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What Do Young, Canadian, Straight and LGBTQ Men and Women Learn About Sex and from Whom?

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Abstract

Background

The literature on young adults’ sex education has mostly focused broadly on sources of information rather than the learning of particular sexual topics. Studies have found differences between men and women in their sex education (e.g., men learn more from pornography while women learn more from their mothers), yet few of these studies have included sexual minority emerging adults. This begs the following question: What do young, straight, and LGBTQ men and women learn about sex and from whom?

Methods

This study asked 399 straight, and LGBTQ men and women (ages 18–25) to rate, on a scale of 0–4, how much information they had obtained about 13 topics from 7 sources of information. Data were collected in 2014–2015.

Results

Results show that young adults learn mainly about sexual risks and reproduction from school, physicians and parents, while they turn to the Internet, peers, partners and pornography to fill the gap. Men obtained more information from pornography about the pleasurable aspects of sexuality than did women, while straight women learned more about these topics from their partners than did other groups. Women also received more information concerning reproduction than did men.

Conclusions

These results confirm that young adults learn much of what interests them most about sex from informal sources such as peers, partners and the Internet. Pornography may also play an inordinate role in young people’s understanding of sexuality. Our approaches to sex education must change if we want to truly have an impact on young adults’ diverse sexualities.

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Notes

  1. In this study, LGBTQ was used to encompass anyone who identified with a non-cisgender identity, including non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals.

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Correspondence to Maxime Charest.

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Charest, M., Kleinplatz, P.J. What Do Young, Canadian, Straight and LGBTQ Men and Women Learn About Sex and from Whom?. Sex Res Soc Policy 19, 622–637 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-021-00578-7

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