SIM: Sex Education on Netflix
As I’ve written about before, sex in the media isn’t always the most accurate depiction of what sex and sexuality look like in real life. This frustrates me, because for a lot of people, fictional depictions of sex (which are usually not very realistic) are often the only ways people are learning about sex and relationships. Which is why I so love the show Sex Education. Sex Education follows a group of teenagers as they navigate school, sex, love, and relationships. The main character, Otis, is the child of a sex therapist, and takes it upon himself to provide sex and relationship advice to his peers.
The show is funny and sweet and does a wonderful job of providing accurate information about sex and showing realistic depictions of relationships. It also takes on serious topics like sexual assault, homophobia, and gender identity.
I haven’t finished the third season yet, but one of my favorite moments so far is the following exchange (which I hastily transcribed so it might not be perfect) between Otis and his best friend Eric.
Eric mentions that he and his boyfriend are “not having sex sex, just handjobs and stuff.”
Otis replies, “handjobs are sex. Virginity is a construct.”
Eric, annoyed, “Yes, yes, I know! But I still want to go all the way.”
I love this for so many reasons. Otis calls out the fact that the concept of virginity is silly, while Eric, who acknowledges that this is true, still has the opportunity to explain how some sex acts may carry more personal (or cultural) weight.
Again, not shying away from engaging with cultural attitudes about sex, the show confronts HIV/AIDS stigma. One character, who has grown up only seeing and hearing negative, fear-mongery things about gay sex, is terrified of HIV. But at a visit to a sexual health clinic, he is reassured by the nurse that safer sex practices (getting tested, using protection, communicating with your partner(s) are all good ways to reduce risk. The nurse also tells him about PrEP, and reassures him that due to medical advances, people living with HIV are able to live completely healthy and long lives. It’s a wonderful, and stigma-free moment that I think really encapsulates this show.
The show is also filled with scenes that highlight the importance of communication about and during sex. At one point, a character tells her boyfriend that even though she didn’t orgasm during sex, she still had fun–I love this, because it reminds us that orgasms are not the end-all and be-all of sex. Other characters discuss safer sex, including condoms for oral (you love to see it!–though note that flavored condoms should only ever be used for oral sex, not vaginal or anal!).
If you’re looking for a funny and refreshing show, that also covers serious and educational topics in an interesting way–Sex Education is for you!