By Emma Hastings | Illustration by Xixi Qin
Unanimously, one of the most awkward situations in existence is watching a sex scene with your parents. But during quarantined block break, my parents and I decided to binge the Netflix original mini-series “Sex Education”… in which every episode begins with a sex scene.
The British series follows Otis, a relatable, awkward teenage boy, who becomes the student sex therapist, even though he has no experience with the act. Otis’s mom, Jean, is an actual sex therapist. No protagonist is without an awesome side kick, Otis’ being Eric, the main source of comedy. Maeve is the untouchable love interest who also organizes Otis’s sex business. There might be spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched both seasons — don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Here’s what I’ve noticed from watching the show twice, and the important representation of various identities, sexualities, and anti-stereotypical characters jam-packed into this two-season series. Also, watching the show with my parents was at times hilariously awkward, but it helped them understand modern hookup culture.
First, “Sex Education” shows a broader definition of sex than most heterosexual parents understand. Different bodies are doing it at the start of each episode. Lesbian and gay sex is represented, and there are various characters belong to the queer community. Eric is proudly gay, and his love life is in the spotlight during Season Two. Also, in the high school setting, characters experiment with their sexuality. Adam learns about his bisexuality and Ola learns she is pansexual. This was important for my parents to see to comprehend how the younger and future generations are growing up.
Second, I’ve noticed the strong female characters in the show and normalization of female pleasure. Female masturbation, “wanking” as they say, is something I personally have never seen on TV and “Sex Education” depicts it in a wonderful comedic light. Amy goes to Otis because her boyfriend asked her what she likes during sex and that has never happened to her before. This behavior of asking is so important for good consensual sex. Amy also experiences sexual assault on public transportation and the show conceptualizes the trauma from her experience. The teenage girls also learn to overcome their differences through their various experiences with non-consensual sex or touching. My mom loved the normalization of female pleasure with strong female characters and thought it was important to help my dad understand these issues.
Lastly, the series provides more information on safe sex practice than I ever learned in school. For instance, a client comes to Otis asking how to douche (the sex ed teacher didn’t know), and when Otis learns, he draws accurate douching practices on his chalkboard (I learned this too, at a Colorado College TedSex Talk). The characters always use condoms, and the pronunciation of “condom” with a British accent is delightfully entertaining. Otis also fights the stigma and misinformation about sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia. “Sex Education” shows that teaching methods for sex-ed need to be expanded upon and not just for safe sex practices, but for all kinds of sex and relationships. Otis and Jean essentially become resources for teens to talk to, which is so important while growing up in this era.
“Sex Education” is not just another coming-of-age romantic comedy. I wouldn’t go as far to say it is revolutionary for the queer community, but the representations are important.
*Note: I am NOT the most informed on these conversations about sex. I am still learning about these topics and the various experiences people have with it. I support opening up conversations about sex and fighting against the hetero-normative portrayal of it on television, and I think it’s funny that I knowingly choose to watch sex scenes with my parents. If you disagree, think I forgot to mention something, or just want to talk more about anything on this topic, please reach out to me. I would love to hear your thoughts and have lots of free time.