The video opens to upbeat music playing alongside a video collage of condoms, pregnancy tests, tampons, and pills. The camera cuts to Hannah telling her audience “Guys. I got the letter.” The letter she is referring to is the letter to get her smear test, and Hannah is going to verbally document the experience. This video is just one in a series called ‘The Hormone Diaries’ by twenty-four year old Hannah Witton, a University of Birmingham graduate who vlogs about sex and relationships online. The series documents Hannah’s experience in coming off the pill, her experience with periods, and chatting about hormone-based contraception with members of her family and friends. It’s an open and candid series which aims to educate and entertain – to inform people of things they may be too shy in asking, and make topics around sex an open discussion.
Hannah is not the only channel on YouTube discussing sex and relationships, in fact there are hundreds creating videos around these topics. Names such as Laci Green, Shannon Boodram, and Dr. Doe may sound familiar to those who are regular browsers of YouTube.
The need for self-created sex education online perhaps comes from the lack of adequate sex education taught in schools. From my experience, we were taught the basic mechanics of sex between a heterosexual couple, how to put a condom on a banana, and shown some Googled images of various STDs. Incredibly comprehensive stuff. Nothing was mentioned about sexualities other than straight, masturbation, or consent. Speaking to my peers, it seems they also received the same standard of education in their own high-school PSHE classes.
This is why many young people are turning to YouTube to learn and discover things their teachers aren’t telling them. Dr. Lindsey Doe, an academic and sexology teacher who was approached by Hank Green to create a sex education series, talks about subjects such as ‘Vulva Confidence’, ‘How to Use a Tampon’, and has even taken a BDSM dungeon tour. Some of her videos have been used in schools, and her main piece of advice to watchers is to ‘stay curious’ – a positive affirmation for young people living in a world where sex is seen as a taboo subject, especially for females.
The videos aren’t boring or merely a reciting of facts: they are entertaining and Dr Doe is unafraid to crack a joke or too, or film less serious videos such as a video in which she discusses the type of sex she feels Disney princesses would have, alongside musician Jon Cozart.
Collaborations are frequent in this area of YouTube just like any other, so these sex educators are able to discuss sex and relationships with people who will have had a very different experience. Hannah, along with fellow online creators Leena Norms and Lucy Moon, has created the ‘Banging Book Club’, a monthly book club in which they read a book about sex and host an in-depth podcast discussion about it. These books can be anything from young adult fiction such as Louise O’Neill’s ‘Asking For It’, Naomi Wolf’s ‘Vagina: A New Biography’, the Vagina Monologues, and even ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (“Guys you know we’re reading this critically right”, Moon tweets).
In a recent three-way (look, I couldn’t help myself) collaboration with Hannah and Dr Doe was Shannon Boodram, a clinical sexologist and author who has appeared on numerous television shows and in various videos talking about sex. Boodram has spoken about topics such as digital dating, how pregnancy tests work, and even how to kiss, covering a wide range of topics and questions in her videos. One of her recent videos involves an experiment and discussion over the ‘standard desires of beauty’ and cat calling – pitting her self-described “exotic” beauty-type against Jessica Carroll’s “classic” standard of blonde hair and blue eyes.
YouTube is a platform full of educational yet entertaining videos about sex and relationships. Want to know about the “History of Lesbinaism”? It’s there. Consent? It’s there. What about what being on set of a feminist porn shoot is like? That’s there, too.
There’s a whole world of sex and relationships information that isn’t being discussed at schools or by parents – and it’s these creators’ mission to ensure this information is accessible and entertaining for everyone.