By Dr. Laura Wilhelm
How to Hack Birth Control is a no holds barred digital comedy series on how to navigate and take charge in today’s contraception universe. It takes a run at a long hit list of “not supposed to talk about” scenarios that include contraception, STDs, and OB/GYN visits.
How to Hack Birth Control may make you wonder what else they didn’t tell you in sex-ed classes! And below we discuss the series in an exclusive interview with its award-winning writer and director, Sassy Mohen, a darling of indie film.
Birth control is of course a perennial human concern. In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers to responsible contraception?
Education, hands down. I’ve felt this my entire life. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who always wanted to make sure I was safe, not parents who always wanted to make sure I was naive. They actually put me in this young adult education class in 8th grade that was sooooo embarrassing to me at the time (for context I was a huge insecure dork haha,) but later on I realized how lucky I was to get this.
The class was held every Sunday at the Unitarian church, and it wasn’t just about sex, it was about everything grown up that you were too afraid to ask. What does it mean to be gay? How do you use a condom? What is childbirth like? What happens inside your body as you grow up? There were weekly lessons and also completely anonymous questions that you wrote in at each class that were then answered out loud.
That, on top of my middle/high school which was an extremely liberal art school that embraced everything taboo. (And their system worked, they rank in the top 10 to 100 public high schools in the country every year.) The teachers were so open and friendly, you really felt like you could go to them with anything which helped me and so many of my friends/classmates in more ways than I can tell you.
No education is perfect, but when I look at my experience at my school versus my friends who went to other schools, it was like night and day. To my knowledge, between my entire time there from 6-12th grade, I only knew of one girl at my school who got pregnant during that time. This was not the case at all the other public high schools around me.
Until I left Arlington, VA and went to college I didn’t realize how this basic and fundamental power of knowledge was so rare. I still find myself continually shocked by my friends and peers and their lack of understanding about contraception. That’s not to say that their lack of knowledge is bad, but if you’re not even taught how to ask the questions and what to ask, how would you even know the answer is out there?
America as a whole has really done a disservice to younger generations by shoving sex in our face on a regular basis but then preaching abstinence only and whatever other fairy tale the conservatives are holding onto. Because abstinence only is just that, a fairy tale.
Humans have sex. Male and female. We always have and we always will. Those hormones start kicking in at a n early age and they have to go somewhere. If they’re not going to get a natural outlet, they’re going to come out in rage, drugs, depression, and bad decisions.
The major downside to all of these bad decisions is that they predominantly affect young women and girls. They’re the ones left with the metaphorical “bill”–mentally, emotionally and physically. Because of that, women become tied down to abusive partners, a lower feeling of self-worth, a desperation to cling to a significant other, and body image issues. They get stuck in dead-end jobs and are unable to finish their education.
So much of this could be prevented if we just educate teens and young-adults on sex-ed and contraception. The power to live your life the way you want and to pursue your own happiness is in the foundation of our country and I firmly believe that right has yet to be given to women. It won’t be until we have power over our reproductive rights the same way that men do. That starts with education.
How can we best engage the youth (and adults) of today with this important subject?
Well, they could start by watching How to Hack Birth Control! I made this series because I wanted to take away the stigma of sex and all those awkward questions that women are taught to be afraid to ask because of how they might look. I keep being told that it has a young energy, which is great because that was my goal haha. Aside from my series (which you should totally check out! www.birthcontrolhacks.com ) I can only speak from my personal experience, but we need to start treating the ‘youth’ as equals, because they are. Just because someone is younger than you doesn’t make them any less of a person or their feelings and opinions less valid. They may not have gained the “wisdom” of decades of life experiences, but they are still human beings like everyone else.
If we start treating younger kids like they’re smart and capable, they’re going to start acting that way. That’s what was preached at my high school and at that young-adult class I took. And guess what? It worked!
Young kids don’t want to feel trapped by their age. By denying them basic knowledge and understanding of what their body and feelings are going through, you shut them out. We need to listen to what they are saying, what they want, and what they are going through.
What are your plans for promoting this exciting project?
Right now we are in the midst of figuring out distribution for this, which is a whole endeavor in itself. I’d also love to shoot a “How to Hack Climate Change” and “How to Hack Voting” series.
But in the meantime, I am so thrilled to be working with VARAL, She NYC, and Truth Be Told on the virtual screening taking place on Friday, October 1st. It means so much to me to be able to help women’s rights organizations in all their incredible and important work.
I’d love to keep using this series to continue to do that and also to educate as many people as I can along the way with a healthy dose of humor. To me it’s still kind of funny that we even have to call attention to the subject of contraception, when pretty much all women are born with vaginas and almost all men are born with penises.
It’s like, we don’t have to advocate for the right to go to the eye doctor and get glasses if we need them because we mostly all have eyeballs, right? So how does that same thinking not translate to my right to want to not accidentally make a baby or my right to want to not accidentally get an STD?
It doesn’t matter what gender I am, I’m a human, so therefore I will most likely want to have sex in my life. It’s 2021, science and medicine have evolved to a place where I can do that almost 100% safely and securely, and I should be not just allowed but encouraged to know about that and access it. I would like to use ‘How to Hack Birth Control” any way I can to bring that message to the world and if I’m lucky, make a difference with it.