WHY IS THIS HARD?

Watch: John Oliver and Laverne Cox take on the holes in sex education

“When you are having sex, how do you know what to do?” That’s a real question submitted by a preteen girl in a Seattle class on puberty, and one many sex education programs in the US probably wouldn’t feel comfortable answering.

Last night (Aug. 9), late-night show host John Oliver did a take-down of the squeamish state of sex education in US schools, for which there are no uniform guidelines. The standards vary across states, and even districts, Oliver explained. What’s worse, he went on: “Only 22 states mandate that kids receive [sexual education], and only 13 require that the information presented be medically accurate.”

His conclusion: “Which is crazy.”

Abstinence-only programs, the US federal funding for which was boosted from $50 million to $75 million this year, are both unrealistic and harmful, said Oliver, especially for women and survivors of sexual assault. Those who choose to have sex before marriage are likened to “a used toothbrush,” a “chewed-up piece of gum,” and “a dirty shoe,” in these programs, he explained.

Oliver’s comedic remedy: a spoof educational video to substitute for outdated ones. In it, a merry cast of entertainers including Laverne Cox, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, and Kumail Nanjiani give sassy, sex-positive, and accurate information about anatomy and birth control. Abstinence is perfectly fine, they say—but so is choosing to have sex.

Lastly, its advice on consent is simple. “If someone doesn’t want to have sex with you, don’t have sex with them.” And if you’re not sure, ask.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search