“I was in a school play, wearing a gray beard and this pad the size of a skateboard, and thinking, What is happening to me?” the 33-year-old actress told Glamour in an interview.
Though many years have passed since her own traumatizing adolescent menstrual experience, Biel has noticed how little many young women know about their bodies, especially as it relates sexual health. To combat this, she’s teamed up with women’s-health activist Saundra Pelletier to make a series of online videos to answer questions about women’s health and sexual education.
“We want girls to know what their [body is going through] so they don’t feel scared or ashamed or gross,” Biel said.
Even as an adult, Biel said she had unanswered questions about her body, like what would happen when she went off the Pill after using it for years (to have a baby with husband Justin Timberlake), or when the best time to conceive was.
“Suddenly I realized I really didn’t know what’s going on inside my own body,” Biel said. “It was shocking.”
Pelletier, the founder of WomanCare Global, has long been an advocate for empowering young women to make healthy decisions about their bodies. Among other things, she has focused on getting feminine care products and contraceptives to women in the developing world, and she started Project Dignity to provide reusable menstrual cups to women in places like Ethiopia and Cambodia.
However developed America may be, though, Biel herself is evidence that the U.S., too, is lacking when it comes to adequate sexual education. “More than half of our nation’s pregnancies are unplanned, and just 22 states require public schools to teach sex education,” said Pelletier. “Jessica and I realized we can help change this.”
The series of videos, which will be available on the WomanCare Global site, aims to relate to young women, while also informing and educating them about menstruation, pregnancy, and everything in between.
“We share girl stories, fears, and insecurities,” Biel said. “The tone is informative but also goofy, smart, witty.”
While the project is intended to reduce unplanned pregnancies and help young women make smart decisions about their sexual health, Pelletier summed up the less tangible—though no less important—goal with these words: “There is power and dignity in understanding your body.”
Photo via Maggie/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)