A poll of university students in the UK has revealed that 45 percent of male students said they could confidently label a part of the female anatomy that was entirely made up.
Among female students, 31 percent said they would be confident in labelling the “nubis,” which definitely doesn’t exist.
Students were asked a number of questions about their sexual health and wellbeing which revealed the scale of poor sex education and early sexual experiences for young people in the UK.
As well as being asked to label the made-up “nubis,” students were also asked if they could confidently label the testes on the male reproductive system, and clitoral glans on the female reproductive system – 89 percent of male students and 80 percent of female students said they could confidently label the testes, compared to 73 percent of male students and 74 percent of female students being able to do the same of the glans.
Savanta was commissioned by publisher HarperCollins to produce the survey to mark the release of my book Losing It in paperback on the 2nd of February, interviewing 1,600 students across the country.
It revealed that 38 percent of female students and 41 percent of male students felt pressured into their first experience of penetrative sex.
Among male students, 45 percent said their first partnered experience happened later than they wanted to, compared to just over 34 percent of female students.
Of the 491 respondents who said that their first sexual experience happened later than they wanted, 59 percent said that this was primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in 2021, a nationally representative survey using data from Natsal (National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle) investigating the impact of COVID-19 on British sex lives said that, “Lockdown restrictions may have meant a delay to sexual debut for some young people. Coupled with lockdown limiting young people’s access to relationship and sex education delivered through schools, community organisations and peer discussion, it is plausible that this cohort may be more vulnerable to adverse circumstances when they do experience sexual debut, with implications for their subsequent sexual well-being."
The new Savanta survey found that 49 percent of male students and 57 percent of female students report encountering issues with arousal during sexual scenarios, either affecting themselves or their partners. Yet a quarter of male students and a third of female students said they don’t feel confident in knowing what to do when this happens.
Just over half of students did not have regular conversations about sexual health and information growing up with their parents, and 38 percent said they felt university had not filled in the gaps they were left with in their school sex education.
One of the Natsal researchers, Professor Kirstin Mitchell at Glasgow University, said of the Savanta results: “When we fail to challenge myths, provide straight facts and have honest conversations, we are letting young people down. This generation has been failed even more than most because of the pandemic-related disruption to their sex education.”
There were also findings connected to hateful speech and behaviours.
Over a quarter of young people had experienced sexual harassment or abuse online, and a much lower proportion of female students knew how to report sexual harassment online – 52 percent – than male students did – 70 percent –, despite being more likely to be victim to it.
Hera Hussain, founder of Chayn HQ, a charity supporting victims of gender violence, said: “The fact that women are less likely to know how to report is a damning number for social media companies who have the responsibility of making it easier to control user interactions and report abuse. These are design failures.”
A third of female students thought their university wasn’t doing enough to tackle misogyny on campus – whereas just over a quarter of male students thought universities were doing too much to tackle it.
Jamie Klingler, a co-founder of Reclaim These Streets, a British feminist justice organisation, tweeted that the latter stat was “pretty much the most upsetting stat I’ve read in the last two years.”
The male students who believed that universities were giving too much attention and effort to tackling misogyny were more likely to come from Russell Group universities – the collection of British universities with the highest reputation for research and academic performance.
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, said: “These figures paint a clear picture of the shocking gaps in children and young people’s knowledge about sex, relationships and their own bodies.
“Children should be taught the fundamentals of relationship and sex education long before they reach university, especially now that it is compulsory in all schools. However, teachers are not being provided with the training or resources necessary to effectively teach sex education and it is putting young people at risk.”
She added: “The government agreed to my amendment on mandatory relationship and sex education in 2017, so why on earth has it still not been sufficiently rolled out?”
VICE World News revealed last year that the government had withdrawn nearly half of the funding it had set aside to train teachers to deliver the new Relationship and Sex Education in curriculum, blaming teachers for low uptake due to the pandemic.
A teacher told VICE World News at the time: “Staff deserve proper training to support them in the delivery of this and our pupils deserve lessons which are delivered by confident and knowledgeable teachers. It all feels so wrong and the funding must be used as promised.”
Sophia Smith Galer is a Senior Reporter for VICE World News and the author of "Losing It."