Social Media and Sexual Education
When I was younger, my family and trusted adults in my life told me not to trust what I learned on the internet, especially when it came to sex. I heard horror stories about kids using inaccurate porn or dodgy websites instead of talking to trusted adults. From a teenager’s perspective, however, it’s understandable why kids may search for answers to their questions online rather than asking their parents. If you don’t have a good relationship with your parents, or have austere parents, it might be quite uncomfortable, or worse, a bad decision, to talk to them about sex. Even if you have a good relationship with your parents, there are some detailed questions that feel too personal to discuss.
As an older member of Gen-Z, I am very familiar with Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. To some parents, the idea that these popular social media sites might actually provide helpful information to teens about sexual health and sexual empowerment might seem ridiculous. Something I’ve noticed in the past year, however, is that teens have been taking sexual empowerment into their own hands and sharing real stories and information to educate their peers.
One example is female-identifying sexual empowerment on TikTok. Young women have been openly talking about female sexuality, such as masturbation and the importance of the clitoris to the female orgasm, which is a topic not often mentioned by many women because we have been taught not to discuss ourselves as sexual beings. Young women on TikTok are changing this narrative.
One topic portrayed is that women orgasm significantly less during partner-sex than their male partners. Posted videos poke fun at typical things men do during sex that are often unpleasant to women. For example, rushing through foreplay or overly aggressive masturbation. Many young women post funny videos about their experiences. Here is one example from TikToker, Gianna Cusato. Through comedy and shared experience, the female community gains power and brings to light topics that have felt taboo. Through this sense of community, women can begin to feel more comfortable talking to their partner about their sexual preferences and expressing their thoughts and feelings during intercourse.
Beyond humor, social media has blown up in providing important sexual education resources that teens may not be getting at school or at home. On Instagram, sexual education accounts provide relatable and accessible information on ranging from consent, mental health, contraception, relationship advice, and more. For example, Doctor Laura Mcguire (@drlauramcguire) is a sexuality educator and founder of the National Center for Equity & Agency, a consulting firm for preventing sexual misconduct. Dr. Mcguire makes educational posts about how to receive and provide consent in different scenarios. Also on Instagram, Eileen Kelly (@KillerandASweetThang) manages a more lighthearted page with sex memes, discussions about sexuality, and education about all kinds of sex.
There are also social media influencers who center their content around sexual health. Ev’Yan Whitney (@evyanwhitney) calls themself a “sexual dula,” which they describe as a person who "educates, facilitates, supports, and holds space for women and femme-identifying folks who are ready to step out of shame, confusion, and fear within their sexuality and into erotic empowerment—whatever that looks like for them." Whitney posts about their own personal experiences and provides advice for their followers on their sexuality. They also created a social media challenge, #SensualSelfieChallenge, which is a self-love program celebrating our bodies and sexuality in whatever way we feel comfortable.
While social media has its share of flaws, it is clear that many users are creating a space for open dialogue about sexual health and using it to spread awareness and resources. This can be an excellent outlet for young people who have questions or want to engage in their own sexual health and lack the resources at home or at school to do so. Looking for a place to start? Elite Daily compiled a useful list of sexual education centered social media accounts to follow: 15 Sexual Education-Themed Instagram Accounts That'll Teach You So Much. Take power over your own sexuality!
Julia Gonzalez is a sophomore at Tufts University in Massachusetts. She is a writer for Her Campus at her school, and an executive board member of Tufts Active Minds. She is studying Clinical Psychology with a minor in Child and Human Development, as well as Spanish.