What is the evidence?
Sexual education isn't inclusive enough
Adolescence is a critical period of social biological and psychological changes, during which individuals often start exploring their sexuality and engaging in sexual behaviour. This makes the provision of complete and accurate information during this life stage important. Over the past two decades there have been changes on how young people receive information about sex, with there being a marked increase in young people reporting lessons at school as their main source of information. Whilst there's been much research about sources of information for young people, there's been relatively less consideration about how sources of information about sex may differ according to sexual orientation. This is what recent research by myself and my colleague Sarah Burke who set out to do. We had two main aims the first was to consider where the main sources of information about sex differed between young women who have sex with women, and young women who have sex exclusively with men. We secondly wanted to look at how well these sources met young women's information or needs. We did this by drawing on information from over 1,600 young women under the age of 26 from the third national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. This is a nationally representative data set of people in Great Britain. So what did we find? We found that young women who have sex with women are less likely to report lessons at school as their main source of information about sex, instead they are more likely to report a category labelled as other which consisted mainly of first girlfriend, first boyfriend, or first sexual partner. We also found that 87% of young women who have sex with women reported that when they first felt ready for a sexual experience they wish they had known more information about sex. Schoolbased sexual education is an important source for young people today, however there's increasing attention being drawn to the invisibility of same-sex relationships in there. Sexual education needs to be more inclusive and provide information on a diversity of relationship and family forms and provide information on risk and protection that goes beyond a focus on opposite-sex sexual behaviour.
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Why does it matter?