Netflix’s Sex Education: a real Sex Education

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


Girls just wanna have fun

Today, we live in a progressive world where sexual topics that seemed taboo a few decades ago are now part of common discourse.

Socially, we are comfortable talking about our sexual relationships, our sexual orientations and our body hair, to name a few.

However, the topic of female pleasure and masturbation still throw people off. Society has overly-normalized male pleasure specifically––their sexual drive, their masturbation, to the point where most women have been taught to repress their sexuality and their own pleasure. Men are not to blame for every wrong against women. But, does it seem fair that even though sexuality has progressed as a topic, female masturbation and pleasure still makes people uncomfortable, even as a topic between women?

It is ironic how in movies, television and media in general, we often see men masturbating, but how often do you see women doing it? Not often, and definitely not as often as we see men do it.  Sexually-liberated women are feared by a society that has sought for them to remain within the margins, which is why women are often shamed or judged.

You know what is even more tragic? Women who are sexually active are way less likely to orgasm than men. According to NBCnews, results from a study of sexually diverse group of 52,500 adults in the U.S. show that 95 per cent of heterosexual men said they always or normally come during sex. On the other hand, 65 per cent of heterosexual women claimed they usually did not orgasm. Such contrasting numbers are directly linked to the fact that women are less likely to explore their pleasure than men.

If you cannot make yourself orgasm, how can you expect someone else to do it for you? In a society where women are constantly kept from experiencing pleasure on their own to figure out what they like or not, it’s no doubt that they come less than men. Masturbating will free you from such chains. As shown by Bustle, women who masturbate and aim to explore their own pleasure are more likely to experience empowerment and become more comfortable in their own skin; not to mention the improvement in their sexual lives.

That being said, I’m completely aware of the fact that we all experience our sexuality in different ways. However, being more vocal about growing up as a woman and your own human impulses among your friends is a great way to push towards the normalization of female pleasure. As a matter of fact, more and more often I hear my friends talk about their vibrators, sexual fantasies, need to masturbate as a part of their ‘self-care routine’ and so on. Only good things can come out of talking more about our pleasure. Our words will resonate far and wide—young girls will learn to explore and accept their bodily impulses, instead of feeling ashamed, dirty and abnormal.

Even though we all explore our sexuality at different paces, expanding our knowledge of it can be extremely helpful. There are hundreds of sex-positive sources out there to get you started or to further your knowledge. Tons of articles can be found online about how to masturbate or how to improve at it. Sex Education on Netflix is a great show on the subject. Instagram is also a good resource to educate yourself on your own sexuality. Among my favourite accounts are @bellesaco, @talk.tabu, @femislay, @erikalust.

All in all, talking about female masturbation and pleasure is one step towards the normalization of this topic, as well as one towards the deconstruction of our own socialized beliefs. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


It’s time to talk about the birds and the bees

Quebec’s sex education plan for children is the right way to demystify the body

Sex education is a tricky topic. For years, we as a society have tiptoed around the idea of implementing a program aimed at providing a greater understanding of sex in elementary schools. Now, Quebec school boards and other provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, are attempting to do just that.

This coming September, all Quebec elementary and high schools will implement sex education, even in kindergarten. At age five, young Quebecers will learn the proper terms for female and male body parts and be taught how a baby is made, according to CBC News. In grade one, students will learn about gender stereotyping and will be introduced to the issue of sexual assault. At ages 10 and 11, students will learn about the importance of cyber safety and how to identify predators and dangerous situations.

Society today mainly approaches the topic of sex as a uniquely adult conversation. In my opinion, sex education shouldn’t have a minimum age, and it’s reckless to exclude children from this conversation. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 96 per cent of Canadians believe all sexual activities should be consensual, but only one in three Canadians understand what giving consent means. This is an issue that needs to be addressed early on, and it starts with knowledge of the body and natural human impulses. When children learn about their genitals and why they may have urges and needs, they will begin to understand how they can satisfy those urges, in a sex-positive and age-appropriate way. Without these steps to understand the issue, those urges get suppressed and shamed. This can cause an abundance of emotions and overall confusion, according to The Guardian.

According to CBC News, understanding one’s body and the bodies of those around you could be a catalyst for a healthier body image. A healthy body image is when a person understands their body and feels comfortable in their own skin. If a person understands how their genitals function and understands that they shouldn’t be ashamed, they can be confident with themselves. We must demystify our body because, after all, it makes up who we are.

According to CBC News Toronto, over 100 parents pulled their children out of Thorncliffe Park Public School and started homeschooling them due to a similar curriculum change at the school in 2015. The principal tried to convince parents to send their children back to the school, but they refused. Many of these parents claimed the content was being presented too early and is dangerous for children, reported CBC News Toronto.

I understand how the change in curriculum could be a shock for parents. However, I think it is detrimental and irresponsible for parents to think their children should not receive sex education, especially in 2018. No matter what, students today—young children included—are exposed to sex more often in entertainment, with easily accessible internet porn and explicit images. It’s difficult to avoid such subjects, so early sex education arms children with knowledge to help them make proactive decisions and have more confidence when doing so.

Another misunderstanding is that receiving sex education at a young age could be a catalyst for kids having sex earlier. The reality is that people have sex when they’re young regardless. According to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) and Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of Canadian youth reported having their first experience of sexual intercourse before the age of 17, and more than 68 per cent reported having intercourse before 20.

It’s naive to assume these numbers would increase because of a better understanding of sex and health. Sex education does not encourage sexual activity among young students; it teaches them necessary information about the topic. I believe teaching young children about sex is vital to creating an educated, respectful and empathetic future generation.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Student Life

Tend to your secret garden, ladies

It may not be pleasant but it’s important to get your cervix scraped on the regular

Happy women’s day! In celebration, here is an article about an important, but feared topic: vaginal health. Two great ways to treat your yoni right are regular pelvic exams and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Pelvic exams are the only thing more dreaded than calculus exams. They’re uncomfortable, to be sure, but the mild and momentary discomfort is worth the reward of a muffin in fighting shape. The best thing you can do for your vagina is to have regular pelvic exams. A pelvic exam has three parts: a digital exam to check if your organs are healthy, a pap test to check for abnormal (pre-cancerous) cells and a check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), if requested. The entire exam is over in 15 minutes if you take advantage of the pap-only clinics offered by Concordia University Health Services.

Graphic by Marie-Pier LaRose

Although students are welcome to have their pelvic exam done as part of a full check-up, Health Services also offers pap-only clinics as an extra incentive to give your Garden of Eden the attention it deserves. These clinics are designed to leave students with few excuses to avoid this essential check-up. One great reason to take advantage of this service is that a visit to the pap-only clinic guarantees seeing a female physician. Also, the physicians taking part in the pap-only clinics specialize in female reproductive health—which translates to the most efficient and comfortable exam possible.

I would be remiss not to mention that HPV while writing about vaginal health. Gabriella Szabo, health promotion specialist and nurse at Concordia’s Health Services, explained that HPV is highly contagious—in fact, 70 per cent of people will experience an infection in their lifetime. The majority of infections are asymptomatic and a healthy immune system takes care of them in a couple of years. However, some infections can produce genital warts and abnormal cells on the cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer.

“Condoms can always decrease your risk of getting an STI (including HPV), but HPV can still be transmitted by parts of the genitals not covered by the condom,” said Josée Lavoie, a registered nurse at Concordia University Health Services. She recommends the HPV vaccine as the best protection. The HPV vaccine protects against the four strains of HPV that together cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of all genital warts.

While both of these conditions are highly treatable, the emotional trauma associated with diagnosis is a factor worth considering. “Getting a sexually transmitted infection is not just about getting the infection,” said Szabo. “Getting that diagnosis, it causes a lot of suffering. It’s very scary and people ascribe a lot of meaning to that. It causes a lot of distress. So getting the vaccination is an important part of helping to prevent that really negative emotional roller coaster that a person can experience with that diagnosis.”

To be sure, the stress of being diagnosed with an STI is the last thing a student needs in between presentations, papers, midterms and finals.

If the HPV vaccine is something you’re considering, the best time to do it is as a Concordia student. The university’s Health Centre charges only the cost of the vaccine, so it’s less expensive than at other clinics. Also, the health insurance offered by the Concordia Student Union (CSU) to undergraduate students covers up to 80 per cent of the cost of vaccination.

Our vaginas are something we don’t talk about enough, despite being literally the cradle of life. Whether your pink macaroon is filled with dreams, cobwebs or self-loathing, it deserves some quality attention.
Here are some questions you might be too shy to ask:

  • Who should be getting a pelvic exam?
    Any vagina owner who is sexually active or over the age of 21. Depending on your risk factors (which your health care specialist will assess), an exam is usually recommended every three years.
  • Is there a rectal exam?
    No! A rectal exam is not part of a regular pelvic exam for women.
  • How can I work up the courage to show a stranger my vagina?
    This particular stranger specializes in vaginas and has seen every permutation of genitals you can imagine. The reality is that your vagina is probably wholly unremarkable (to a physician).
  • Should I “tidy up” for a pelvic exam?
    It’s not necessary to coif your crumpet—your health is the first and only thing on a physician’s mind.
  • I’m not sexually active/I always use condoms/I am monogamous, should I still go for a pelvic exam?
    Absolutely! Many people associate pelvic exams with getting checked out for STIs. A pelvic exam also checks for abnormal cells on the cervix. If caught early, the condition can be monitored and treated. If left to linger unmonitored, abnormal cells on the cervix can progress to cancer.

So ladies, take care of your special flowers and they’ll take care of you.

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