Contrary to popular belief that if you have sex, you will get pregnant and die, the Netflix series Sex Education reminds us that pregnancy is not the worst thing that could happen when you have sex. You can have sex, end up with a broken heart, and die figuratively.
Kidding. If you have not seen Sex Education yet, check your Netflix app right now. If you don’t have an account with the streaming app, go through your phone book and find a friend who could piggyback you on their account. Do whichever applies to your situation before reading this post, because it gives some big spoilers.
I wish I had someone to turn to when I was much younger and had so many questions about sex. There were a couple of magazines I had counted on for information, but they weren’t really interactive. Reddit proved to be helpful once I started to have access to the internet, but it would have been nice to have someone as knowledgeable as Sex Education‘s Otis at that teenage stage in my life.
Who’s Otis? He is a 16-year old English kid (played by Asa Butterfield) who’s having troubles masturbating. Ironically, his mom Jean is a sex and relationship therapist (played by Gillian Anderson) who is having troubles connecting with him regarding his problem.
Sex Education follows Otis’ journey as he enters sophomore year, where everyone in school seems to be getting some. He has a GBF or gay best friend named Eric (played by Ncuti Gatwa) who, later on, gets jealous (but not in a sexual way) when Otis starts to form a close relationship with resident bad girl Maeve (played by Emma Mackey), said to be a “lioness” when it came to sex (it’s a code word for slut). The two, who are school outcasts in their own ways, start a “sex clinic” where they get paid to give sex advice to fellow teenagers regarding problems such as having a big, um, phallus, having what seems to be a closed vulva, and not connecting with a partner even when having sex.
To be honest, what swayed me to watch Sex Education instead of another Netflix hit You is my desire to expand my knowledge when it comes to doing the deed. If that’s what you’re also looking for, then this isn’t really the show to watch. A copy of the classic Kama Sutra would serve us better.
But that’s because Sex Education teaches the audience more than just sex: It also touches on sex-adjacent emotional issues, from sexuality to acceptance, rejection, separation, and belongingness. I’m guessing this is why the series has been a hit since its January 11 release, because talking about these topics on top of all the sex talk is reminiscent of that Sex and the City realness that became the rage two decades ago. No, I’m kidding. But there are a number of the things that Sex Education taught and reminded me:
A struggle on the outside comes from a bigger struggle on the inside
Everyone, from the biggest bully in school to the most popular kids, to the most introverted student, even the stern headmaster and the controlling parent, is going through some tough stuff. Some of us like to face our problems on our own because we think we can handle them better that way, while some of us seek our friends’ help, even with just the smallest things.
Adam Groff (played by Connor Swindells), the untouchable son of the head teacher, goes around bullying fellow students, specifically Eric. But behind closed doors, he can’t finish, i.e. climax, every time he has sex with his campus-famous girlfriend Aimee; he becomes Otis and Maeve’s first client. Adam also struggles with having a big “two Coke in cans on top of each other” penis, something that gets talked about a lot in campus. (If it’s any incentive to you, it gets shown in the show). Then there’s his struggle number three, which is about his sexuality. All this repression had to have needed an outlet, and terrorizing students who can’t fight back had served that to Adam.
People have the power to change your life, if you give them the chance
Once Adam listened to what Otis had to say about his situation, as Maeve realized the opportunities that being Otis’ “business partner” can give her, and as Otis got to interact more with other students, their lives change: Adam eventually accepted his circumstances, Maeve solved her financial problems, and Otis felt and became more visible around school. When a glammed-up guy stopped Eric to ask for directions, he gave the latter the inspiration to be brave enough to embrace who he really is—which, in turn, helped Eric’s dad to trust him and let him be who he is. Eric’s bravery also rubbed off on Adam, who finally got to stand up to his father and face his own issues. Someone’s words and actions, even when expressed without conscious intention, can shift another person’s perspective on their own life. All it takes is a little openness.
There’s intuition and there’s prejudice, which proves us wrong 99 percent of the time
As someone who puts up a front to protect herself, Maeve made the wrong judgment of assuming that a woman in the abortion clinic has had one too many abortions. Jean, though a licensed professional, has made assumptions herself on Jakob, a widower plumber with whom she’s had sex with: Primarily that he’s a swinger, given his tattoos and sex appeal. The truth, though, is that since the death of his wife, Jean was the first woman that Jakob has had sex with. We’ve all been guilty of basing our opinions of someone’s character or personality on their appearances, and this show reminded me to be open to being wrong about people and to be willing to get to know them at a deeper level.
Unrequited love sucks but it doesn’t kill you
Otis can come up with statements that are simple but impactful: “You can’t choose whom you’re attracted to.” “Relationships can’t be engineered.” “Sometimes the people we like don’t like us back, and it’s painful, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” We’ve heard these sentiments before, that last one especially, so why do we still get upset over things that we can’t control? With a campus setting, Sex Education definitely has that one “couple” that embodies unrequited love—a situation so many of us, including myself, have been through myself. Even if we’ve done everything we could, again, “sometimes the people we like don’t like us back.” The antidote to the pain is to get our shit together and give ourselves the love we’ve given to others. As RuPaul frequently reminds us, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else?” Plus, begging for affection doesn’t look cute. It didn’t look cute when we were in high school, and it will never look cute as we get older. But once you work on yourself and get over the pain, you’ll look back at your past crushes and laugh about how you once thought they hung the moon, believe me.