Only 32% of women learned about pleasure in sex ed classes, survey finds

Remember sex ed class? You may recall how you felt when you learned about the birds and the bees, but can you remember what you actually learned? According to a new survey, there was probably a lot lacking from those lessons—leaving out key parts of sexual and reproductive health, such as menstrual cycle changes like perimenopause to female pleasure to birth and postpartum.

The survey was performed by women’s health company Mira. It included input from more than 1,500 Americans between the ages of 18 and 44.

Of the women surveyed, 42% say sex ed failed to provide them with guidance on their first sexual experiences, while 47% of men said the same. And 41% of either sex said the classes didn’t help them with partner communications.

Of the women, 38% say sex ed classes didn’t equip them with enough knowledge on menstrual cycle changes, while 37% said they were lacking information on hormonal imbalances. The survey also revealed that one-third of women said they didn’t know enough about fertility and conception, while another third didn’t know enough about birth and postpartum. Of the women surveyed, 29% said sex ed classes lacked information on gender identity, and 27% said they didn’t get enough information on perimenopause.

There were also some disparities based on a person’s sex. That is, just 32% of women learned about pleasure during school sex ed, while 51% of guys did. It’s eye-opening to see just how big the knowledge gaps are around sexual education—especially for women.

“I see a major gap in modern sex education,” says Sylvia Kang, CEO and founder of Mira, in a statement. “Women often lack knowledge about their cycles, hormones, and fertility. Many Mira customers spend much time searching for answers they should’ve learned in school.” She calls for an urgent need to change sex ed, using more inclusive teaching and tech.

So, what went right in sex ed class? Well, 85% of women said it taught them about menstrual health. But there’s so much more that goes into sexual health than just periods.

Of the participants, 57% said sex ed needs to focus more on building healthy relationships and communication in those interactions, while another 56% say the classes should address psychological aspects of sexual wellness. Meanwhile, 48% want to see sex ed debunk stigmas around sex, while 45% want to see that focus on self-esteem and body image. And 43% said they think sex ed should educate people on hormonal imbalances.

As for continuing their sexual health education, millennial and Gen Z survey respondents said 42% turned to healthcare professionals and 35% used sex ed classes for their sexual education. Additionally, 29% utilized blogs and websites, while 18% chatted with friends.

But there’s a clear need for more nuanced, inclusive information when it comes to sexual education—especially for those who identify as female. “Women are put at risk when they do not have the knowledge they need. Reproductive hormones are central to reproductive and sexual health. Failing to educate women leads to unnecessary anxiety, frustration, delayed care, preventable disease, unnecessary office visits, health disparity and increased health costs,” Kara McElligott, MD, an OB/GYN and medical advisor at Mira, said in a statement.