On January 11, Netflix released a new show, Sex Education — and it’s the show about high school that you didn’t know you needed.
Usually, when you rewatch your favourite old high school movies, the problems seem less relatable, the characters are whiny, and now, horrifyingly, you relate more to the parents than you do to the kids. But in Sex Education, creator Laurie Nunn finally got it right. The show realistically portrays the trials and tribulations of being a young, sexually-active person.
I binged all eight episodes in two days because I couldn’t get enough. I never once found it preachy or like they were trying to prove how diverse they were. All manner of sex-related topics were discussed in a natural way, the characters were likeable, and the confusing mash-up of 80’s fashion and 2019 technology made me want to backcomb my hair and sing Madonna while documenting the whole thing on social media.
The show focuses on Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), the progressive, teenage boy whose Mom, Dr. Jean F. Milburn (Gillian Anderson), is a successful sex therapist who doesn’t like the idea of having a boyfriend and decorates her home with erotic art. Originally, Otis is ashamed about his lack of sexual experience, his inability to touch himself, and about his Mom’s career. But as the show progresses, he begins to accept himself, appreciate his mom’s career, and trust in the time-tested life process called puberty.
Otis’s best friend, Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), is outgoing, fun, and openly gay. However, he still grapples with expressing his sexuality. He also deals with his father’s confusion and concern, nasty bullies, and new sexual experiences with a boy who’s very unsure of his own identity.
Edgy bad-girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) becomes friends with Otis and Eric after they start up a sex clinic for their sexually troubled peers — yes, you read that correctly: Otis, the virgin, becomes a pseudo-sex-therapist for his school. Throughout the show, the teens help all manner of clients with everything from performance anxiety to nude photographs being distributed, masturbation and Vaginismus.
Sex Education discusses everything sex-related and portrays difficult topics such as abortion and traumatic past sexual experiences with grace and depth.
When the final episode ended, I was sad! I wanted to keep watching these sweet characters figure things out in their beautiful sunny town as they serenaded my ears with their adorable accents and confused my eyes with their odd, semi-eighties, is-this-fashionable-or-am-I-going-crazy outfits. But I was also left feeling educated and represented.
When it comes to sex, young people are not often represented accurately in the media. With Sex Education, the conversation focuses on young people entering the world of sex and all things associated without shame or guilt. This is really important, especially in an age where some have the luxury to be sex-positive and open about their experiences while others are attacked for who they love.
What’s more, sex education in schools is lacking. In my experience, sex-ed always had a tone of shame that focused on scaring students more than it did on educating. When guilt is instilled in young people, it sticks, and when kids are not taught about more than just their changing bodies, they are being done a disservice.
Sex Education discusses everything sex-related — birth control, sexuality, masturbation, and anxiety about sex — and portrays difficult topics such as abortion and traumatic past sexual experiences with grace and depth. Impressively, the show also manages not to come across as forced; it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to shout from the rooftops: “We’re edgy! Look at us!” It’s clear that the writers wanted to do more than just touch on taboo topics — they wanted to really get into it.
Viewers are reminded that sex isn’t always easy and that sex therapy should be normalized. At a time when self-care is encouraged, we should be making an effort to reduce the stigma around sex. The shame-party is getting old.
Whether you’re in high school or not, this show can be enjoyed by all. The characters work to balance life, love, and everything in between while demonstrating that it’s all connected. Sex Education is funny, touching, and leaves you wanting more. Luckily, Netflix has renewed the show for a second season so our goofy trio will be back with more sex-pertise soon.