By day, 19-year-old Maxx Fenning is a business major at the University of Florida. But at night, he takes on the role of teacher, where he teaches a class called “Slut School” on TikTok and Discord. Thousands of people flock to his live virtual classes, where he can be found doodling on a whiteboard on topics ranging from consent and STIs to asses and douching. The first few minutes can be quiet as viewers get comfortable, but by the end of its hour-long lectures, questions and comments flood the discussion section. For many of Fenning’s 44,000 subscribers, it’s arguably one of the only spaces where they can feel comfortable learning more about their sexuality.
It was Fenning’s lack of knowledge about queer sex that inspired him to tackle sex education. Although he says his own high school’s sex ed classes were relatively progressive and inclusive, there were still a number of blind spots when it came to non-heteronormative sex. And he knows he was lucky to have them in the first place, given the dire state of sex education for millions of other students across the country.
“In high school, I didn’t know what things like PrEP were, I didn’t know the difference between HIV and AIDS,” says Fenning. “And so seeing that void of information – once I found out how much I didn’t know – really motivated me to not only educate myself, but to turn it into educating other people.”
With ongoing efforts in school districts across the country to downplay sex ed curricula, her work is more important than ever. Fenning recently added a class devoted entirely to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a newly enacted law that prevents classrooms from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity until third grade. year in the state. And he now mobilizes his followers to fight political injustice, often through his own nonprofit organization, PRISMwhich organizes events, fundraisers and protests to help make education for LGBTQ+ communities more accessible.
Fenning is just one of dozens of TikTokers using their platform to teach about queer sex and activism. Popular accounts like @thatgaydoctor and @doctorcarlton are led by seasoned physicians who use their medical training to talk about developments in HIV gene therapy and how to perform STI testing at home. Others, like @hotcheetopants (who also publishes on @queer101irv) and “Transman Nyko” (@kingnyko2022), open up about their journey to accepting their sexual and gender identity.
Accounts like these can be a lifesaver, especially if you’re queer. According to GLSEN School Climate Survey 2019, over 24% of LGBTQ+ students have never received sex education at school, and only 8% of those who said it included LGBTQ+ topics. And with TikTok’s extremely young user base, high school and college students who use the app to find cute memes and videos have found themselves stumbling upon a kind of inclusive and diverse sex education that they had never received at school, in the comfort and privacy of their phones.