Amid the ongoing controversy over funding for women’s reproductive services, one New Yorker has decided to take matters into her own hands. Actor and sex educator Ashil Lee, 25, organized Script Tease, a night of short plays focused on sexual education that raised money for Planned Parenthood.
Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood opted out of the federal Title X program, which provides family planning and other related health services to low-income women. The decision was a response to a new Trump administration rule forbidding providers from referring patients to doctors who perform abortions. This means a loss of $60 million in government funding for the organization, which serves 40 percent of all Title X patients.
This could mean a reduction of services such as health insurance enrollment, breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, gynecological care and birth control access that Planned Parenthood provides at a reduced cost. For example, the morning-after pill costs $6 at one of their clinics compared to $50 at a conventional pharmacy, according to Lee.
Script Tease had its first run last week at The Growing Studio in Manhattan. Five sex-related facts were presented to the audience, each followed by a short play illustrating how the fact could affect one’s sexual life and health.
“Fact number one,” read one of the participants in the audience. “Thongs may seem sexy, but they can actually chafe and tear the vulva.” Actors then performed as two girls in a bathroom discussing how thongs are not the best underwear option and how “going commando” is often recommended by some gynecologists.
“I love things like [Script Tease] because it allows you to look at [sex ed] objectively,” said Tay Bass, 24, an actor from Brooklyn who is also a teaching artist at the S.T.A.R. Theater for Social Change. The program aims to educate young people about health and social issues through theater in schools across the city. “It’s easier to digest because it’s something that you can laugh about and laugh with rather than making you feel bad for not knowing.”
Script Tease was born out of Lee’s desire to create work that centers around sex positivity in education. “I believe so much in the power that art has in social and cultural messaging and stigmas,” she said. “I just want to encourage other artists to think about how much influence they can have through their art by way of talking about sex positivity and scientifically accurate facts.”
By the end of the night, Script Tease had raised $628 for Planned Parenthood through donations and raffle ticket sales. Lee received positive feedback on the performances and is planning to run the show again in the future.