1 Motivation For most young people in the world, getting reliable information about sex can be difficult.
Researchers and sexual rights activists have argued that sharing information about the positive, pleasurable aspects of sexuality, rather than the risky aspects, can enhance the effectiveness of communicating sexual health information (Dyson . The internet has been identified as a (potentially) very valuable avenue for comprehensive, interactive and youth-friendly sex education (Simon and Daneback 2013).
Yet online sex education is directly and indirectly restricted in many countries by national laws that limit freedom of expression on the internet, prohibit pornography or criminalise same-sex relationships.
What practitioners, policymakers and researchers are missing is a better understanding of why, when and how adolescents are searching for and gathering information, what experiences they have online, and how changes in technology – which is more interactive and social nowadays – as well as legal and cultural contexts affect the use of (re)sources.
This article attempts to contribute to an understanding of how online information about sexual health education offered by sex educators operating from offices in different national contexts is accessed by users and restricted by gatekeepers.
In the first literature review of 36 articles focusing on use of the internet for sex educational purposes by adolescents aged 13–19, Simon and Daneback (2013) identified four distinct themes.
First, adolescents engage with online sex information: depending on the sample, between 31.6 and 76.5 per cent of study participants in the United States, 20 per cent of a sample of school adolescents in Uganda, 34.3 per cent of Ghanaian adolescents, and 45 per cent of a female sample of adolescents in Nigeria had used the internet for information about sexual health.We focus on online traffic data from Love Matters, an online provider of sex education in five countries: China, Egypt, Kenya, Mexico and India.3 Study background – Love Matters Love Matters is an initiative of RNW Media, which offers sexual health information with a positive take on sexual pleasure and relationships on web, mobile and social media platforms.Knowing more about different user pathways would help build more effective online sex education interventions in different sociopolitical contexts and environments, as sex educators could direct users more efficiently to relevant information.This article explores digital pathways that bring users from different countries to a sex education site.Our findings show the importance of understanding audiences, visible traditional and invisible online gatekeepers, and working with local and supranational commercial organisations for effective outreach and provision of sex education.