Watch: The sex education teacher swapping the classroom for TikTok
A sex education teacher has amassed millions of views on her sex myth busting TikTok videos filmed in her bedroom.
Marlena Segar, 24, from East London, has always been fascinated by sex.
While most of her fellow University of Edinburgh students did retail jobs on the side, Segar spent her free time teaching sex education in secondary schools.
After graduating, she ditched the idea of a career in environmental protection to become the assistant manager of a sex shop in London.
But having lost her job in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic she decided to start WeNudeToTalk on the video-sharing social media platform TikTok.
One of Segar's videos debunking myths about self-pleasure went viral in early May 2020, hitting 1 million views in less than a week.
“I was excited when a couple of my previous videos got a couple of thousand views,” she says.
“I remember posting that one and going downstairs to have a chat with my mum, and my phone just kept constantly going off with notifications – an hour later it became so overwhelming I had to turn it off.
“Little did I know that, when I was sat in my sex education lessons as a teenager at school, that one day I would be debunking myths about sex on social media.”
Segar says she grew up in an open minded household when it comes to the topic of sex.
“My mother is German so culturally she had slightly different attitudes towards sex compared to the very British attitude of not talking about it," she says.
“When I was about 12, my older sister was packing for a school trip and I said ‘you better take a condom’ as a joke.”
“My mum overheard and asked me if I wanted to see what a condom looks like, so she got a packet and showed us.”
But her experience of sex education in school was not quite so open.
“Aged 11, I was very confused about how penetrative sex worked. We were given a drawing of the female anatomy and had to draw the journey of the sperm cell to the egg,” she explains.
“I was like ‘how the hell does the sperm get there?’ So I drew it going outside of her body – I don’t know why – but the physical aspect of sex was never explained.”
By the time she was 14, Segar says she had many more questions about sex.
“We only learned about penis and vagina sex, how to put a condom on," she explains. “There were no conversations about consent, LGBTQ relationships or anything other than sex for procreative purposes. It was a very mechanical, fact-based education.”
Having moved to Edinburgh for university, studying social and economic history with environmental studies, Segar had the intention of following in her mother and sister’s footsteps and pursuing a career in ecology and conservation.
But she still could not shake her fascination with sex education, so in January 2016, she started volunteering for Sexpression:UK, an independent charity that teaches secondary school students about sex.
Watch: The sex education outtakes that will make your day.
Unlike her own education, Segar would teach pupils about topics such as unhealthy and healthy relationships, porn and gender.
As the end of her studies neared, Segar applied for an assistant manager job at Sh! Emporium in London, a female-focused sex shop that also specialised in educational classes.
But after less than a year in the role, Segar was made redundant. She took all the skills she had learnt and channelled them into her social media accounts, starting WeNudeToTalk on TikTok weeks later.
It was her fourth video, dispelling myths about masturbation such as ‘it is okay for boys but not for girls’, that quickly went viral.
Her tongue-in-cheek videos, dispelling myths on topics from periods to penises, and critiquing the way sex is portrayed in popular Netflix period drama Bridgerton, have proven popular with her audience and Segar now has 70.4K followers and regularly reaches more than 100,000 viewers per video.
"The views are great, and it’s brilliant to be spreading the message," she says. "But it is when individuals reach out in the comments or message me and tell me how important these videos are to their lives that it is all worthwhile.
But posting about sex education on social media often sees Segar under fire from social media community guidelines.
“I’ve had several videos taken down for ‘nudity and adult content’, but once I’ve flagged them as ‘educational’ they are normally put back up again," she explains.
“It seems that the algorithms pick up on certain words – so like many other people posting about sex, I have to say ‘s3x’ instead.
“It is annoying, because it’s just reinforcing the stigma against talking openly about sex.”
While continuing to grow her online presence, Segar is now planning to begin sex therapy training in September.
She is determined to do everything she can to make sex seem a little less scary to young people.
“When I was 12, I wanted to be a YouTube star and I wrote a list of types of content I could create,” she says.
“Sex education was definitely not on the list – but I’ve kind of fulfilled 12-year-old me’s dreams, even if it was not in the way I expected.
“I’m so glad I’ve been able to share this information that young people need to have.”
Additional reporting PA Real Life.