Two recently published studies concerning sex education indicate young people are just not getting what they want. Most of them piece together what they think they know about sex from siblings, the internet, the media, and pornography. They’d really rather be getting the straight story from their school, their parents, or a healthcare professional, in that order of preference.

Young people would also like to learn the same things about sex from the same sources. Currently, young men are getting their sex education from different sources than young women. And they’d all like to learn how to have successful, lasting relationships in addition to lessons of sex.

One study was a comparison of sources of sex information in the United Kingdom in 1990-1991, 1999-2001, and 2010-2012. The second study involved a survey of 3,408 young people, aged 16 to 24, to determine how their source of sex education affected their sexual behaviors.

Data gleaned from both studies indicate:

  • 70% felt they should have known more when they first became interested in having sex.
  • 28% learned about sex in school in 1990.
  • 40% got sex education in school in 2012.
  • 12% of males learned about sex from their first sex partner.
  • 5% of females learned about sex from their first partner.
  • 14% of females learned about sex from their mothers.
  • 4% of the males learned from mom.
  • 14% of the females learned about sex from either parent.
  • 7% of males learned from either parent.
  • 3% of the women learned from a healthcare professional.
  • 1% of the men did so.
  • Approximately 50% of both genders learned about sex from “other sources” that included siblings, the media, the internet, and pornography.

The study participants who got sex education in school remained virgins longer than those who got their education from “other sources.” They were also more likely to practice safe sex and report fewer sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The women who had sex education in school reported fewer feelings of distress about sex than women who learned about it elsewhere. They were also less likely to experience sex against their will. The males did not express similar feelings or experiences.

What the study participants wanted more of was information on sexual feelings, emotions, relationships, and STIs. The females wanted more information on contraception.

Wendy Macdowell, who was involved with both studies, concludes: "Our results suggest we need a broader framing of sex education in schools that address the needs of both young men and women, with a move away from the traditional female-focused 'periods, pills and pregnancy' approach.”


  1. Tanton, Clare, et al. "Patterns and trends in sources of information about sex among young people in Britain: evidence from three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles." BMJ Open. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd., 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
  2. Macdowell, Wendy, et al. "Associations between source of information about sex and sexual health outcomes in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)." BMJ Open. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd., 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
  3. "Debunking Myths: Comprehensive Sexuality Education." Community Action Kit. SIECUS / Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 2008. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
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