Content warning: Includes spoilers and some sensitive material regarding sexual assault.
"Sex Education" is a British comedy-drama web television series on Netflix that takes its viewers through the life of Otis, a socially awkward teenager who develops a covert sex clinic at his school. Season 2 covers topics such as sexual assault, asexuality, pansexuality, bisexuality, internalized homophobia, self-harm, anxiety, consent, intimacy, masturbation, slut-shaming, disability, and much more.
After binge-watching the current season within days, here are my 6 takeaways from some of the show's hard-hitting plots:
1. Sexuality is fluid.
There's also an emphasis on a drama student named Florence who approaches Otis for advice about her lack of desire to have sex, but Otis misinterprets her concerns as "not being ready" and assures her that she just needs to "find the right person."
Later, Florence consults with Otis's mother, Jean, and tells the trainer sex therapist that she feels "broken" due to her lack of desire to have sex with anyone, describing herself as someone who is "surrounded by a huge feast with everything I could want to eat, but I'm not hungry." Then Jean concludes that Florence may be asexual and that asexuality is valid and doesn't exclude anyone from being in a romantic relationship. Jean reveals a pivotal line to Florence saying, "Sex doesn't make us whole. And so, how could you ever be broken?"
2. STI hysteria is real.
At the beginning of the season, there's an apparent chlamydia outbreak throughout the school and everyone is hysterical, coming up with the most ridiculous conclusions and speculations of how chlamydia can be spread.
There have been two times in my life where there was a rumored STI outbreak in school. Once during my freshman year of college and another during my senior year of college. Similar to the course of events at the start of season 2, everyone freaked out and blamed each other for the reason that it was spread.
If only this real-life hysteria situation could've been handled with ease like it did in "Sex Education" as the fictional characters came to the realization with the help of Otis's mom that better sex education is needed to combat misinformation about STIs.
3. Sex is not a one-technique-fits-all thing.
It's easy to laugh and giggle at the scenario in which Otis completely sucks at fingering his girlfriend even after researching techniques online for quite some time. However, I think most of us have been guilty of spending hours reading through articles online and looking up videos of porn to help assist us with the best moves to make our partner's climax without thinking twice about simply asking them what they want instead. Though, online resources might help, the advice given doesn't necessarily apply to everyone. Sometimes it's best to throw any article knowledge you've collected beforehand and explore what makes your partner feel good by communicating with them.
4. The O-face isn't necessarily “pretty," but not ugly either.
Olivia secretly has sex with her boyfriend and while orgasming, she covers his face with a pillow. Later, she reveals to Otis that she does this because she thinks she has an ugly orgasm face.
I'll be the first to let you know that the face one makes when they orgasm isn't supposed to be "pretty." According to research, your O-face varies depending on your cultural upbringing. A team at the University of Glasgow in Scotland explored people's mental representations of dynamic emotion expressions and concluded that those mental representations of orgasm differed between cultures. For Westerners, it included wide-open eyes and an open mouth, whereas for East Asians it included a closed, smiling mouth and closed eyes.
5. Mismatched sexual desire can be a relationship killer.
After confiding in Jean and asking for advice regarding her marital issues, Maureen eventually accepts that she is no longer satisfied with her husband, Mr. Groff. Throughout the season it's clear that Maureen makes attempts to keep the sex in their marriage alive, but her husband ignores her advances. I appreciate that the show allows Maureen to finally explore her pleasure by using a vibrator and take control of her life by deciding that she doesn't have to be stuck in a sexless marriage. This isn't to imply that sex in relationships means everything, but if i is a core value to you, then you shouldn't have to settle.
6. Sexual assault and harassment are more common than we think and take on different forms.
During the bus ride to school, a man standing behind Aimee masturbates and ejaculates on her pants.
At first, Aimee mentions this to Meave and denies that the situation is worth paying attention to. She even makes excuses for the offender and tries to convince others that her assault was insignificant in relation to what others may experience. Maeve convinces Aimee to report the crime, and while filing the report, the police officer shares the painful reality that the chances of the offender being caught and tried is rare, and even then the questions of the prosecutors will be aimed at her, insinuating that there could've been something she had done to prompt frotteurism.
Throughout the season, she shows signs of post-traumatic stress and eventually reaches her breaking point in detention. This initiates a sad yet pivotal conversation between Maeve, Olivia, Aimee, Ola, Lily, and Viv as they recall shared experiences of "non-consensual dicks." Later, they all wait by the bus stop and help Aimee go on the bus again.
Situations like these show that sexual assault isn't just an occurrence with a creepy stranger hiding in a dark alley waiting to attack. Most of the time sexual assault appears in grey, day-to-day areas of our lives that appear through coercion, digital harassment, and other unwanted sexual advances. It doesn't make them any less worthy of empathy, attention, and justice.
"Sex Education" may be marketed as a teen comedy, but I encourage people of all ages to watch the show. Yes, there are laughable storylines filled with teen drama, but the heart of the show is the way it addresses the spectrum of sexual education in a fresh way that appeals to a contemporary audience.
To view my takeaways from "Sex Education" season 1, click here.
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