Earlier this year, Netflix released the British comedy television series, “Sex Education.” The show follows the life of Otis Milburn (played by Asa Butterfield, known for his roles in “Hugo” and “Ender’s Game”), a high schooler amidst common teenage confusion around sex and relationships. His mother, a sex therapist, is enthusiastic and encouraging of Otis’ sex life, which has the opposite effect on Otis, as he struggles to masturbate for the first time. Instead, Otis has picked up on his mother’s guidance and lessons—cut to the school grounds with an incident involving an embarrassed student, a mishap with Viagra and Otis’ knack for giving advice. Female protagonist and “bad girl,” Maeve (played by Emma Mackey), sees his skills and proposes setting up an underground sex therapy clinic at school.
This show is education as much as it is sex. “Sex Education” takes on the form of other popular British T.V. series like “Skins” and “Misfits” in its portrayals of teenage relationships and intercourse, but “Sex Education” takes it a step further and is explicitly sex-positive and opens up healthy, non-judgmental discussions. “Sex Education” is an important window for young, impressionable audiences to see positive portrayals and discussions of confusion, insecurities and fears, as well as diverse depictions of safe sex. It is also an important reminder for all audiences that these topics should not be taboo—as they aren’t in the show.
Though “Sex Education” takes on more serious topics like parenting, homosexuality, bullying and abortion, the show carries a light-hearted tone throughout with humorous punches at just the right times. “Sex Education” also has a great soundtrack, giving all new meaning to Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” and The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The distinguished 80’s fashion is straight out of “Heathers,” and the themes and tropes parallel John Hughes’ famed movies like “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club.” Nevertheless, the show is set in the modern day, as characters have smartphones. The show feels timeless, nostalgic and familiar. Today’s younger audiences will resonate with the high school situations where older audiences will remember and reflect back to when their feet were in those shoes.
LGBTQ representation and character diversity are another incredible success “Sex Education” achieves. Otis’ best friend, Eric (played by Ncuti Gatwa), proudly identifies as gay, and, surprise, he is not paired with the one other openly-gay character. Throughout the show, Eric deals with bullying, violence and homophobia. He has moments of self-assuring validation such as dressing in drag, a short encounter discussing nail polish with an older gay man and confiding in other characters who identify as queer. LGBTQ representation is present with the sex therapy clinic as well. A young lesbian couple comes to Otis for help. Otis goes home to do research in order to educate himself in helping his “patients,” all while not judging or fetish-ing their relationship.
The reality is that sex education is tragically lacking in today’s education system. Even when it is meeting general standards, normal teenage insecurities and specific relational or personal questions are not covered. “Sex Education” is a television series that is more than your average teenage drama. It is a platform for normalizing sex-positive discussions for teenagers. “Sex Education,” for those who have not seen it, can be binged on Netflix, while the rest of us prepare for season two.
Breana Rich is a senior studying Professional Writing and English with a concentration in writing, editing, and publishing. She is happiest with a cat sleeping by her side, a cup of coffee in one hand, and a book in the other with one of her many playlists playing in the background. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @breanalynrich.