Sex Education: The Sex Ed We Deserve

‘Let’s talk about sex, baby’. But Sex Education speaks about so much more than that. Here's a deep dive into what Sex Education can tell us about sex.



The body's automatic reaction to penetration, which results in a tightening of the vaginal muscles.



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The hit Netflix series does a brilliant job of opening up the discourse on all things, well, sex. We’re not just talking penetration, but the ways in which sex intersects with health, relationships, and identity. The show is a great source of information for young people, but also provides an opportunity for adults to revise the potentially limited sex education they might have received in schools.

Aside from blessing us with hours of Gillian Anderson screen time (if ever there was a MILF award…), the series looks at sexual health as a major component of sex ed. Let’s take a closer look at the scenes that are most important.

Staying safe

After a blurry night of drunken sex, the series’ main character Otis (played by the charming Asa Butterfield) accompanies Ruby to the pharmacy to get the morning-after pill. A topic lesser explored in popular culture, getting the morning-after-pill can be a scary and taboo experience. But Sex Education deals with it in an entirely different way. The cost, the rule that only women/female-presenting people can request the pill, and the supportive dynamic between the duo, are all outlined. The scene sets a healthy example of ways in which to deal with situations such as these, whilst removing the element of shame that so many young people feel.

Pregnancy scares

Maeve (Emma Mackey) realises she’s pregnant and goes to an abortion clinic with Otis (this guy loves to tag along). There she’s met with pro-life protesters brandishing signs and shouting chants. Juxtaposing the polarised views on abortion allows the show to subtly explore the ways in which women who have abortions are themselves conflicted. Unlike many other scenes in TV and film about abortion, Sex Education shows it to be the complex matter it really is. Despite this setback, Maeve is true to what she wants and to the freedom of choice over her body.

Sexual health and healing

Lily (Tanya Reynolds) finds it painful to engage in sex with Ola (extra points for rarely seen representations of queer sex), and discovers she has vaginismus, which is the tightening of the vaginal muscles in response to penetration. Naming a TV show that’s ever featured a portrayal of this frequent condition is nigh-on impossible, but viewers of Sex Education follow Lily as she seeks medical help, as we see with the slightly comic unveiling of sex toys of various sizes, and she gradually overcomes her fears. Airing a scene of such a lesser-talked about problem in sexual health, and resolving it with humour, is huge kudos to the show's writers.

The Ugly Side

To engage with and understand sex is also to understand non-consent. It’s not fun, but it is thoughtfully explored in Sex Education season 2 when a man masturbates and ejaculates on Aimee (played by the similarly-named Aimee Lou Wood) while on the bus to school. The assault leaves her traumatised and unable to enjoy sex without being triggered. The emphasis on the aftermath for the victim, and also the recovery process, is paramount, and we see Aimee’s journey from the initial damage to the eventual reclamation of power. It’s a touching and powerful story for everyone.

Who am I?

A tale as old as time, this question is asked by teenagers and young adults through the ages. Gender and sexuality cameo in a major way, particularly as we see Adam Groff come to terms with his homosexuality. The hyper-masculine school bully and principal’s son turns out to be gay and capable of immense depth of feeling. But the series ultimately says ‘no’ to the toxic relationship that forms between Adam and Eric. Who you are is also how you allow people to treat you.

The inability to masturbate, wet dreams, the fear of your boyfriend seeing your ‘ugly orgasm face’, Sex Education finds the silly among the serious. But the consistent, overarching theme of the show is that whatever social or sexual issue is being explored, it is remedied and resolved in some way. It serves as a blueprint, and it lives up to its title. Oh, and the show’s resident silver fox, Mikael Persbrandt, doesn’t hurt either…

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