The Stigma Around Sexuality


Anissa Rashid

A still shot from Anissa Rashid and Alyssa Kearns’s short film “Red Girls”. The whole film can be seen on youtube under “Red Girls”-SHORT FILM.

Anissa Rashid, Photography Editor

The negative stigma around sexuality and sex still widely exists in our current society. For example, adults and teachers are more likely to show younger students or younger children movies with violence and gore rather than let them watch a sexual scene. Openly talking about sex and sexuality is still a taboo and uncomfortable topic. This becomes an issue when young people are discovering themselves, yet feel uncomfortable asking questions or seeking advice. Sexual education is often not comprehensive or inclusive enough to answer many teengaers’ questions. Heterosexual sex is typically the only type we learn about, which leads to more confusion and ignorance around the LGBTQ+ community, and discludes what safe practices and precautions they should be following. Although the LGBTQ+ community has made incredible progress in gaining their rights, we still live in a heteronormative society that perpetuates a negative stigma towards discovering sexuality and the act of sex itself.

With the intent of challenging this stigma and opening the conversation to controversial topics, Alyssa Kearns and I created the short film Red Girls for our Video Production class final. This film was an exploration of sexuality and portrays the struggles that members of the LGBTQ+ community face. Although we received a lot of positive feedback from the judges and our teacher Mr. D’Ambrosio, Red Girls was not selected by the judges to be featured in the Film Festival. Though we are not allowed to see the rubric on our film, based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received, we felt that the judges’ decision was not at all based on our film’s overall quality, but rather on our film’s “mature” content. Red Girls is a coming of age story for the main character, June. As part of this journey, our film displays several “mature” or “risque” scenes, including an implied Lesbian sex scene. While one may argue that this content is not appropriate in general for the film festival, this type of material is no different than similar content that has been displayed in previous DHS Film Festivals and will be displayed in current films this year. Other films have portrayed drug use, suicide, deaths, and have also displayed romantic relationships. The difference between these previous films and Red Girls is that our film is about a Lesbian relationship, rather than a strictly heterosexual one. We also pushed the boundary by using sex to deepen the message of our film, while still portraying it in an artistic manner. Though our decision to choose such a topic was a risk, we felt that the message our film conveyed was too important to let remain silent.

Mr. D’Ambrosio, forwarded this letter to our administration two weeks ago and the response we have received was understandably vague because Mrs. Holthe could not represent the opinions of all the judges and administrators. Though Mr. D’Ambrosio cannot show us what the judges explicitly said, he explained how half were in complete support and wanted it to be in the festival, while the other half felt it was too “mature for our audience.” We did keep our audience in mind, since this is a high school film festival we expected high school students to relate to this film and appreciate the artistic portrayal of the act, and again the overall quality of production was comparable to the other films in the festival. Mr. D’Ambrosio also explained how, “Each year students are pushing the limit with their creativity, and each year they have to reassess the standard to judge by.” Our film pushed the bar and will change the standards for the upcoming years, yet this year our school simply wasn’t ready for what we created. Although our effort to break the negative stigma surrounding sex was not included in the film festival, we can still open the discussion on campus. Our film is on Youtube under the title “Red Girls—SHORT FILM” and we hope you enjoy our message and share it with others.