Digital Love

Does Sex Ed Actually Teach Us Anything?

For Bustle's Digital Love series, a group of millennials discussed what they learned in sex ed — and what they didn't.

What do you remember from sex education in school? You may recall uncomfortable conversations with health teachers, a warp-speed lesson on the human anatomy, and a lot of giggling from the back of the class. However, despite most school systems' attempts at educating kids on the human body, how sex works, and topics like abstinence, most millennials don't remember getting an education on some equally, if not more important, sex-education topics.

According to some research, most millennials were never formally educated on topics like consent, LGBTQIA+ issues, contraception, and personal health. In fact, only 15 states require sex education courses to be medically accurate in 2020, and seven actively prohibit teachers from discussing queer issues. More people had "the talk" with their parents than not, but research shows that having a continued conversation starting at a young age is much more effective than one single sit-down session on sex.

For Bustle's Digital Love, a series about sex and relationships in the digital age, we sat down with a group of millennials to discuss the sex education they did — or did not — receive in school. As you may suspect, some of their stories are pretty cringeworthy.

"The first time I was exposed to sex education was in gym class," says one participant. "Our teacher brought over a bunch of condoms and said, 'These are for you to wrap your tool — don't be a fool.' Everybody died and I still cringe to this day."

"I definitely had a class in which I learned absolutely nothing," another candidly says.

Additionally, the queer singles we interviewed claim that formal education did virtually nothing to guide them in being gay — unsurprising, since these topics are routinely left out of the curriculum. Unfortunately, these limitations could have lasting impact, as studies have shown that comprehensive sex-ed delays teens having sex too young, increases contraception use, and reduces risk-taking. In other words — the exact goal of formal sex education.

To hear more millennials discussing their own experiences in sex ed, check out the video above.

Executive Creative Director: Lauren Sofair

Executive Producer: Whitney Buxton

Producer: Lauren Tegtmeyer

Director of Photography: Marshall Stief

Camera Operator: Sam Cowan

Design Director: Andenew Ayele

Motion Designer: Jeff Donlan

Editor: Jasmine Velez

Video Assistant: Sasha Mahmood