'Sex Is Not Just about Ovaries.' Youth Participatory Research on Sexuality Education in The Netherlands

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 19;17(22):8587. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17228587.


Young people are not satisfied with the sexuality education they receive in Dutch high schools. They rate their sexuality education as mediocre (5.8 on a scale of one to ten). In cooperation with 17 young peer researchers, we explored what good sexuality education looks like from the point of view of young people. The peer researchers collected data in their own high school, using mixed methods, starting with individual interviews, followed by focus group discussions and Photovoice sessions to get more in-depth views on topics, class atmosphere, and teacher skills. In total, 300 pupils aged 12-18 participated in the research. Our findings demonstrate that young people want more sexuality education, during their whole school career. They want sexuality education to move beyond biological functions, sexually transmitted diseases, and reproduction into issues like dating, online behavior, sexual pleasure, relationships, and sexual coercion. Moreover, pupils want sexual diversity integrated and normalized in all content. One of the main issues is that sexuality education should be given in a safe class atmosphere, which demands sensitivity from the teacher. In addition to the findings of the study, this article reflects on the steps to be taken to realize the changes desired by young people.

Keywords: The Netherlands; sexual agency; sexuality; sexuality education; student voice; youth; youth participatory action research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Community-Based Participatory Research* / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Ovary*
  • Sex Education
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexuality*