As the title says, let’s talk about this book! What can readers expect to find, and what kinds of topics does the book explore?
Matt: Our book is all about communication and sex. Each chapter is a different comic vignette where a teen has a question or needs advice and those around them chime in and help out. We hit all kinds of topics such as relationships, friendships, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education, and more!
Erika: Let’s Talk About It is about talking about… it! Let’s talk about relationships, let’s talk about sex, let’s talk about talking, let’s talk about being a human who interacts with other humans. Readers can expect to find honest, empathic, nuanced guidance on navigating the complicated scenarios that most people find themselves in at some point or another. The ultimate goal of this book is to help the reader figure out what’s right for them self and how to do right by those around them.
With chapters speaking about topics like jealousy, rejection, after care, consent, and more we can really see the “being a human” piece. Is this something you feel was lacking in sex ed and why did you want to ensure it was a part of the conversation?
Matt: We really tried to make the book we wish we’d had when we were younger. We didn’t want to shy away from the more difficult-to-cover topics out there, which we think aren’t really given that much space in today’s sex education materials. We’re lucky to be living in a time where there is so much readily available sex education, but the focus of many current books is on the practical side of sex. We wanted to do something more and give teens a book that might also help them communicate and respect one another.
Erika: Most sex education tends to focus on, well, the SEX side of things. It talks about reproduction and infections and protection methods– all physical elements that can be a part of intercourse. In our book, we’re talking about the human feelings and interactions that surround sexual scenarios, before, during, and afterwards. How do you get to the point where you need to get out a condom? How do you talk about protection in the first place? How do you know if you’re ready to do something intimate with another person, or if you even actually want to? How do you talk to another person about all of this? What even “counts” as “sex” in the first place??? THAT’S what our book is about.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT is really the first of its kind—a graphic novel sex ed. Why did you decide to make it as a comic, and what kind of avenues did this open up?
Matt: Comics are just incredible. With a drawn page filled with panels and characters, you’re able to communicate difficult topics into easy-to-read stories. You can give the reader protagonists through which to see themselves, while keeping all of the subject matter appealing and attractive. That’s the hard thing with any kind of education: how to make it easy to absorb. Comics are just the best way in our opinion!
Erika: We’re so proud to be part of the first wave of sex education graphic novels, following “Wait, What?” by Heather Corinna and Isabella Rotman from Limerence Press, and I’m hoping there will be many more after us. Comics are such a strong format for teaching new information, especially delicate information, because you can literally ILLUSTRATE complicated or nuanced ideas to accompany the text explaining it. Comics are designed to present information in bite-size chunks that build on each other, rather than an overwhelming wall of sterile text. Plus, with our cast of characters performing and emoting across the page, it makes the advice they’re delivering more fun to consume.
What’s a chapter you particularly proud of and why did you feel it necessary to include?
Matt: I think it was the one we struggled with the most, the Rejection chapter. We wanted to tackle things like ‘how to apologize’ and ‘how to behave when you’ve fucked up.’ But there’s SO much to that, and as we constructed the comic, it started to include harder things, like ‘what does abuse look like.’ We’re proud of it because it all feels important. The conversation we portrayed in the chapter feels real and genuine, and I think it’ll really help a lot of kids out there be more perceptive of their own actions. I’m proud that we didn’t shy away from such a difficult topic, and I’m proud of all the advice we managed to jam into it.
Erika: Yeah, same, I’m most proud of our rejection and jealousy chapters because it helps young people realize that we are all capable of being somebody else’s bully if we don’t check in on our own behavior and do the best that we can to make amends when we do hurt others. We’re all the heroes of our own story, nobody wants to think they could be the “bad guy” too! Those chapters are about validating our painful feelings and processing them in a way that is productive, that doesn’t hurt others.
Your work has surrounded sex education for years now—was there anything in particular that you learned when putting this together that surprised you?
Matt: The sex education comic we make for our weekly webcomic (Oh Joy Sex Toy), usually has us as the protagonists. We’ll explore the topics in-person with some autobio splashed in there, which is super different to how we wanted to do this book. In this one, we wanted to put the teens in control and have them exploring, educating, and empowering each other – no cartoon Matt or Erikas! And, well, we didn’t expect it to be so tough to come up with so many natural scenarios for our fictional teen protagonists to explore the topics in. That was way harder than expected, but ultimately was a lot of fun: those ah-ha moments where you’d shower-thought your way into a perfect scenario was really rewarding.
Erika: All the information we shared in this book are the same messages we’ve been writing into Oh Joy Sex Toy and talking about with our peers behind the scenes for a decade now, so the material itself wasn’t new but figuring out fresh ways to present it in this book was a fun challenge.
Just for fun: Any comic recs for readers?
Matt: I’ve been enjoying the heck out of casually reading Beastars whenever it’s updated! Think high school drama, while contending with animal traits.
Erika: I really, really enjoyed the newly released The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food: Step-By-Step Vegetable Gardening for Everyone by Joseph Tychonievich and Liz Anna Kozik. It’s this goooorgeously drawn graphic novel for new backyard farmers that combines lush illustrations of vegetables (my favorite!) with approachable gardening advice (my other favorite!).
You can purchase Let’s Talk About It: A Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human Now!