By Tiah Marr
An Eau Claire local is trying to change the way young people receive sex
education through research, implementation and entrepreneurship.
“The older I get, the more ‘Aha’ moments I experience -and they suck.” CEO of Bending Paperclips, Mack John, discusses finding their answer to the question: What is sex? “My goal is expediting those aha moments for young individuals.”
A writer, community member and conversation starter is how John described their role in the Eau Claire community. More recently, John’s work has widened their scope and solidified their purpose.
The founder and CEO of the content driven company, Bending Paperclips, has found a determination to fill the gaps in America’s sex education curriculum. John uses personal pronouns they, them and their.
Mack contributes their motivations to a combination of personal experiences and higher education studies.
“My higher education women studies courses have challenged me to think about the ways I am privileged. I realize another layer of my privilege that has shielded me from another. Socioeconomic status, race, sexuality, biological differences in bodies-the more I learn about myself and others- the more I am able to learn what sex even is.”
John was prompted to conduct research in the Eau Claire area through women studies courses at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. John’s research included 3 local high schools and analyzing their sexual education curriculum and assessing them under four categories of sexuality, gender identity, healthy relationships and consent.
After discovering that there was serious room for reform in young persons education surrounding sex, John knew they could do more.
“In the Eau Claire community the role for Bending Paperclips is ensuring that we are always pushing for the next level of accurate representation and that I am ensuring that we are making all of the efforts. Being inclusive and intersectional and not only speaking to an audience that is like me.” said John.
After opening up about having a typical Eau Claire upbringing for the Eau Claire area, John opened up about experiences that they wouldn’t fully understand until their time studying academia.
“I realized there was a lot that was happening behind that locked door.” said John in reference to their mother. “I just heard her yelling, “Mackayla! Call the police! Call 911!” while I heard thrashing. I didn’t realize until I was older how emotionally and physically of an abusive marriage that was.”
Bending Paperclips is a company that is fueled by John’s personal experiences with healthy and unhealthy relationships along side their collegiate research surrounding sexuality, gender identity, healthy relationships and consent. There is crossover between Johns’ personal and professional experiences.
Contributing writer and colleague, Jacey Yonke, spoke to the understanding of Bending Paperclips and its mission. Yonke explained how John has put passion and effort into the company and pursuit to bringing this message to the masses.
“Mack isn’t afraid to speak their mind and is a workhorse in the field.” said Yonke.
John wants to share their experiences with others in hopes that we can get closer as a society to destigmatizing the conversations surrounding sex and sexual education.
“Sex is a question with limitless answers. I keep learning myself what those answers are! I want to forever be a student of other people sex lives. said John.
Thought provoker, conversation starter, creator of space and leaving the room for more conversations are items John wants their person and business to be recognized for.
What is sex? Regardless of your experiences or definition, John argues that everyones understanding of the word is different.
“A big ‘aha’ moment for me was when I was learning about different kinds of sex education in my women studies class, and I realized that I had received absence only sex ed. It is ridiculous that students are receiving this education, still unclear about what consent means.” said John.
The Eau Claire native is trying to change the way young people receive sex education through research, implementation and entrepreneurship. John’s motivation for their efforts can all be traced back to their Dad’s quote that John repeats daily:
“Leave the world a little better than you found it.”