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16th February 2023

Sex education is failing students, recent survey finds

45% of male students believe they can name the nonexistent ‘nubis’ on a female anatomy diagram

Trigger Warning: This article contains references to non-consensual sexual interactions

A recent sex education survey has revealed the vast scale of poor sex education amongst students.

Sophia Smith Galer, a sex misinformation activist, commissioned Savanta to survey 1,600 students between 18-25 about sex and consent.

The results of the report indicate that 45% of university-aged men felt confident labelling the “nubis” on a diagram of the female reproductive system. The “nubis”, however, does not exist; although 31% of female students also believed they could label it.

More findings illustrate only 34% of female university students feel their sexual partner fully understands what consent means.

38% of university students feel their university has not filled the gaps in sex education left by their schools.

Given that only 24% of School of Arts, Languages, and Culture (SALC) students have completed an optional consent module at the University of Manchester (UoM), a mandatory consent module may improve these alarming figures.

The University of Manchester’s Students’ Union is hoping to introduce a mandatory consent module for all students.

A much lower proportion of female students knew how to report sexual harassment online (52%) compared to their male counterparts (70%), despite data indicating a greater risk to female students.

Similarly, 38% of female students and 41% of male students felt pressured into their first experience of penetrative sex. Students can report incidents of assault or harassment anonymously to Report and Support.

Over half (52%) of students did not have regular conversations about sexual health and consent growing up with their parents. This may explain why a third (33%) of female students think their university is not doing enough to tackle misogyny on campus, whilst 26% of male students think universities are doing “too much”.

Resist Rape Culture, a pioneering campaign group at UoM, was set up in 2021 in response to the results of the University of Manchester’s sexual violence report.

Sarah Champion, 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”.

“If we leave it to children to teach themselves about consent, healthy relationships and sex, their tutor is likely to be porn. This aggressive fantasy leads to concerning amounts of misinformation, confusion, and guessing, rather than open and honest conversations”.


Savanta’s survey data was weighted to represent all UK university students by gender, course year, and institution type. Savanta is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Libby Elliott

Libby Elliott

Co-Investigations Editor | Shortlisted for the SPA2022 Rising Star Award | Voted Best Mancunion Newcomer at the MMG Awards 2022

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