Sex Ed Creators’ Strategies for Circumventing Censorship

Emily Weckend



The purpose of this project is to investigate what strategies creators on the social media platform TikTok use to circumvent censorship and produce sexual education content by maneuvering the application’s affordances.


Although TikTok claims that it allows ‘[r]eproductive health and sex education content, such as the use of birth control and abortion discussed in an [sic] medical way’ (TikTok, 2023) creators who produce sexually educational content on the platform still report being banned and censored (Iovine, 2021). Significantly, access to comprehensive sexuality education is affirmed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as a human right related to individuals’ right to ‘health, wellbeing, and equality’ (Action Canada, 2019). Many individuals, especially young people, are increasingly turning to the internet as a means of obtaining information about sex, sexuality, and reproductive health (von Rosen et al. 2017). TikTok in particular has been documented as a popular application for accessing such information (Betts, 2022; Moore, 2021; Segall, 2022; Wetsman, 2021). Significantly, the censoring of sexually educational content on TikTok may prevent individuals, particularly those who are sexually marginalised (and who are therefore even less likely to have access to information about their sexual needs in familial and education settings [O’Farrell et al., 2021]) from exercising their right to access information about sexual health. Examining what strategies creators on TikTok use to circumvent censorship to produce sexually educational information will raise awareness about the lack of transparency in TikTok’s contradictory moderation tactics. It will also contribute to existing scholarship regarding how individuals engage in sociotechnical practices of resistance by illustrating the limitations and possibilities of TikTok’s affordances in circumventing the platform’s moderation techniques. The findings of this project will be made publicly available so that creators can access it.