An alarming new study has shown that the majority of adults feel that the sex education classes they attended in school have left them uneducated and misinformed and that there’s still a lack of education on same-sex relationships.

The survey was conducted by CalExotics, one of the largest adult novelty retailers in the U.S., and showed how a lack of sex ed can leave people feeling unprepared to meet the changing attitudes around sex and sexual identity. 79 per cent of adults had never formally learnt about consent, whilst 75 per cent acknowledged that they hadn’t learnt about sexual harassment – both topics that crucially demand attention and education in today’s climate.

According to the 426-person survey, respondents between 18 and 29 years old and those between 45 and 60 revealed their most recent sex education class focused on the same topics, despite the multi-decade gap: abstinence, pregnancy, reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases, and contraception.

“That’s three generations of stalled learnings,” said Dr. Jill McDevitt, resident sexologist for CalExotics. “Because the topics around sex are always developing, sexuality is a subject we need to be addressing in medically accurate and culturally appropriate ways not just in middle and high school, but also throughout adulthood.”

Over 70 per cent of adults surveyed believe they would benefit from taking a sex ed class now, meanwhile, 20 per cent have never had a formal sex ed class at any point in their life. Even more alarming, 92 per cent of respondents have never formally learned about the following:

  • Sex positions/how to have sex
  • Local resources for sexual health
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Same-sex relationships and sexuality
  • Foreplay
  • Interracial relationships
  • Sex toys

According to the study, respondents obtain most of their sex education from what they see on TV or learn about via pop culture. Forty-three per cent learned about sexual identities, such as being gay, lesbian, transgender and LGBTQ, from TV and pop culture.

“I like watching Netflix, just like the rest of us, but let’s not forget that these plotlines and characters are developed with entertainment in mind – not education,” said McDevitt. “Instead of real sex education from trained professionals, we have most people learning and modelling their sexual and relationship behaviours from what they see on TV, or from untrained but well-meaning YouTubers.

“To combat serious issues of sexual harassment and assault, gender inequality, and more, sexuality education must be accessible to more people and include more topics.”