What Do You Wish You Would Have Learned In Sex Ed? 48 People Told Us

What Do You Wish You Would Have Learned In Sex Ed? 48 People Told Us

I talk about sex and sexuality a lot, with a lot of different people.

In conversations with peers, parents, mentors, students, friends, partners, I often discover startling knowledge gaps—mine and theirs alike. It always brings me back to the same question: what are people missing when they learn about sex and sexuality?

So, naturally, I took to the magical land of the Internet and asked just that.

This is not a research study with statistics or charts or methods. I asked a question, and 48 people (anonymously) responded. Many wrote multiple answers, which have been cut into pieces in this final product (quite literally: I printed all the responses, cut them up, and pieced them together on my floor into a very messy conversation that I have attempted to organize into the list below.) And of course, though we’ve sorted and labelled them, none of the answers—not even the single-word ones—fit comfortably into one category.

The question: What is something you wish you had learned in your sex education?

[What sex means]

“Anything that has to do with actually having sex beyond how to put on a condom. What does it feel like, look like etc.”

“We should have talked about how sex can be in various partnerships (not just heterosexual), positions, etc. and still be sex.”

“As someone with some pelvic pain issues, it would have been awesome to know that bodies respond to penetration differently!”

“Masturbation!!!! Or to that point—the idea that sexuality can be a solo adventure.”

“And how to have a healthy relationship with sex! And how sex can mean lots of different things and with different bodies!”

“I wish someone had explained sexuality to me, not just sex. No one ever told me I had a sexuality, or sexual identity. Sex was something I either did or didn’t do, and if it was a part of my identity that was a bad thing.”

“Not being ashamed of sex.”

“That sex can be a wonderful, comfortable way to feel close to someone you love without the feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.”

“About not shaming different kinds of sexualities and pleasures.”

“And while we’re at it, let’s stop talking about virginity: having it, not having it, losing it, its importance, etc. It’s a hoax.”

“I wish someone had told me that not wanting to have sex with boys didn’t mean something was fundamentally wrong with me. It would have been easier if I hadn’t spent so long trying to fix something about myself that wasn’t broken to begin with.”

[Consent & Sexual Violence]

“I wish I had learned about consent and I wish my health teacher had talked about what victim-blaming is, rather than perpetuating it herself.”

“Consent education.”



“The concept of consent (insane that we weren’t actually taught it).”

“I wish that I had learned about consent as we learned about sex. The conversation about consent needed to happen as soon as a conversation about bodies started happening, and even sooner. There are so many ways to talk about consent that aren’t just sexual.”

“I wish I had learned more about the nuances of consent—meaning the ways in which, speaking particularly from a female heteronormative perspective, individuals are often pressured to value sexuality not as a tool for self-pleasure but as a tool for someone else’s gain.”

“More about sexual assault; more about questions of body- and sex-positivity and sexual oppression of women and queer and trans people.”

“About bystander intervention in the event of a possible assault.”

“I wish I had been taught about sexual assault and rape, and had been told that anyone can rape and anyone can be raped.”

[Communication & Pleasure]

“What a healthy relationship looks like/how to communicate better.”

“As a woman, I wish I had been taught to be more vocal and comfortable about expressing what I like and don’t like sexually. I feel like I’m still figuring out what I like and that it’s okay to have those conversations with my partners.”

“More discussion of the joys of the orgasm and how different people prefer different methods, toys, and adventures in achieving said orgasm would have been delightful.”

“I wish that I hadn’t been educated (formally and otherwise) to think that orgasm was the ultimate, the end-game.”

“Would have been nice to know that sexual intercourse is not the “end goal” of any sexual relationship, and that other acts are as fun (read: more fun), just as emotional, and deserve the same amount of thought and respect. And that pleasure matters.”

“Also more about pleasure and not just about sex as reproduction.”


“What masturbation is and why people do it and WHY IT IS OKAY FOR EVERYONE.”


“How to reach orgasm—for all bodies!”

“Certain sex positions or sexual acts feeling better (or worse) for some bodies rather than others.”

“How many vagina-owners cum from internal stimulation alone?”


“The two things that would have been the most important for me to know: 1) if sex hurts there is usually something you can do about it, and 2) lube is often that magical solution. And even if it isn’t, there are so many helpful resources to find the right one. Pain should not be accepted as part of the package (as it was implied to those of us with vaginas in my particular Sex Ed).”

“What the clitoris is and where it is.”

“Also I wish men had learned how to find a goddamn clitoris.”

“Some things I wish I had learned… What is a clitoris? Or for that matter, what is all the stuff going on outside of my body, because while I appreciate knowing what a uterus is and what Fallopian tubes do, I learned a lot more about what’s going on inside of my body than outside of it, and both matter!”

“What happens to cis-female anatomy when aroused. I had no idea that getting wet was a NORMAL thing. I thought something was wrong with me, and I would rush to the bathroom to wipe up during my first few hook-ups and felt guilty and gross and weird.”

“Some more on the cis-female body and its care!”

“A better understanding of when women ovulate and what that means in regards to getting pregnant.”

“Talking students through options after discovering pregnancy”

[Safer Sex & Sexually Transmitted Infections]

“I would have liked to learn more about different types of birth control more than just a condom.”

“Also, realities of the pull-out method.”

“What the heck is precum?”

“And more about contraception and STI transmission.”

“Wish I was not just taught different STI prevention methods, but also had to practice how to use them (how to put on a condom, dental dam, etc.).”

“I wish I had been taught about what to do if you got an STI, not just how to “avoid” one.”

“It would have been good to workshop conversations about getting tested with partners. Many of my 20-something friends are having undefined relations with people, not using condoms, and don’t know how to ask about STIs without “seeming clingy” or bringing up a monogamy conversation. Learning tools to do this in Sex Ed might make these conversations in the real world easier.”

“Something that could lead to the destigmatization of STIs, i.e., still learning about the symptoms/available treatments/prevention, but with more of a focus on the fact that having one doesn’t make you dirty, etc.”

“Literally anything about safer sex.”

“Safe sex for same-sex relationships.”

“I wish, as a queer woman, it wasn’t my JUNIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE when I first heard the term ‘dental dam.'”


“Really anything about queer issues beyond some very basic stuff tied to how STDs are transmitted.”

“I wish I had been taught that partners and relationships come in all sizes and shapes.”

“Not everybody who has sex is a white person.”

“Representation of diverse relationships.”

“I wish that language had been gender neutral whenever possible.”

“I wish there had been any discussion at all about the difference between sex and gender, and gender fluidity, and the legitimacy of all the different sex/identity feelings middle and high school students are experiencing when they take these really watered-down, uninformative, frightening Sex Ed classes.”

This wish list for trans-inclusive sex education.”

“I also wish my individual sexuality was explained to me in the sense that sex was not something I would just experience with a partner (masturbation, personal desires and fantasies, etc.). I wish that we taught young people that they are autonomous sexual beings and gave them the tools to make decisions that are right for them accordingly.”


Sex education is a lifelong process, so for those of us (everyone) who are still learning, there are many resources out there that may be more helpful than our teachers, parents, or other educators have been. A few of my favorites include the fabulous Scarleteen, Laci Green’s fantastic videos, the collection of web resources at The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, and the wealth of information available through organizations like Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, and Planned Parenthood. For more information about U.S. sex education policies, also check out the useful and regularly updated reports at the Guttmacher Institute.

What do you wish you had learned about sex and sexuality? Keep the conversation going in the comments!

Image courtesy of Getty Images.