Some states require only abstinence is taught. In 22 states and the District of Columbia, HIV and STD education is required. In 26 states, there's no mandate for sex education whatsoever.
But these days, young people don't necessarily have to rely purely on their school's approach to sex ed. Plenty of youth can turn to a space like TikTok to learn about sexual health and what to expect.
Thankfully, there are some TikTok users offering some impressively insightful information about it all.
Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OBGYN who moonlights as a TikTok star, recently went viral after she shared her eye-opening approach to the concept of virginity.
It began when Lincoln asked her followers to answer the following, deceptively simple question:
"What is the definition of losing your virginity?"
Some offered answers that prioritized consent.
how the hell did I get 70+/TikTok
Others took a more pragmatic approach to the question, in so many words.
As Dr. Lincoln continued following a brief pause, she explained the answer to the question is incredibly nuanced.
"Well there is no ONE answer for what losing your virginity is!"
"Maybe it's having vaginal sex. Maybe to you it's anal sex."
"But what about women who have sex with women? Do we just consider them virgins forever? I mean I don't think *they* would agree."
"There's no one scientific definition of losing your virginity. That's the point."
Dr. Lincoln then closed by leaning in and debunking another myth.
"And there's also no such thing as a "virginity test." No, your hymen doesn't matter."
She closed with a straightforward takeaway.
"Virginity is a social construct and not a very useful term, is it?"
Her TikTok followers shared how much they appreciated the safe space she created for learning.
"I often get questions from scared teenagers who want to know if they are still considered a virgin if they've done a certain activity. Why? Because society is obsessed with virginity and the idea that it indicates purity, which means you're dirty if you are no longer a virgin."
"Questions range from if just the tip of the penis goes in, or just goes in for a second, or if it's just oral sex – what counts? And my answer is always the same: There's no definition of virginity and your worth is SO much more than society's obsession with purity culture."
Dr. Lincoln went on to share her hope for a reformed approach to sex education.
"Imagine if we took just a percentage of the energy that goes into telling young people why they need to remain virgins until marriage and instead emphasized consent and understanding how their bodies worked in a medically accurate, comprehensive way?"
"Think of how impactful and empowering that would be! It is completely fine if you choose not to have sex or have your own definition of virginity – but don't let society define it for you, and through that define your worth."
One TikTok comment confirmed her approach was garnering the desired effect.
Of course, not all social media sources would be a good substitution for the lessons schools are typically tasked with teaching to young people.
But at least we have reputable experts like Dr. Lincoln to put out trustworthy content.