically, what one should do sexually, these comics explore how people feel. Along with the editors’ reflections, creators share tales of eroticism, ineptitude, empowerment, cluelessness, embarrassment, realization, acknowledgement, love, rejection and challenge– in short, the whole messy range of feelings sexuality evokes.
True to their zine origins, these stories record sexuality within alternative culture. Ellery’s “Train Cum” shares an erotic encounter between two guys in a boxcar, riding the rails. Sparky Taylor’s “My Body, Myself” looks at how punk attitudes helped her build her sense of self-esteem. Some of the comics forge their own standards where none exist. “Name Your World” by Eli Brown explains Brown’s search to “conjure a name for my trannycock? [too long] Dicklet? [sounds like Chicklet] Bits? [Eh-eh] Lower Stuff [What?] Micro-penis? [Hell-no!]” And Mat Defiler’s “Gray Sex” questions mainstream society’s ageism towards elderly sexuality.
This collection also addresses common sexual insecurities young people face. Reading about someone else’s struggles with STDs, rejection or even boob size might not make the problem disappear, but it will help readers with similar issues feel less isolated.
While the audience for this book is supposed to be young people, one detriment is there is very little discussion around the influence of technology on sexuality. The media has covered sexting to death, but it would be helpful to read kids’ own accounts of how technology affects their flirting, searching for supportive community, self-identity and safety. I’d love to see what an open call to youth for comics on these topics would turn up. Perhaps a future zine might address that?
Though the artists are mostly amateurs, the majority of these black and white cartoons are inviting and approachable – just a few are blurry or reprinted too small to read easily. Overall, this collection will help share needed alternative viewpoints on sexuality to a wider young audience than the original zines would reach, and would be an especially useful purchase for libraries or groups serving LGBT or alternative youth, as well as zine libraries.
Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book
By Saiya Miller and Liza Bley
Soft Skull Press
Paperback, 9781593765170, 272 pp.