Let’s talk about #seggs and social media


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TikTok is becoming an easy and popular space for people to learn about sexual health.

For Emily Duncan, it all started with an STI diagnosis. Well actually, two.

After becoming sexually active in her late teens, Emily contracted chlamydia twice from the same partner. While it’s the most frequently reported sexually transmitted infection in Australia, Emily noticed how little she knew about the condition, as the information she received during her public school education didn’t adequately prepare her with what to do next.

“I realised how much I didn’t know, how much I didn’t want to talk about it and how much the people around me didn’t know how to talk about it,” she said.

But with the emergence of media sharing platforms like Instagram and TikTok, sexuality educators and experts are moving online with the aim of normalising conversations around sex, gender and pleasure.

Inspired by sex-positive social media accounts like SexELDucation, Come Curious and Cliterally the Best, Emily was inspired to start her own podcast That’s Orgasmic geared at “breaking down the stigmas and misconceptions attached to sex.”

“There’s a stigma around if we teach sex ed it’s going to teach people to do the wrong thing,” Emily said.

“[But] it’s not something I think should be frowned upon. The more information people can have about these things the better.”

“People use social media as a platform for sex education as a means of necessity”

Eleni Gabrielides, a 24-year old sexual health promoter from Canberra, remembers sitting in a year 12 class and hearing a school friend express how annoying it was to take a tampon out every time she had to use the toilet.

Surprised at the admission, Eleni – who is completing her Masters in Sexology at Curtin University – said she couldn’t believe how little her friend knew about her own body.

“She was 18 years old and had never come across this information in her life,” she said.

“People don’t understand their own bodies and that’s crazy to me – even just really basic anatomy.”


Sexual health and education are mandatory for students in England, Germany and the Netherlands.

While Eleni has managed her own sex education Instagram account, SexTalkWithEleni since 2018, she believes that the video-sharing platform TikTok has especially contributed to the rise of the digital sex-positive movement due to its lighthearted and engaging approach to sensitive topics. 

“People use social media as a platform for sex education as a means of necessity,” she said.

“I think a lot of school sex education programs are heavily tied to risk and ill health – so they’ll tell you a lot about STIs [or] how to avoid pregnancies, but they don’t tell you […] that it might be an enjoyable experience for people or that there are different ways to make it feel good.”

Unlike countries like Germany, the Netherlands and England who have introduced mandatory sex and relationship education, back home the responsibility rests in the hands of State and Territory governments.

As a result, there is no one, clear and regulated mode of delivery that exists in Australia, inevitably leading to gaps in crucial knowledge areas like cyber safety, unwanted or unplanned pregnancies and sexual pleasure. Likewise, there are currently no minimum standards in place that teachers of sexuality education are required to meet. 

But what do young people actually want to learn about? 

Brendan Bailey, Education and Community Manager at Family Planning Victoria said that while students still ask for ‘plumbing and prevention’ information – the reproductive system, methods of contraception and how to prevent STIs – there is also a demand for topics not usually spoken about.

“They are asking for guidance in how to navigate their relationships, how to ensure they are practising consent, and how to understand their bodies and all the amazing things they can do,” he said.

A survey conducted by Australia’s leading sex researchers in 2016 had similar findings, with participants expressing interest in learning more about gender diversity and violence in relationships.

And when you dig through the trove of sex-positive accounts that exist across all platforms, it’s not hard to see why they have become such a popular avenue for teens to learn more about sexual wellness.


Sexuality educators are using social media to change the way we think about sex and pleasure. (https://www.instagram.com/pleasurecentredsexology/)

Lauren French, a sexologist with the Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine (AISSM) and a sexuality educator with Body Safety Australia said social media is also helping change outdated and fear-oriented narratives around sex.

While she still has her own reservations around the credibility of the advice being shared, she acknowledged the important role it has played in helping people understand there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. 

“People want to feel like they’re normal, so [through] simple things like an Instagram poll [asking] ‘have you done this before or have you experienced this?’ People are able to see that the vast majority of other people have also experienced what they have.”

Championing diversity in sex education 

Social media has also played an important role in starting conversations around gender diversity and giving people in the LGBTQI+ community a platform to speak.

Kassandra Mourikis, a sexologist at Pleasure Centred Sexology in Hawthorn, said social media has played a role in normalising diversity, as people can challenge societal norms and expectations of gender and sexuality.

“There’s this saying that if you don’t see something represented it feels like you can’t be it,” she said.

“When we only have sex education that is about one type of body, sexuality [or] one experience of gender then everybody else is excluded and either made to feel abnormal, pathologized or feel like they’re broken and have to conform to the standard.”

While Kassandra has a diverse clientele, she said many of her younger clients sought help around communicating with their partner, navigating pleasure and unlearning negative preconceptions of sex. 

Not only are these problems systemic and reflective of prevailing power imbalances according to Kassandra, but she said it’s also a consequence of the way we teach young people about sex and relationships.

Even something as simple as an Instagram post is helping young people become comfortable with taboo topics such as pleasure and masturbation. (https://www.instagram.com/thatsorgasmic/)


“It used to very much be anatomy-based and about putting a condom on a banana which is all about centring the penis but excluding everything else,” she said.

“It didn’t really prioritise what a respectful, supportive relationship looked like [or] talk about the importance of consent and checking in [on your partner].”

Kassandra also stressed the need for diversity in modern sexuality education, to ensure young people who identify as queer, intersex or trans are included in the conversation.

Notably, a 2018 survey into Australian sexuality education teachers found these themes were taught less than other topics.

The censorship challenge

Although social media is praised for being inclusive and accessible to audiences far and wide, the increasingly stringent rules on censorship remains a big issue for content creators.

Perth-based Sex Coach and Men’s health educator Cam Fraser has spent the last six years building his online presence and making a name for himself in the sex-positive community. But he said the constant threat of having his accounts permanently deleted is worrying. 

While Cam’s content is based on expert research, his posts are regularly flagged as sexually explicit or in breach of community guidelines.

“Instagram and Facebook particularly have cracked down on me and I’ve had my account threaten to be deleted a few times,” he said.

Even the use of language deemed inappropriate is not allowed. TikTok for example, does not allow for the use of words such as ‘vagina’, ‘orgasm’ or even ‘sex’ forcing creators and users to misspell words like ‘seggs’ as a loophole.

Content found in violation of community guidelines may be removed or creators could find themselves partially blocked without notice, otherwise known as being ‘shadow banned’ which can be detrimental to creators whose livelihoods depend on these platforms. 

And while things like misinformation and media literacy still need to be considered, sexuality educators like Margie Buttriss, the founder of Hush Education, enjoys how unconventional and quirky content creators can be online.

With 40 years of experience in education up her sleeve, Margie said she was happy to see the conventional “doom and gloom” approach towards sex education phase-out, but work still needed to be done.

“Some [school] programs are still very gendered, still binary – we need to move away from that,” Margie said. 

“Society is evolving. There is more and more the recognition that sex is a spectrum [and] that has to be part of modern sexuality education.”

Whether it’s through pastel-coloured infographics, a sexologist participating in a Q&A or a reminder to “prioritise your pleasure”, there is no doubt social media has made it easier to access the information, advice and support we all need, but weren’t given in the classroom.