Swiping Right With Tyler Oakley
Advocacy The YouTube star and best-selling author sounds off on stigma, Tinder and the importance of honest conversations about sex.
From losing his virginity to calling out problematic politicians, there aren’t many topics YouTube superstar Tyler Oakley is afraid to tackle. With over 500 million video views and almost 8 million subscribers, Tyler has become one of the most influential content creators on social media. Now he is using his platform to shine light on the importance of sex education.
“When I think about the things I find most entertaining, it’s often the things that make us the most uncomfortable,” he shares. “For me, being able to talk about things that have happened in my life is really important. I think when I am most vulnerable is when people can really connect with me.”
Shame and stigma
For many parents and teachers, discussing sex is still taboo. “Hopefully I can do my part in offsetting that stigma,” Oakley states. “When it comes to sex and sexuality, I think a lot of people feel like it’s something we can’t really touch. I’ve never felt that shame, so I lean into it. It’s something that’s a part of everyday life, so why not include it in the [public] diary that I have?”
“Being able to give people an opportunity to connect in meaningful ways where they couldn’t have before can only be a good thing.”
Oakley grew up in a small town in Michigan and went online to learn about his sexual identity. “Being gay, my sexual education never included my kind of intimacy or sex, so I turned to the internet,” he recalls. “The difference between what I was Googling in 2000 and what’s available now in 2018 is mind-blowing.”
Growing numbers of young people are using their devices to find love, or at least a connection. “There are a lot of opinions about [apps like] Grindr and Tinder, but I find them all to be a great invention,” Oakley laughs. “Being able to give people an opportunity to connect in meaningful ways where they couldn’t have before can only be a good thing, especially in communities like the LGBTQ+ community that have been historically condemned for [expressing] love and intimacy.”
He continues to explain how, for some users, dating apps provide more than convenience. “Safe spaces have always been a necessity for [some] communities in ways that cisgendered or heterosexual people never had to think about. Not everyone has the opportunity to go to a bar, walk up to someone and start a conversation in a non-platonic way. For many people, that comes with danger.”
While he hopes his honesty and humor helps viewers feel empowered, Oakley acknowledges that when it comes to sexuality, one size does not fit all. “You’re on your own journey,” he urges. “As long as you’re treating people with kindness and if you are being intimate with others, you’re being honest in a way that protects both of you, your level of disclosure is up to you.”
His advice for fans eager to explore their sexuality? Go at your own pace. “Taking care of yourself should always be a high priority. For some people, it might mean taking your time and not feeling rushed to identify one way or to [perform] certain acts. At the end of the day, it’s about having open and honest conversations.”