set of coloured pencils arranged in a circle
set of coloured pencils arranged in a circle

4 Sex-Ed Lessons They Never Taught You In School

The quality of sex-ed in schools has been a long-standing debate. What are they missing?

We surveyed our Gen-Z audience to find out how they felt about the education they received surrounding sex, dating and relationships in schools. The results we uncovered were pretty staggering and add new insight into the minds of young people who feel they aren’t getting the education surrounding identity, representation, boundaries and relationship types.

Have you ever reflected on your own education and wondered what was missing? We’re going to dive into what schools should be teaching, as well as the concepts and lessons they aren’t.

What are schools supposed to teach surrounding sex-ed?

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Before we can dive into the topics that aren’t really taught properly (if at all), it’s worth looking at the current sex education system as it stands.

Sex education is usually taught in a subject known as relationships, sex and health education, or “RSHE” for short. RHSE was made compulsory in September 2020 for all pupils in primary education, and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for those in secondary education. The government has also stated that Health Education is also compulsory for UK schools too.

Sex education in schools — in a nutshell

The sex education concepts schools should cover at the primary-level include the building blocks for healthy and respectful relationships, as well as relationships with family and friends — with the inclusion of online relationships.

At secondary schools, concepts taught in primary are expanded upon but introduce more sex-based concepts such as intimacy, healthy and positive sexual relationships, sexual health and drugs.

What about LGBT concepts?

The government website has a clause regarding LGBTQIA+, stating schools need to ensure all pupil’s needs are met and that they “understand the importance of equality and respect”. There are also regulations in place where schools must adhere to provisions in the Equality Act 2010 and The Equality Act 2010: advice for schools, under, which sexual orientation and gender reassignment are currently among the protected characteristics.

We find this statement quite interesting, as our survey is going to shed light on how, actually, such matters aren’t being addressed as well as you might think.

Why is sex-ed so important?

There are many reasons why besides the obvious. However, the most pressing reason is there’s growing evidence that a lack of adequate sex education from a young age increases sexual risk-taking later in life. This includes education around inclusive sex too.

Research surrounding sexual risk-taking in young people in 2021 found that there was an increased risk in intercourse before the legal age of consent, unprotected sex and the contraction of STIs for those who had not received adequate sex education. The report also found 1 in 10 Free School Meals-eligible young people did not learn about STIs, consent, LGBT relationships or relationships at school, almost double the rate of their non-FSM-eligible peers (nearly 1 in 20). It’s worrying to see that those we already know to be most vulnerable are also losing out when it comes to proper sex education.

Reflect back on your sex education in school. What do you think was missing? Was there information you wish you knew sooner? We’ve rounded up some sex-ed lessons that didn’t get the time of day in school.

What sex-ed lessons need to be taught in schools?

two people sat on down bed holding hands

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it covers a lot of ground. Here are the top sex-ed lessons we feel aren’t taught in schools or need more classroom time on.


We found almost nine in ten (87%) Gen Z’s think sex education in schools needs to be made more inclusive, with two-fifths (39%) of respondents admitting to never learning about any of the topics below.

The percentages below show how many students did learn about the topics:

  • Responding to pressures to have sex (47%)
  • Expressing intimacy without sex (13%)
  • PrEP — a preventative drug against catching HIV (14%)
  • Contraception in non-heterosexual relationships (20%)
  • Asexuality (8%)

These numbers are alarmingly low. Had these concepts been taught effectively in school, we could reduce risks surrounding STIs and drastically increase the normality of LGBTQIA+ relationships in society.

Alarmingly, some individuals are going as far as petitioning against LGBT awareness in the primary school curriculum. If this were to be scrapped, this would cause a devastating blow to safe sex in the LGBTQIA+ community, increased risks of STIs, poor mental health and the like.


Our survey reported that 39% of Gen Z did not feel represented in the sex education they received at school. They also stated:

  • They somewhat felt represented in porn — 14%
  • Did not feel represented on sex scenes on TV shows and movies — 42%
  • Only felt somewhat represented in dating advice in the media — 34% 

It also appears that education surrounding safe sex isn’t getting through, with 40% of heterosexual students admitting to using condoms, vs 43% of bisexual students

Considering Gen-Z rank top in identifying as non-binary compared to other generations — it’s strange that popular media, dating advice and of course, the sex education in school, isn’t up to date. By making these outlets more relatable, people of that generation can be more informed about places to go for resources, education, popular media and safe spaces for pleasure.

Open relationships

There’s growing evidence that Gen Z are more inclined to opening up their relationships to multiple partners compared to other generations. However, those still in education deem it “morally wrong”.

This may be the reason why our survey showed only 1 in 10 would consider an open relationship if their partner wanted one. It demonstrates an openness of the generation, but a hesitancy based on the lack of awareness from a young age. 

Could this be due to the omnipresent stigma surrounding non-monogamy? Or is it also the sex-ed system being rooted mostly in traditional cis-het relationships?


The teachings surrounding boundaries and consent aren’t great. According to the PHSE Association“Many pupils said they and their peers would have benefited from better education and advice about consent”. In fact, 23% of male vs 27% of female respondents said they feel comfortable communicating boundaries with their partners. This is an alarmingly small statistic from both sides, and begs the question of how the importance of communicating healthy boundaries are taught at a young age.

On a similar note, we covered how the UK education system isn’t doing enough to tackle sexual violence. A study conducted in primary schools by Children & Young People Now, showed primary school students a scenario surrounding consent. A male pupil demonstrated an example of victim-blaming, a common scenario in rape culture, citing “The girl was in charge because he was coming towards her and she could’ve said ‘no, get away from me’ or ‘sorry, I’m not ready for this’. At first she said it, but then she just gave in.”

While it’s great there’s light shed on the attitudes and thoughts towards boundaries and consent — are schools solely facilitating the discussion on how girls can stop this from happening in the first place? Surely, education should be around highlighting how morally wrong and damaging this can be to another person.

What can I do?

If you feel you didn’t receive the right level of sex-ed in school, particularly on the topics mentioned above — just know there are tons more resources these days to keep you well informed. Obviously, the onus is on schools to do the right thing, but if you’ve left school, then we need to take it upon ourselves to get to grips with the latest on sex-ed, inclusivity and the like.

Fill in the gaps surrounding sexuality

A well-rounded understanding of sex education ultimately helps close the gap in discrimination in society. This involves understanding how relationships in the LGBTQIA+ space works, so that you can advocate for their rights too.

Stonewall is a fantastic place to start for this. The site includes an extensive glossary, which is incredibly useful if you need more information on a sexuality type. They also have resources on inclusive jobs, workplaces, schools, and a regular host of seminars and workshops for those wishing to further their education.

Search for other media formats

When it comes to representation in porn, a big chunk of students said they don’t feel they can relate. There’s been tons of research into the ways Gen Z are now consuming pornographic material — like audio-only, erotic literature or similarly, “doujins” (erotic-style manga).

Why? Let’s take audio erotica for instance. It was booming in lockdown and was commended for being a safe space for listeners to explore their sexuality without the visuals. Think about it — it’s a very visual medium and hence a common issue for bias when picking actors. So if you remove this entirely, you can leave it up to the listener’s imagination in a preference that suits them.

Follow influencers who discuss healthy boundaries and relationships

Influencers on Instagram and TikTok are fantastic because they provide quick and easy-to-digest posts on a topic of choice. Take lalalaletmeexplain — a prolific dating educator. They break down seemingly innocent narratives and explain how they can be toxic further down the line. They challenge toxic behaviours in others as well as those you can exhibit in yourself.

Other dating influencers you can follow include:

See the other side of non-monogamy

You don’t have to agree on how non-monogamous/polyamorous relationships work, but you need to accept that those relationships well and truly exist.

The main reason it’s stigmatised is due to it coming across as an excuse to “cheat” or have a string of sexual relationships. In reality, it’s a type of relationship that isn’t bound by societal norms and is defined by a set of rules the individuals agree upon instead. Some people thrive off these relationship types because they allow a consensual space for those involved to explore other connections.

There are various publications and podcasts by advocates in the non-monogamy relationship style:

We hope with the growing research out there, as well as our own on sex-ed in schools brings it to the forefront of the UK education system. What other sex education lessons should be taught in schools? Let us know over on Instagram, and sign up for Student Beans to keep in the know of the latest news, surveys, student discounts and more.