Sex education is letting students down. Whether it’s in the US — where in some areas abstinence only education is still funded, despite being woefully and dangerously ineffective — or in the UK where curriculums and resources can leave the students with a lot of questions. But now, bloggers and vloggers like Hannah Witton, Laci Green, and Natalia Trybus are filling in the gaps left in the sexual education curriculums. Sure, you can say that young people get everything on the internet — but it’s about more than that. “But there is also the fact that in schools they’re just not getting what they need. Even in schools where they’re trying to do a good job, young people aren’t getting the information they need, when they need it,” Lisa Hallgarten, policy manager at Brook, the sexual health and education charity tells the Guardian .”Young people are saying: don’t talk to us about contraception when we’re 17, because some of our friends are already pregnant.”
So they’re turning to other sources — and the internet is full of them. It’s proven especially useful for queer folk and other marginalized groups, whose sexual education often isn’t even touched upon in mainstream curriculums. And then, of course, there’s the issue of pleasure. Although there are starting to be calls for more sex-positive education in schools, we’re still a long cry off from achieving it.
The idea that your sexual pleasure is important and should be valued is an important foundation for healthy sexual relationships — and to clear up some dangerous gender stereotypes that still exist. But most sex ed, when it exists, is presented with the tone of an ominous warning or, at the very best, neutral. It’s not a surprise that young people seek out a more enthusiastic discussion.
Although, like all of the internet, there is an issue of quality control. “Most parents want RSE [relationship and sex education] for their children but we are worried that those who get withdrawn are possibly the most vulnerable and the least likely to be in households where they get that information from their parents,” Hallgarten said. “They may well resort to looking on the internet of their own accord, and in that case more power to the vloggers. I think there are good vloggers and mediocre vloggers. Some of what people see will be misinformation. I think vlogs should be a supplement, not a replacement to classroom teaching.” And until education catches up with the needs of its students, they’ll continue to turn to vloggers and bloggers. Hopefully this will be a wakeup call to what students are really looking for in their sex education.