Pizza and Choice: It’s What’s for Dinner

Between all these Blurred Lines and a rape case where a teacher who admits to raping his (now dead by suicide) student gets sentenced to only 30 days in prison, it’s hard to imagine there are open and positive conversations happening about sex.

But they are happening! And really, they have to.

Al Vernacchio, a 12th grade high school teacher, gives us a new way to talk about sex and sexuality education that is smart, accessible, funny, and….well, delicious. Instead of talking about sex using baseball as a metaphor (with all of it’s competition and seemingly choice-less schedule), Vernacchio teaches his students to talk about sex using pizza:

“When we get together with someone for pizza, we’re not competing with them, we’re looking for an experience that both of us will share that’s satisfying for both of us, and when you get together for pizza with somebody, what’s the first thing you do? You talk about it. You talk about what you want. You talk about what you like. You may even negotiate it.”

Changing the way we talk about sex and sexuality as a culture is central to ending sexual violence and to promoting reproductive choice. We can’t just tell young people (and the general public) “Sexual violence is bad, don’t do it” because clearly, that’s not working.

What will work is to provide a model for what healthy sexuality and healthy choices really look like. Having open, honest, and factual conversations about bodies, sex, health, choice, and consent (and yes, about what kind of toppings you’d like) will help young people decide what they want – and what they don’t.

All of us want the young people in our lives to be happy, healthy, and productive members of society. The answer is not to tell them what not to do (because maybe they’ll do it anyway) – the answer is to help them find what is right for them so when the time comes, they will know what to do.

And maybe, tonight after negotiating whether you’re getting anchovies, pepperoni, or just plain cheese, you could talk about it over some pizza.

Cara Courchesne is the communications and outreach coordinator at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She is a native Mainer and has worked for anti-violence nonprofits in Maine since 2007. She may be reached at

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