Sweet applesauce, high school was a messed-up time. We were anxious, we were tired (why exactly, unsure) and most of all we were horny. Well actually, I probably didn’t even know what that word meant in my early high school years, but other, less naive kids definitely did.
Last year, when I opened Netflix in an attempt to turn off my brain, quite the opposite happened. I clicked on a show called Sex Education and was forced to reflect on a time in my life that I did not want to revisit—the dreaded adolescent years.
With witty writing and impeccably awkward characters, I found myself transported to Moordale Secondary School. With its modern Mean Girls vibe set in a gorgeous rural area in the UK, I was sucked in.
Naturally, I finished the first season by the end of the week. Season 2 just came out, and that took me even less time.
This British comedy follows main character Otis Milburn, played by Asa Butterfield, an incredibly emotionally-intelligent adolescent, navigating his horrific pubescent years. With issues like not being able to successfully masturbate and lack of experience with women, his struggles are a healthy mix of charming and awkward.
With a sex therapist as a mother who has clear boundary issues, sexual education has seeped into Otis’ brain through osmosis. With his uncanny ability to understand the complexity of sexual experiences, he found himself helping the school bully overcome issues in his sex life. When Maeve Wiley, played by Emma Mackey, witnesses Otis’ gifted advice, the two set up a sex therapy business within the school.
The show’s 40 million viewers now have the opportunity to learn about sex—beyond unrealistic romantic comedies and porn sites. It’s not pretty. It’s not sexy. It’s awkward, weird, beautiful, disastrous and most of all, relatable.
We follow different characters, with all sorts of different sexual realities, expressing a nuanced and representative version of sex—as opposed to what we usually see in the media.
It would be nice if we could all lose our virginity to Ryan Gosling after he sweeps us off our feet in a mysteriously sexy abandoned house, but unfortunately we can’t all be Rachel McAdams…not even Rachel McAdams.
Alright, enough shade on The Notebook, I love that movie. That being said, the importance of showing the uncomfortable nature of sex is crucial for the development of healthy and safe relationships. As we push forward in the #metoo era and continue to learn about sexuality as a diverse spectrum, shows like Sex Education help viewers dip their toes into many different kinds of relationships. This results in creating more realistic, accessible and healthier expectations and concepts of sex.
Whether its sexually-confused Otis, closeted Adam Groff, lonely Maeve Wily, eccentric Lily Iglehart or insecure Ruby Mathews, there are elements of these characters that are within us all.
The show has managed to demonstrate that women can be intelligent and sexual, while also alluding to the realistic competition that hyper-femininity can promote in our culture. In season 2, they show how women are stronger together, even if they don’t think they have anything in common. “Popular girls” are united with “nerds” and “weirdos” by expressing their shared experience of navigating the world as a woman. Just watch season 2 episode 7, you’ll end up in tears—trust me.
Okay enough out of me. Go! Watch it!
I promise you, you’ll learn so much more about sex than you did in high school and you might even want to move to the UK.
Graphic by @sundaeghost