- Queer creatives like Katie Haan and Lydia Collins are filling a needed education gap on TikTok.
- They told Insiders they make the kind of sex education content they want when they grow up.
- Here you can learn more about how they do their job and how they bypass the TikTok algorithm.
In Katie Haan’s TikToks, she looks directly into the camera as if having a casual conversation with the viewer. In the fast-paced videos, Haan shares tips, recreates common sex and dating scenarios, and answers questions, comments, and other videos on everything from love and dating to how tampons work.
Viewers can easily digest her content, and it feels like the kind of personal advice one would get from an older sibling. The combination of Haan’s care and consideration in this format means that commentators confide in her questions that they would otherwise find embarrassing.
Haan, whose bio is “Your tiktok big sister,” works to fill practical gaps that conventional sex education leaves, especially for women and queer people like her. And she is not alone.
Sexual health creators use TikTok to make sex education more inclusive and accessible
In the states that require sex education in the US today, the curricula place more emphasis on abstinence than advocacy, and fewer than half require the curricula to be medically accurate. When schools offer it, traditional sex education focuses primarily or entirely on relationships between cisgender heterosexual people and lacks intersectional nuance. Six southern states specifically prohibit educators from discussing or answering questions about LGBTQ relationships and identities.
As a result, many young people – especially queer youth, who often face additional social stigma – do not have access to information that actually applies to them. In response, creators build platforms to offer the kind of hands-on, identity-specific education they would have liked to receive.
Lydia Collins, a black queer creator working in sex health education, saw firsthand how race and sexuality are excluding themselves from the conversations about sex education.
“I never learned what protective barriers to queer sex might look like or how racial fetishization and hypersexualization might pose in my sexual and romantic interactions,” says Collins, whose content focuses on consent education and HIV prevention and awareness, particularly in black communities. said. “And I certainly did not learn how this lack of information could affect my ability to consent.”
Collins uses her videos to break down complex or taboo topics in an understandable way and to tactfully address users’ most sensitive questions. Commenters regularly thank her for covering these less-discussed topics and answer each other’s questions based on their personal experiences.
Another creator, a gastroenterologist named Carlton Thomas, covers everything from STD prevention to practical tips aimed at men who have sex with men or the MSM community. In the comments, users regret shared experiences, jointly joke about common mistakes and thank the doctor for providing terminology and advice that makes them feel seen.
Viewers have been overwhelmingly positive, but the TikTok algorithm isn’t always so friendly
Educational content is reportedly allowed under TikTok community guidelines. However, sexual health creators report that the platform’s algorithm regularly incorrectly identifies their content as adult or sexually explicit, resulting in the platform flagging, deprioritizing, or removing their videos.
To ensure their content stays live, creators use algorithm-friendly workarounds and euphemisms. Some, like Haan, use words like “seggs” to mean “sex”; “SA”, pronounced like “essay”, for sexual assault; variations of “le$bean” for lesbians; and simple iconography like the eggplant and cat emojis in place of the words “penis” and “vagina,” respectively. Others, like Collins and Carlton, replace letters with numbers — like “c0ndom” and “r@cist” — in their titles and captions.
Haan was originally determined to encourage the use of proper terminology on her platform, but changed course after several of her videos were reported and she was temporarily banned from posting.
“I kind of had to go back and rewrite my personal mission statement, knowing I can’t use the right terms or I can’t get the information out,” Haan said.
She has since adopted more alternative language to reach a wider audience, but still hopes to destigmatize the right terms and send the message that everyone can have a voice in sexual health conversations.
Despite obstacles, the creators keep the important conversations going
While veiled terms and euphemisms can be a source of frustration, sexual health creators are determined to provide not only resources but representation on their platforms.
Collins viewed her school days as the time when she needed content like the videos she is now creating the most. In her experience, young people are not only the most interested, but also the most willing and open to open conversations about sexual health. She hopes young people will be given tools that will lead them to a brighter future as they see all aspects of their identity on platforms that belong to them.
“I hope young people will take away from my content an enthusiastic attitude towards sexual health that isn’t based on fear, but rather on pleasure and harm reduction,” said Collins. “And that they feel better equipped to make informed decisions about their bodies.”