Netflix series explores teenage sexual journey

“Sex Education” tackles tough conversations around sexual identity, self discovery

An illustration of characters form the show Sex Education

Review (Some spoilers ahead)

“Sex doesn’t make us whole, so how could you ever be broken?” Dr. Jean F. Milburn (played by Gillian Anderson) explains to a teen who comes into her office who is confused because she doesn’t want to have sex. Dr. Milburn describes how sexuality can be complicated because it is fluid and different for everyone. 

Netflix’s original series, “Sex Education” directed by Ben Taylor, currently has two seasons and will be renewed for a third season. The show recognizes the complicated role of sex in relationships, specifically for young adults. While this series does have some cliché moments, it also attempts to normalize the role of sex in relationships while acknowledging that relationships are multifaceted. 

“Sex Education” accurately depicts the teenage struggle of deciphering what sex means in a school setting where sex is typically talked about at a surface level, including for LGBTQ+ students who are often left out of these conversations. 

At the beginning of the first season, the main character Otis (Asa Butterfield), feels left behind by his classmates as it seems all of them have already had sex, while he is not interested in having sex. Despite that, Otis has a great depth of knowledge on this subject because his mother, Jean Milburn, is a sex therapist. He uses what he was taught by his mother to begin a sex clinic with his classmate Maeve (Emma Mackey).

Although Otis is only a teenager, he gives more helpful sexual and relational advice to his peers than their school provides. 

“Sex Education” highlights the insufficient sexual education in schools for all sexual orientations. In season two, one of the characters asks in their Sex and Relationship Education class if there will be any sexual education for students who are gay, as the school’s curriculum was only targeted towards heterosexual males and females. The teacher did not know how to respond because he has not been educated on sex in LGBTQ+ relationships. 

This series illustrates that people who are LGBTQ+ are not represented in schools’ sexual education programs. They are represented in this show and, by having equal opportunities for sexual education through Otis’ and, later, Dr. Milburn’s advice, the teenagers can explore their sexual identities. 

By bringing in a number of characters that illustrate the broad spectrum of sexuality, “Sex Education” carefully tells each character’s story as they learn that part of growing up is the confusion of coming into their sexual preferences and identities. 

“Sex Education” normalizes the sexual journey and self discovery of its characters as they find their identities. This allows viewers to care for and relate to the characters through the hardships that the characters experience. This series shows that self discovery through relationships can be difficult, messy and, at times, involves falling in love with the school bully. 

Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), Otis’s best friend experiences one of these hardships when he is harassed mercilessly by the school’s biggest bully, Adam (Connor Swindells). After a physical altercation in detention, Eric and Adam fall in love.

The show attempts to depict a love story with the bully-turned-boyfriend and Adam attempts to show he truly cares for Eric throughout the second season. 

This relationship can come off as predictable for the bully and the bullied to fall in love in an attempt to make the storyline more interesting. It seems wrong for a relationship to be built on past physical and verbal abuse. While this show normalizes the sexual journey through the teen years, at no point should the abused falling in love with their bullies be encouraged, especially at such a pivotal time where someone is struggling to accept their sexuality. 

With the cliché aside, the show opens up a conversation about sex that is long overdue and brings to light the journey of sexual discovery every teen goes through.

“Sex Education” paints an accurate and unfortunate representation of sex education that is lacking in schools today. Overall, through each of the character’s stories which include sexual identity, bullying and heartbreak, this show normalizes the sexual journey that teens experience as they grow up.

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