Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the type and quality of sexuality education received by college students in Hangzhou, China. Their attitudes towards sex and sexuality were also explored. To set the broader context the regulations and laws governing the provision of sexuality education in China have also been examined.Design/methodology/approach - A cross-sectional survey of 132 college students was conducted in Hangzhou, China in 2013. The aim was to explore their experience of and attitudes towards their sexuality education.Findings - Most respondents lacked formal sexuality education. Neither schools nor parents were reported to be the major providers of sexuality education. The students reported that their main sources of knowledge and information relating to sex were their fellow schoolmates and the internet. Participants reported insufficient or inaccurate sexual knowledge as a key factor in their participation in unprotected sex. Attitudes towards premarital sex and cohabitation, and homosexual relationships were reported to be more open and tolerant than those of the older generation.Originality/value - The data from this study suggest that reluctance amongst parents and schools to provide formal and comprehensive sexuality education has resulted in unsatisfactory sexuality education in Hangzhou. The lack of sexuality education among college students may have had an influence on their unsafe sexual behaviours which is potentially damaging to both their physical and psychological health. Implications for improving the quality of sexuality education for young people in China are discussed.