A Miseducation: The Case for Consent
One in four women and one in six men are victims of sexual assault before the age of 18. Teaching consent in schools is the first step towards not only combatting these statistics, but dismantling the toxic culture that makes these statistics a reality.
Mission StatementAmerica's overlooked sex education system has the power to prevent millions of sexual assaults, yet it continues to fail. Visually, I have the tools and creativity to tell this story in a meaningful way. I not only have a female gaze, but a youthful gaze, and most importantly, a survivor's gaze.
About The Project
In the United States, one in four women and one in six men will be victims of sexual assault before the age of 18 - this is an epidemic. Unfortunately, most schools do not teach progressive sexual education because they are afraid of a backlash from parents or conservative organizations. As with many societal reforms, mandating this education is an uphill battle entangled in politics.
We know 45% of high schoolers are sexually active, yet we deny most American high schoolers comprehensive sex education. How do we expect young men and women to report rapes if they don’t know their legal rights? Aren’t we more likely to curb a rapist's likelihood of intent if we teach all students about consent and healthy relationships before they are sexually active? If a student has no education about sexual assault, they are going to pick up on cues as to what is sexually acceptable from peers, pornography, and pop culture. Misinformation about sex, consent, and healthy relationships is one of the most damaging things children and teens pick up when they are not given access to the facts. A meaningful understanding of sexual assault is not always instinctive, and there are often blurred lines.
Only 30 states mandate any type of sexual education. Unfortunately, mandated sex education can be whatever they chose, often meaning abstinence-only education. This type of curriculum often demonizes any sex outside of marriage, leaving huge gaps in education, and neglects to include any awareness about sexual assault, something many of these kids will face. Teenagers and kids are growing into themselves, and the demonization of any sexual orientation, drive, or personal decision that does not harm themselves or others can seriously stunt a youth’s relationship with their own sexuality.
Abstinence-only education, which is practiced widely around the country, can even lead victims of sexual assault to believe that, if anything, the assault was their fault. Our sex education system as it is harms students - it harms their understanding of their own bodies, their health, the notion of consent, and their relationship with their sexuality.
Instead of perpetuating ineffective and antiquated approaches to sex education, we need to teach young people lifelong communication skills, including refusals, consent, and boundary-setting. We also need to teach listening skills, so that youth know how to listen for an affirmative yes. We need to break down the sex stereotypes that perpetuate sexual assault. We need to teach both genders to develop bodily autonomy. Young people need to learn how to respect their peers and not view them as objects for their pleasure.
Anti-sexual assault movements have gained incredible momentum since the #metoo movement. We finally have a place in society to speak up about sexual abuse experiences, but how do we stop them from happening in the first place? Widespread sexual assault goes back as long as the history of the world. It is our societal responsibility to address the problem and change the system before another generation is forced to suffer in silence.
My name is Laura Whitney, and I am A Miseducation: The Case for Consent’s Executive Producer and Director. Making this documentary has been a passion of mine over the last five years, and I’m so excited to watch it come to fruition and to share this process. A Miseducation: The Case for Consent was conceived out of the desire to educate those who have not experienced sexual assault firsthand, engage people to challenge their schools to provide better sex education, and ultimately prevent sexual assaults from happening through preventative education.
This documentary will not only shed light on how Gen Z is changing the conversation around consent education in schools, but how these advocates are confronting the politically charged policy debates at the intersection of sex education and sexual assault. Gen Z advocates are dynamic, tenacious, and thoughtful. I have no doubt that their work will change the way that sexual assault is approached in education.
This story will be shaped not only through their vision, but through visitations to schools and communities nationwide. The documentary will highlight policymakers, activists, and experts, and will conduct in-depth interviews. I will question politicians who vote for and against bills for consent education to provide insight into the legislators who make the most critical decisions about sex education curriculum.
In fact, we’ve already done just this. During our filming experience in Oklahoma, we were able to meet with many public figures and advocates, and also gained perspective on the extreme controversies that accompany the fight for inclusion of consent into sex education. This controversy deserves to be explored, and I hope to expose the opposition to consent education and, by extension, the necessity of this fight for change in our health curriculums.
One story which is particularly inspiring to me, and which we chose to highlight in our trailer, follows the advocacy and work of Stacey Wright and Lauren Atkins in Oklahoma. Stacey Wright leads Yes All Daughters, an non-profit dedicated to changing the statistics at which teens face sexual assault. After Lauren Atkins was raped her senior year of high school, and the case was horribly mishandled by police, she was able to team up with Stacey to ensure that no one else had to experience the trauma that she went through. Stacey wrote "Lauren's Law", a bill that would require consent and healthy relationship education for Oklahoma schools. Though the law has yet to pass, the urgency of its contents and the enormous impact that this bill would have on sex education nationwide inspires me to continue seeking out more of these grassroots campaigns that are slowly changing the landscape of sex education in our country.
Not only will I showcase campaigns for consent education, but A Miseducation: The Case for Consent will center teenagers across the country who these policies immediately impact and affect. Adolescence can be awkward, exciting, painful, funny, and confusing. Consent education is yet another tool which can ensure that our youth become thoughtful and compassionate members of society, and can empower confidence and autonomy as they navigate the changes which come with being a teenager.
What makes my vision so appropriate for this story is my ability to capture the tenderness of this period of growth and the need for formative policy which can guide it. Because of this, a basis in both individual perspective and realism will be critical to preserve the integrity of these advocates’ stories. A Miseducation: The Case for Consent will ask fundamental questions about policy, but it will also explore the need for this education at this age. How do memories look different than reality? What does a first kiss feel like? What does the silent tension between parent and child look like? To achieve this, I’ve taken aesthetic inspiration from artists such as Sam Levinson (Euphoria), Sofia Coppola (Palo Alto, Virgin Suicides), Petra Collins (The Teenage Gaze), and Ersin Gosk & David Chizallet (Mustang).
The American sexual education system must be changed in order to combat alarming sexual assault statistics and the toxic culture which contributes to these incidents. To do nothing would simply be irresponsible on the part of our public officials. A Miseducation: The Case for Consent will ensure that no one, and no legislator, is left unclear on the absolute importance of this issue.
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About This Team
Laura Whitney has been working in non-scripted television for the past five years, spending the last three years working as a Story Producer, and most recently making the jump to Editor. Laura’s credits include: Surviving R Kelly, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Born For Business, Netflix's I'm with the Band: Nasty Cherry, and many more. This documentary has been a passion project for Laura ever since she started working in television five years ago.
Outside of work Laura serves as a board Member of Accessible Festivals, a non-profit dedicated to making live music and recreational events fully accessible for people of all abilities. She also serves as a board member on Tartans For Change, and organization focused on increasing DEI work in school.
I came up with the topic of this documentary four years ago as I reflected on my own experience with sex education. I was 14 years old, a freshman in high school, and in a year I would experience my own sexual assault. In health class, I learned that once a woman engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage they were likened to a dirty shoe, a used piece of tape, and a flower that had all of its petals ripped off. Not only had I not learned anything about sexual assault outside of violence from a stranger, but I had actively been taught that once you engage in sexual activity (whether consensual or not) you are damaged in an irreversible way. It pains me to think about how many young people have shared this experience with me.
Stephanie Filo is a television and film editor in Los Angeles, California. She is a member of the board of directors of the Girls Empowerment Summit Sierra Leone, designed to enlighten, empower and inspire young Sierra Leonean girls(www.girlsempowermentsummitsl.org). Stephanie recently won an Emmy for her short documentary, “Separated“, which follows the trials of families separated during immigration.
Aside from the entertainment industry, she remains very involved in charitable issues. She worked with the United Nations, International Labour Organization, and the Obama White House Task Force's It's On Us campaign to combat campus sexual assault.
Emily St. Martin is a first year law student at Chicago-Kent. She is transitioning from entertainment into the legal world. Before law school, she worked in scripted and non-scripted production.
She is passionate about preventing sexual violence through storytelling and education. Through this documentary, she hopes to provide a jumping off point for our country to face the epidemic of sexual assault in a solution-driven way. Emily hopes to be able to merge her new legal knowledge with her love for storytelling to help create a safe world for high school students.
In her own high school experience, Emily was drugged and raped by a classmate. She suffered from PTSD for years, not knowing what was wrong. Partly due to societal factors, her young age, and the fascinating way that trauma works, she thought that what happened to her was not rape. Eleven years later, she came out and told her truth and began the healing process. Now, about five years into the healing journey, she is hoping to use her experience to help others as much as possible.