Skip to main content


Log in

Creating Comprehensive, Youth Centered, Culturally Appropriate Sex Education: What Do Young Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Men Want?

  • Published:
Sexuality Research and Social Policy Aims and scope Submit manuscript


We examined young gay, bisexual, and questioning men’s (YGBQM) experiences with school-based sex education as they sought to learn about sex and sexual health, and their suggestions for improving same-sex education resources. Thematic analysis of 30 in-depth interviews with YGBQM (ages 18–24) underscored the discrepancies between the existing school-based sex education curricula and YGBQM’s perceived sex education needs. Our results show that many youths’ sexuality and same-sex sexual behaviors are excluded in sex education lessons; however, YGBQM noted that they sought out other resources (e.g., websites) to answer their questions. We discuss YGBQM’s ideas for the creation of a sex and sexual health website that would be tailored for youth like themselves, including topics and features that an ideal website would contain. In addition, we present recommended changes to existing school-based sexual education curricula.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Allison, S., Bauermeister, J. A., Bull, S., Lightfoot, M., Mustanski, B., Shegog, R., et al. (2012). The intersection of youth, technology, and new media with sexual health: moving the research agenda forward. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 207–212.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bittner, R. (2012). Queering sex education: young adult literature with LGBT content as complementary sources of sex and sexuality education. Journal of LGBT Youth, 9(4), 357–372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blake, S. M., Ledsky, R., Lehman, T., Goodenow, C., Sawyer, R., & Hack, T. (2001). Preventing sexual risk behaviors among gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents: the benefits of gay-sensitive HIV instruction in schools. American Journal of Public Health, 91(6), 940–946.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Boryczka, J. (2009). Whose responsibility? The politics of sex education policy in the United States. Politics & Gender, 5(2).

  • Bowen, A. M., Horvath, K., & Williams, M. L. (2007). A randomized control trial of internet-delivered HIV prevention targeting rural MSM. Health Education Research, 22(1), 120–127.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Braun V., Clarke V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buhi, E. R., Daley, E. M., Oberne, A., Smith, S. A., Schneider, T., & Fuhrmann, H. J. (2010). Quality and accuracy of sexual health information web sites visited by young people. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47(2), 206–208.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Sexual identity, sex of sexual contacts, and health-risk behaviors among students in grades 9–12—youth risk behavior surveillance, selected sites, United States, 2001–2009. MMWR Early Release 2011, 60.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012a). HIV and young men who have sex with men. Retrieved from Accessed 1 Jul 2013.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012b). Health risks among sexual minority youth. Retrieved from Accessed 1 Jul 2013.

  • Fergus, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2005). Adolescent resilience: a framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 399–419.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fisher, C. M. (2009). Queer youth experiences with abstinence-only-until-marriage sexuality education: “I can’t get married so where does that leave me?”. Journal of LGBT Youth, 6, 61–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, C. I., Forsyth, A., Purcell, D. W., Allison, S., Toledo, C., & Gordon, C. M. (2011). Advancing novel HIV prevention intervention research with MSM—meeting report. Public Health Report, 126(4), 472–479.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harper, G. W. (2007). Sex isn’t that simple: culture and context in HIV prevention interventions for gay and bisexual male adolescents. American Psychologist, 62(8), 803–819.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Harper, G. W., & Riplinger, A. J. (2013). HIV prevention interventions for adolescents and young adults: what about the needs of gay and bisexual males? AIDS and Behavior., 17, 1082–1095.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kalichman, S. C., Cherry, C., Cain, D., Pope, H., Kalichman, M., Eaton, L., et al. (2006). Internet-based health information consumer skills intervention for people living with HIV/AIDS. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(3), 545–554.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kantor, L., Santelli, J., Teitler, J., & Balmer, R. (2008). Abstinence-only policies and programs programs: an overview. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 5(3), 6–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kok, G., Harterink, P., Vriens, P., de Zwart, O., & Hospers, H. J. (2006). The gay cruise: developing a theory- and evidence-based internet HIV-prevention intervention. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 3(2), 52–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kubicek, K., Carpineto, J., McDavitt, B., Weiss, G., Iverson, E. F., Au, C. W., et al. (2008). Integrating professional and folk models of HIV risk: YMSM’s perceptions of high-risk sex. AIDS Education and Prevention, 20(3), 220–238.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kubicek, K., Carpineto, J., McDavitt, B., Weiss, G., & Kipke, M. D. (2011). Use and perceptions of the internet for sexual information and partners: a study of young men who have sex with men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 803–816.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lindberg, L. D., Sonfield, A., & Gemmill, A. (2008). Reassessing adolescent male sexual and reproductive health in the United States: research and recommendations. American Journal of Men’s Health, 2(1), 40–56.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mimiaga, M. J., Goldhammer, H., Belanoff, C., Tetu, A. M., & Mayer, K. (2007). Men who have sex with men: perceptions about sexual risk, HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing, and provider communication. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 34(2), 113–119.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mustanski, B., Lyons, T., & Garcia, S. C. (2011). Internet use and sexual health of young men who have sex with men: a mixed-methods study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 289–300.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mustanski, B., Garofalo, R., Monahan, C., Gratzer, B., & Andrews, R. (2013). Feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of an online HIV prevention program for diverse young men who have sex with men: the keep it up! Intervention. AIDS & Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10461-013-0507-z.

  • NVivo qualitative data analysis software; QSR International Pty Ltd. Version 8, 2008.

  • Outlaw, A. Y., Phillips, G., II, Hightow-Weidman, L. B., Fields, S. D., Hidalgo, J., Halpern-Felsher, B., et al. (2011). Age of MSM sexual debut and risk factors: results from a multisite study of racial/ethnic minority YMSM living with HIV. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 25(1), S23–S29.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pingel, E., Bauermeister, J. A., Johns, M. M., Eisenberg, A., & Leslie-Santana, M. (2013). “A safe way to explore”: reframing risk on the Internet amidst young gay men’s search for identity. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(4), 453–478.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, H.R. 3324, S. 1782, 112th Congress. (2011–2012).

  • Remafedi, G. (1994). Cognitive and behavioral adaptations to HIV/AIDS among gay and bisexual adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 15, 142–148.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Santelli, J., Ott, M. A., Lyon, M., Rogers, J., Summers, D., & Schleifer, R. (2006). Abstinence and abstinence-only education: a review of US policies and programs. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 72–81.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Satcher, D. (2001). The surgeon general’s call to action to promote sexual health and responsible sexual behavior. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from

  • Sullivan, P. S., Salazar, L., Buchbinder, S., & Sanchez, T. H. (2009). Estimating the proportion of HIV transmissions from main sex partners among men who have sex with men in five US cities. AIDS, 23(9), 1153–1162.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Telljohann, S. K., Price, J. H., Poureslami, M., & Easton, A. (1995). Teaching about sexual orientation by secondary health teachers. Journal of School Health, 65(1), 18–22.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


José A. Bauermeister was supported by Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (K01MH087242).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to José A. Bauermeister.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Pingel, E.S., Thomas, L., Harmell, C. et al. Creating Comprehensive, Youth Centered, Culturally Appropriate Sex Education: What Do Young Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Men Want?. Sex Res Soc Policy 10, 293–301 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: