Alison Bechdel, known for her graphic books and the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, commented on this new sex education comic book, "I wish I could go back in time and learn about sex from this book." A compilation of comics from 50 young authors on their personal sexual journeys, Not Your Mother's Meatloaf breaks ground by presenting frank and inspiring sex information in a format that young people will relate to.
The book is the work of two editors, Saiya Miller and Liza Bley, who decided to put together in book form the best of material gathered since 2008 from callouts to young people across the country to submit their sexual stories in comics form. Originally, these stories were presented as a comic-book series. Here, Miller and Bley add new graphic tales and writings of their own exploring personal and sociological backgrounds on the subjects of sex and sexual health in all its myriad forms.
For those who feel sexual orientation creds matter (and as best one can tell from what is revealed here), of the two editors Bley seems to fall more firmly in the lesbian camp. In one comic panel she contributed, we see two women at a campfire. One states, "My first time in a relationship type thing with a girl." Next box, they are lying in bed naked. One woman states, "It was fun!" The final box in the panel is captioned "Until it wasn't" and shows a cellphone message, "Liza, we need to … talk."
Bley's senior project in college was the first incarnation of Not Your Mother's Meatloaf. She currently lives and works with youth in Albuquerque. Miller has worked as an educator and activist, and has used comics and zines in workshops for teens. She lives in Brooklyn and Vermont.
Bley discussed her own evolution on sex education in one of the essays. "I am still embarrassed when I don't know all the answers to my own body's questions. After years of repressing my genuine emotions, it was a habit to be insincere. Compiling Not Your Mother's Meatloaf over the past five years has helped me remember the importance of confronting this shame. Reading other people's stories has a powerful influence on interpreting my own sexual experiences."
Miller describes the impact comics can have on working through the personal meaning of sexual issues. "It is not uncommon for these comics to be confessional, to tell about something that has never been revealed. One artist described it as packing up a room full of secrets, putting them into boxes, and lining them up in a row. … It offers a form in which to organize the chaos of memory."
To be sure, there are weak areas in the book in terms of representation of LGBT experiences. There are no examples that I could see (it's sometimes hard to detect the gender of the people depicted) of young gay males. Of the 50 comics chosen, only six are about lesbians. There is one depiction of a transgender person. Nonetheless, the accounts are arresting and offer plenty to educate any of us.
As Joyce Farmer, the collaborator of an underground comic from the '70s called Tits & Clits, expressed in the Foreword, "Not everyone will like every story. If this happens to you, just open yourself to a new perspective. Or just turn the page."
The contributions are grouped in seven chapters covering categories such as health, bodies, identity, age and more. You will find in these pages comic renderings about BDSM, hookups, dirty sex, first times, safe sex and queer sex, to name a few. References are included to websites and blogs of some of the contributors. Miller and Bley can be contacted through their website www.notyourmothersmeatloafbook.com .
There is a lot to be learned hereand fun to see the graphic depictionsby teens and adults alike.