Anja Rubik – Founder of the sexedPL movement and foundation, model, philanthropist
#sexedPL BY ANJA RUBIK
Two years ago I was confronted with a fundamental issue in my country. Polish people had very little access to education and support about understanding their sexuality and safe sex. In Poland sex is taboo, sex education is nonexistent and most teenagers are fed at school with misleading or downright false information, such as: Masturbation is a sin and immature, homosexuality is an illness that should be treated, the best way of birth control is measuring your temperature or God himself and menstruation is the bloody tears of the uterus crying that she doesn’t have a baby inside of her.
The reality is this: Less than half of 18-year-olds in Poland can correctly answer questions about the anatomy and function of the female reproductive system. According to a survey done by the Polish Institute of Educational Studies, most teenagers know very little about methods of contraception or STIs, and stereotypes about sexuality dominate. STIs are on the rise, mainly in the lower age bracket of sexually active youth. Every day in Poland, 4 to 5 people are diagnosed with HIV. There are over 15,000 teenage pregnancies reported in Poland annually. The entire world speaks about the necessity and power of education, but we rarely talk about sex education, and sex is one of the most common elements of our life and applies to every human on this planet. It should go without saying that sex is an integral part of all of our lives. Not only is it the reason why we’re all here, but it also plays a vital role in our overall physical and mental well-being and has a fundamental impact on our health, safety, understanding of oneself and others, ability to build relationships, equality and tolerance.
I set out in my own small way to provide a bridge and platform of support for the current generation to hold onto and grow to counter the resurgent forces of Christian conservatism and the ongoing government campaigns against sex education, the LGBTQIAP+ community and plans to restrict women’s rights. Without being immodest, the project grew into a resounding success. The impact has been bigger than I could have imagined. Over 13 million views, 150,000 books sold on sex education and hundreds of letters detailing how #sexedPL has touched specific lives. Thanks to #sexedPL a community came together to support each other, and the human spirit reminded us all that openness, kindness and education can create more progress than repression or brutality.
Sex is everywhere. Talking about it can be beautiful, confronting, confusing and uncomfortable. It transcends language and culture. Our views on sex are as complicated and varied as they are fundamentally part of our healthy future. #sexedPL set out to build a safe platform for all genders and sexualities to discuss safe sex, learn about consent and explore their own sexuality. The platform aimed to take the taboo out of sex with a goal to create responsible, educated sexual freedom among the young leaders of tomorrow. Sex education shapes the society we live in.
PAOLA: What is it like to grow up in Poland? What feelings come with it?
BERENIKA: The feelings are definitely mixed: Warsaw, Poland is my home, my safe place, where I feel comfortable, but at the same time, I am perfectly aware that I do look different than most people here. It causes a feeling of being constantly torn between Venezuela, my mother’s country, and Poland.
OLIVIA: It is not easy: I love my country and I am proud to say that I am Polish, but I also feel like Poland has caused me a great deal of pain.
PAOLA: Why is it important to fight for your rights? Which fights are the most important to you right now?
ANTON: As cliché as it sounds, it is about a collective fight towards an equal world without violence, also for people who are not hetero-normative or cis-gender. Right now, to me, the most important fight is the one for the gender reassignment act.
ANDRZEJ: It is important to fight for our rights because I would like to be treated with the same respect as everybody else and I would like to stop hiding who I love.
OLIWIA: Because I would like for my children to grow up in an open and accepting environment.
JAN BRIKS:I feel like without fighting for my rights, I would never be taken seriously. The most important rights to me are freedom of religious beliefs, free speech and the right to feel at liberty to live my everyday life the way I want to.
PAOLA: Do you think that sex education is important? If so, why?
FRANEK: In the 21st century, sex has become the central element of our identity. It is the main factor that shapes the way other people see us or even the way we shop (sex is an important branch of marketing). Sexual education allows us not only to understand ourselves, but also to understand the world around us.
ANTON: A good sexual education creates a space for young people to resolve certain doubts concerning their puberty. An attentive educator is able to provide support and helps young people to open up and explore different identities and sexual orientations in a safe environment.
BERENIK:I do!!! Sex is a common experience of every single human being. Our body is the first and only thing that we own throughout our whole life, which is why it is worth learning about it.
ANDRZEJ:Sexual education is as important as any other education, but what makes it stand out is that it concerns the very essence of us being human.
TERESA: The less hate you carry within you, the better your quality of life.
PAOLA: What does freedom mean to you? Do you feel free?
MARTA: To me, freedom means having the courage to be yourself and the ability to decide about your own life by yourself.
NATALIA: Freedom means a sense of security. I do not feel completely free.
ANDRZEJ: To me, freedom means equality, being fully accepted by your environment and having the opportunity to live a full life in all its aspects.
PAOLA: How do you think young people in your country feel? Do they feel free?
ALEKSANDER: I am sure that not everybody in Poland consider themselves free. Not all the citizens have the same rights and many things are not accepted by our society.
PAOLA: How is your generation different from the ones that came before?
KRZYSZTOF: I would call our generation “creators.” We all seem to have a desire to create, and I think that it is great. We need to keep encouraging artistic expression among young people. The internet offers such an abundance of opportunities and sometimes it is hard to choose only one. Sharing your artistic endeavours has become so easy, that we sometimes feel a kind of sensory overload.
BERENIKA: We are a generation of people with great awareness.
ALEKSANDER: Our generation is different because we often forget the sacrifices that our parents had to make so that we can live such comfortable lives. At the same time, many people from our generation do incredible work for the society. Oh, and we have auto-tune.
TERESA: We are a generation of “follow 4 follow” and “masc 4 masc.” We definitely are more eager to shake off the traditional social roles. Modern technologies give us the opportunity to explore certain topics, which is great.
PAOLA: How do you think you could introduce changes to our society? What would you like to change?
KACPER: I would let young people’s voices be heard.
PATRYCJA: I would like to change the society’s approach to change. I believe that I can make a difference by being vocal about my own opinions.
FRANEK: I would make sure that politicians and the media stop demonising certain minorities in order to manipulate the society and promote stereotypes.
ALEKSANDER: I would encourage people to participate in protesting marches, to get involved in social movements and to always go vote. I would like to change people’s negative approach to certain minority groups.
ANDRZEJ: I would love for people to understand that they are free to do whatever they like, as long as their actions do not hurt others.
PAOLA: What would you say to young people to inspire them to be themselves?
PATRYCJA: You only have one life; and no matter what you do, people will always judge you, so don’t worry.
PAOLA: Why is it so important to be yourself?
KRZYSZTOF: Each of us is a unique mix of genes. Every particle is one-of-a-kind. We all live through a different set of experiences and we all have different talents and skills. Each of us has a different mission in life. When we learn about our weak and strong points, we are able to fully use our potential. Only the truth will set us free.
ROCH: Tricking your own mind is the most stupid thing that you can do to yourself.
PAOLA: In what way social media shape our lives? Can we use them as platforms to introduce change?
ROCH: Our generation is responsible for the future shape of social media, we have to be careful about the changes we want to introduce to them.
PAOLA: What is your message to young people, both in your country and around the world?
OLIVIA: Hold on, don’t lose hope, you are not alone, don’t be indifferent, fight for your cause.
FRANEK: Trust yourself, keep learning about yourself, find out why you feel a certain way. Always be open to hearing different points of view and be critical towards your own opinions.
PAOLA: Why did you become a part of sexedpl?
ANTON: I would like for young people to understand that being trans is just one aspect of your identity. Apart from that, we are children, parents, friends, lovers, etc. Being transgender is not anything to be ashamed of.