“Teaching sex ed in schools is really important for obvious reasons,” John Oliver says in his latest Last Week Tonight report. “No parent wants to talk to their kids about sex, and no kid wants to talk about sex with their parents. That is why when you’re watching a movie together and there’s a sex scene, everyone becomes motionless and silently begs for the merciful release of death.” The host explores that intricate and awkward subject, revealing a shocking inconsistency related to sexual education in American schools.
Oliver opens on a light note, cutting to a series of hilarious, but confusing, sex education videos – including one starring current Better Call Saul actor Jonathan Banks. “There is no required standard for sex ed in this country,” the host says. “In fact, only 22 states mandate that kids receive it, and only 13 require that the information presented be medically accurate.”
This creates a “weird patchwork system” where kids can receive different information even across school districts. In Mississippi, teachers can talk about contraceptives, but can’t use condoms for demonstrations – despite the state ranking Number Two in the country in teen pregnancy rates. Meanwhile, Utah prohibits instructions on the “intricacies of intercourse.”
Many students are still exposed to “abstinence-only” education – which is unrealistic considering that Americans lose their virginity at the average age of 17. “Abstinence is a healthy choice that many teens will make, either by choice – or, as I can attest – by circumstance,” Oliver cracks, cutting to a youthful, geeky picture of himself.
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The host demonstrates the severity of this education, showing aggressive guest speakers who try to “yell the horniness out of teenagers” and use clumsy metaphors like non-virgins being “chewed-up pieces of gum” or pieces of tape that won’t stick – language that can be traumatic to survivors of sexual assault. Further, Oliver argues, schools should include information about sexual consent in their programs.
“Human sexuality, unlike calculus, is something you actually need to know about for the rest of your life,” Oliver says. And in order to give kids a practical look at the topic, the host ends with his own sex ed video featuring Laverne Cox, Jack McBrayer, Kristen Schaal and Nick Offerman.