Anja Rubik, the Polish supermodel and muse of Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello, has rarely shied away from politics: In addition to campaigning for improved sustainability in the fashion industry and speaking out about immigration, she’s joined protests in favor of abortion access in Poland and starred in music videos that take aim at fashion’s gaze.
So her latest effort, promoting sex education among young people in her home country, is part of a continuity of the activism she’s pursued over the course of her career—but it also might be her most fraught issue yet. In a new interview with Business of Fashion, Rubik discussed the genesis of the #SexEdPL campaign and her plans to expand its reach going forward.
The idea was sown two years ago, in the wake of the Gals for Gals abortion law protest in Warsaw—it was then, according to BOF, that Rubik decided to really get into the issue. She began producing videos about sex education and wrote a book—entitled #sexedpl—that proceeded to sell 130,000 copies. Then, she sent the book—about 1,000 copies in total—to schools in Poland, prompting a wave of backlash that included some school administrators banning the book and the Polish book institute describing her as “an unsuitable promoter of Poland.”
Rubik’s activism is a counterpoint to the prevailing tide in Polish politics—since the election of the Law and Justice Party in 2015, the country has leaned increasingly towards Catholic orthodoxy and conservatism. “We’re going backwards, in a sense, to the 19th century,” Rubik told BOF. Over the past four years, the party’s leaders have attempted to stack the courts, lobbied for censorship, and ignored existing regulations on environmental issues, in addition to its overwhelmingly conservative platform on women’s bodily autonomy. (In addition to being anti-abortion and anti-sex education, the party also put forth a law that would decriminalize first-time spousal abuse; Human Rights Watch has also documented instances of government intimidation of women’s rights groups.)
“Kids are told that the period is the bloody cry of a uterus missing a fetus,” Rubik told BOF, adding, glibly, that all that’s missing from this form of sex education, which also tends to reinforce unhealthy gender norms, are “dragons and witches.”
Despite the challenges, Rubik is planning to press on with her activism. “I’m dreaming about a Sexedpl bus that would bring educators and offer workshops across Poland,” she told a reporter. And she’s still making videos: Among those released over the last two months are such titles as “Masturbation” (episode 1) and “Pleasure From Sex” (episode 5). It’s only a matter of time until the #SexEdPL sequel.