Sex Education: Raunchy, Awkward and Authentic

By Sam Baldwin

“The Sex Talk” is awkward any way you look at it. There are few things worse than hearing a parent fumble with the words “Honey, when two people love each other very much...” But when your mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), is a critically acclaimed author and sex therapist with a limited set of personal boundaries, your conversations sound more like: “Sweetheart – I’ve noticed you’re pretending to masturbate.” For Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), a virginal 16-year-old Sixth-Former, that’s life.

But when the school badass, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), sees Otis talk a classmate through a viagra-related mishap, she sees an opportunity. The two go into business, opening an underground sex clinic, led by none other than the sex-phobic Otis. Maeve tackles booking and finances, while Otis puts the abundance of information he absorbed from his mother to work on his classmates.

Sex Education, a witty and raw Netflix dramedy, stole the hearts of teenagers and adults alike, reminding viewers of the fear, excitement, and unavoidable messiness that comes with first times. The show strips away all euphemisms surrounding sex. There’s a nude photo scandal, teen pregnancy, and a hysterical lesson on how to give a blowjob. Sex Education is raunchy, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also incredibly sweet. Through the successes, failures, and altogether hilarious sexual antics of the cast, the series is a reminder that sex isn’t perfect, universal, or easy. And furthermore, it’s ok to not be “doing it.”

While I personally felt that some of the sexual conflicts and antics were exaggerated or advanced for sixteen year olds (my high school was NOT this exciting!), the emotions, fears,  and coming-of-age experiences are spot on. The 16 year-olds learn about themselves and their bodies, and realize that, despite what movies and magazines say, there’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to sex. And their feelings of teen angst, unrequited love, and general awkwardness consistently feel authentic.

The series touches upon all of the high school stereotypes: there are jocks, nerds, band-geeks, and an elite group known as the “untouchables.” But despite the upbeat 80s soundtrack and high-school stereotypes, Sex Education doesn’t feel like just another high school rom-com. Each character is more than their label. The bully has a sensitive side, and the star athlete has panic attacks. Even Jean, a sex guru who is pursued by men, grapples with an ironic fear of commitment.

Sex Education is raunchy, for sure. But it’s also sincere and playful, and thoughtfully teaches lessons about consent, safe sex, and the fact that sex should feel good. It serves as a reminder that it’s perfectly ok not to be ready. I sure am ready for a second season, though.

FilmSteven Norwalk