Examining Limitations in School-based Sexuality Education: How are Young Adults Seeking Alternatives?
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Sexuality education has been recognized by many researchers as a multi-faceted, multi-sourced endeavor. Between school sex education, parental advisements, communications with peers, and the vast array of sources on the internet— offering everything from pornography, to informative websites, to blogs with shared personal experiences and anonymous question forums— most would assume that the information youth need regarding their sexual health and well-being is right at their fingertips. However, a shocking number of young people are still not receiving the information they deserve to make empowered and informed sexual decisions. Surrounded by seemingly contradictory communications, young people are thrust into the middle of a sexual health maze, often struggling to identify which sources are trustworthy, which are deceitful, and which might lead to positive sexual outcomes, all while simultaneously balancing their precarious reputations. This study was created in order to better understand the limitations of formal sexuality education sources, and how young adults are supplementing the discourses they receive from trusted adults in schools. Sixteen young adults (18-30) were interviewed in regards to their experiences with school-based, parent-based, peer-based, and media-based sexuality education. The Internet, a new and promising medium of sexuality education, appeared as the most prominent source of sexuality education for young people. Available in many online platforms, participants sought online sexuality education information from blog sites, YouTube channels, informative articles, Google searches, and both written and visual sexually explicit material (SEM). The Internet not only has been found to fill gaps left previously by other knowledge bases, but it serves as a place for clarification, exploration, and inquiry. How can this medium be improved to increase empowerment, decrease misinformation, and allow positive sexual exploration for young people?