"What is normal" Project

A project opening up the conversation

Lydia and I are currently going into schools with Lydia’s project using cast body parts to open the discussion on “what is normal.” Lydia has been creating her project for the past year and I am a teacher who has already taught many sex education lessons along with guiding schools on the development of their sex ed programme. Together with Lydia, we have the perfect foundations to deliver this much needed project.



Why you need us to visit

We live in a society where we are still not opening up as we should about our bodies. Our young people are still growing up wondering whether what their bodies look like what is considered as ‘normal'. This worrying view, that many of us still hold onto late into adulthood, can have major affects on self esteem, confidence and relationships with others.

A survey for a BBC documentary targeting those between 18-25 found that 55% of men said their main source of sex ed came from porn. With pornography more and more readily available on our phones nobody knows exactly how old most are when they’re first exposed to porn, with some citing it’s 11 years old, while others say as young as 8.

The BBC survey found 34% of women said the bulk of their sex education came from adult material, with 50% of female respondents expressing fears that porn dehumanised women. Our young adults are then comparing their bodies with others. This comparison can snowball feelings. In order to have a better grasp on how our bodies develop, and the fact we are all individual, they need the opportunity to discuss their current understanding to build on this and move forward positively.

When our young people are accessing porn, they are viewing bodies in a staged environment with high expectations. Our bodies are all different and unique. Porn is not supporting the young person with a rounded understanding of what a range of body types look like. We are not guiding them and supporting them in a controlled environment, instead they are watching and being left with many unanswered questions.

A survey by Glamour showed that 97 percent of the young girls surveyed are critical of their bodies and have an average of 13 negative body thoughts each day. Women believe pornographic content is actively creating "impossible" beauty standards. This teamed with social media with accounts filled with filtered and edited images is an increasing concern. We need to offer opportunities like the one our project offers to support our young people in an age where they are being subjected to conflicting, damaging content.

The government has announced a broader sex curriculum from September 2020 and in line with this, Lydia and I have created a workshop we believe every young person needs to be part of.

Who is Lydia Reeves?

Lydia is an artist based in Hove who works to open up discussions around our bodies which have previously been closed off in society and on social media.

Lydia has been casting female and male body parts for the past year. Recently, she put out a request for 100 women to have their vulva cast to celebrate the huge variety that there is. Lydia has surpassed this number in less than a few months while working full time. This shows just how many adults are now actively seeking out support with their body image. They are fascinated by the topics not covered in schools and at home as they grew up.

Together, we have curated a collection especially for schools with a range of stories attached to each cast from great relationships, difficult relationships to those who have transitioned or to those waiting to transition.

Lydia casts participants in her project and then asks them to describe their relationship with their vulvas or penis growing up. So many of them said their anxieties started in their school years.

What is involved in the workshop?

The workshop is broken down into several sections. It lasts for one hour and is aimed at Year 10 and Year 11.

Students will have the chance to discuss the vulvas and penis casts in a room set out as if it is an art gallery
We will come together to share some words referring to the art they have just been looking at as a collective
Students will label a vulva and penis
After splitting into groups we discuss the potential story behind given vulva and penis casts
Coming back together, we discuss these and share the real stories
At the end of the workshop we discuss ‘what is normal’ (that in fact absolutely everything is ‘normal’) and reflect on how the session will impact their views moving forward.

We both work flexibly and aim for the workshops to work around the school's time table and needs. Crucially, we would discuss specific needs and requirements prior to the workshop and if necessary would appreciate being made aware of any students you felt would need additional support for any reason.

Both Lydia and I have DBS checks which we will bring on the day or prior if necessary.

Changing the conversation

We are two young women who believe passionately about this project and aim to deliver this session in at least 20 schools by 2021.

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