Why Is "Sex Education" The Best Teen Show On Netflix

sex education netflix
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Sex Education is a Netflix original show that’s British. It’s perfect for teens because it deconstructs American cliche narratives by fleshing out each character three-dimensionally and dynamically while exploring themes on self-discovery, human connection, and sex. 

Note that because the show involves sex, there is nudity. So if that’s not something you can tolerate, I don’t recommend this show. Though, if you’re on the fence about it, I recommend trying to overlook that aspect since the stories are irreplaceable and invaluable. 

Here’s why Sex Education Is The Best Teen Show

Sex Is Explored Without Shame By Deconstructing Gender-Related Sex Stereotypes. 

I may be working backward here, but the sex theme can be hard for everyone to ignore without addressing it first. It may be uncomfortable to confront, but sex is something we get excited and worried about as young adults, so it can be relieving and refreshing when it’s spoken about.

In fact, in season three, this is outright being spoken about by the students when a new principal tries to implement conservative values through fear via STDs and abstinence. But the students retaliate by sharing the principal’s oppressive speech on social media and began nationwide school protests to be more open about safe sex. 

Sadly, the display of sex has been a commodity to get sales on a movie or tv show instead of connecting it to the audience as part of its art. Lucky, Sex Education is progressive with showing female pleasure and male sexual repression without sexualization, demystifying gender-related sex stereotypes of both women and men. 

In the first episode, we’re introduced to Adam through a sex scene with Aimee, where he has trouble ejaculating. He pretends, but the condom is transparent, which disappoints Aimee. It isn’t until Otis tells him it’s because he has performance anxiety over having a big dong, which is a topic rarely discussed.

performance anxiety
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Men deal with a variety of social pressures, and that doesn’t exclude sex. Men are commonly perceived as hypersexual providers, with it equating as great performers of sex. But the reality is that men experience performance anxiety from this stereotype, distorting their self-image and negatively impacting their self-esteem.

Then we have Otis, who is sexually repressed. Despite wanting and attempting to masturbate, he’s mentally blocked by getting panic attacks. The reason is unknown, but it’s speculated that it has something to do with him catching his father cheating on his mother since his mother had explained that even though sex is enjoyable, it can also ruin lives. 

Because of this, Otis fakes that he masturbates by visually displaying porn magazines with lotion and tissues. This is because the hypersexual stereotype normalizes masturbation for men, making it feel outright shameful for Otis to be sexually repressed, especially when it’s seen as a very manly activity. 

stereotypes about sex
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But the same stereotype makes men avoid speaking out about this issue since they don’t want to hurt their masculinity. And I repeat, as a result, this hurts their self-image and negatively impacts their self-esteem. With that said, Sex Education dismantles this stereotype by showing the sexual issues men experience, which I praise for bringing to the light. 

While women have seen more sexual freedom, the stereotype of not desiring sex is still a default narrative placed on women. But this is dismantled when female characters seek out sexual pleasure. 

Maeve is someone who frequently has causal sex with a guy named Jackson. Aimee is not as active, but she does express her desire for sex by taking the initiative or expressing sexual desire. 

However, sexual trauma is established through Aimee in the second season when she’s sexually assaulted on the school bus. The way she processes and responds to the event shows the reality of trauma. She freezes at the moment, but after she’s numb, yet she acts happy as nothing happened. It later catches up to her and hurts her mental health, making her no longer capable of faking her happiness. 

sexual trauma
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We see that she feels guilty when she speaks out how maybe if she didn’t smile at him, he wouldn’t have done that to her. This is common for victims to feel, especially if they had the freeze response to the traumatic event since they lost agency to themselves. Along with this, she’s also afraid of sex, which shows the realistic effects of sexual violence. Lucky, when Aimee expresses this fear, it’s with a new boyfriend who cares and believes in consent. 

But the sexual desire appears when her boyfriend asks her what she sexually likes. When she's asked this, she didn’t know what to do for two reasons: 1. She was afraid of sex, and 2. No one has ever asked her that question. While sexual interests should always be communicated between sexual partners, women’s pleasure has been unspeakable. Today, women speak more freely about what they like and dislike, but the stereotype of sex only being desirable or pleasurable to men can prevent women from speaking out their desires. 

Aimee is a particular character that people dismiss; she’s popular, but people don’t take a genuine interest in her by never asking her how she is or what she wants. In other words, she’s a people pleaser by accepting and doing what other people want. So even though sexual oppression of women is outdated, Aimee perfectly represents women who feel stuck to this narrative as people-pleasers, which shows how even old stereotypes can still have a lingering effect. 

Navigating Life With Friends Is Important For Our Mental Health.

Besides exposing these sex issues, the characters are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. This is mostly seen with Jackson. Jackson is a high school swim star, but we see that he hates the sport in season two. He swims for his mother since he believes he’ll keep her happy by doing what she says. But because he doesn’t want to tell his mother the truth, he purposely breaks his hand in the school’s weight room to avoid swimming. 

sex issues and mental health
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Before this, Jackson had no one to connect to besides Maeve, but she was not interested in being in an emotionally intimate relationship, so he’s left to handle life’s pressures alone in season one. There is a moment where they get close with each other by disclosing their dysfunctional families. However, Maeve is a romantic prospect that goes south for him. 

His real friendship is with his best friend Vivienne, who became his tutor after breaking his hand. Vivienne is cold with him at first, but she becomes his best friend once he openly discusses his issues with her. As a result, she would encourage him to talk to his mother about his true feelings, along with finding what he wants in life. 

panic attack
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But since it takes him some time, the stress from his issues makes him experience a panic attack and resorts to self-harm. When this occurs, Vivienne helps him calm down and tells his mom what he’s been doing, which results in them finally having the conversation that Jackson has been putting off but is thankful to have. 

Women Solidarity And Friendship Is A Powerful Gift. 

Maeve is someone emotionally closed off and rude as a defense mechanism since she broke and lives alone, but she lets her guard down with Otis when he joins and supports her in getting an abortion. When this happens, Otis learns more about where she lives and her nonexistent family who left her to do and sell drugs. This then helps her get close to others like her popular friend Amiee. 

These pair are complete opposites, Aimee is a happy girl who wears pink, but Maeve is a punk emo girl who wears black. This is cliche, but because they rarely hang out, when they do, it’s meaningful. Each time they talk, it’s about each other issues, but they provide advice and support. At first, their problems are surface-level about sex, but they get closer to each other when they talk about their relationship problems throughout the show. 

sexual assault
Image Source: Screen Rant

Though, unlike other friendships, there’s a moment of women’s solidarity when Maeve finds out Aminee was sexually assaulted. She encourages Aimee to report the incident and seek therapy. Aimee does nothing for a while, but once she breaks, she sees the school’s sex therapist, who helps her with her guilty and self-worth. 

Their solidarity continues when she opens up about it to her other female classmates when they’re forced to be together in detection. Showing concern and support to Amiee, they end up willingly being there for her after detection. Before speaking up, she would miss her bus ride to school out of fear, but once she told her classmates, they accompany her on the bus to overcome her fears.

scene from the netflix show sex education
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And in return, Amiee encourages Maeve to follow her dreams by going to an art school for gifted kids. When Maeve gets the opportunity to chase her dreams, she places them on hold because she finally has a relationship with Otis, but Amiee gives her a reality check. After, we see Maeve leaving to pursue her dreams, showing us the power of women’s solidarity and friendship.

The Discovery and Diversity Of Sexuality Are Natural. 

Our sexuality is part of who we are, so understanding it is part of our self-discovery. A majority of the characters default as straight at the beginning of season one, but as the season progresses, they question their sexual identities when they start experiencing same-sex attraction.

This questioning is placed on Adam, Ola, and Lily. These characters have difficulty with their sexuality, but their confusion doesn’t inhabit their exploration and self-acceptance. We first see Adam act on his same-sex attraction towards Eric, but he remains confused about what he wants until he realizes he’s bisexual and seeks a romantic relationship with Eric. 

However, Lily experiences distress from her confusion when Ola kisses her. Ola does experience confusion too, but when she reveals to Adam at their job that she had a sexual dream of Lily, he helps her realize she’s pansexual. She then immediately embraces her identity and attraction for Lily by kissing her. From there, it doesn’t take a long time for Lily to accept her attraction and start dating Ola before labeling herself as bisexual.  

sexual attraction
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Then in season three, Jackson gets confused when he experiences attraction to a nonbinary person named Cal. The relationship is short-lived because Cal says they couldn’t help Jackson discover himself since Cal was still on their self-discovery journey.

But in season two, we have an episode of a girl named Florence expressing to the sex therapist that she doesn’t want sex since she doesn’t connect to it. At this moment, she tells her about asexuality and how some people just don’t want sex, which is okay because sexuality is fluid. 

Aside from this, the show continues with their sexual diversity by having a character named Steve come out as demisexual, which is a sexual identity on the asexual spectrum.

sex as a milestone
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The Pressures Of Having Sex As A Milestone Is Real, But Not Something We Have To Follow. 

While Florance is a character that appears in one episode, her confusion about her identity in the episode reveals how sex-obsessed our society is. 

Her questioning begun when she rehearses for her Juliet role with Jackson since she’s told to make her audience believe she wants to have sex with him. But the director gets frustrated with her inability to act that out, which ironically requires her to understand sexual attraction when she has never felt it. 

The scene with her confession and the therapist’s assurance then shows the needed message that we don’t have to follow society’s love for sex by establishing that her asexuality is a normal identity. 

However, sex obsession was initially introduced with Lily in season one since she seeks out a sexual partner so she wouldn’t be left out or behind with the sex craze. Yet this mostly addresses that society sees sex as a milestone, as a marker everyone should hit in their lives when it can happen at any time or never at all. 

sex obsession
Image Source: Scoop Whoop

So even though this scene reveals our obsession with sex, it also shows our obsession with achieving certain milestones within a specific age range. But Florence’s identity shows that not wanting to have sex is normal too, which applies to everything in our lives, like not getting married and having kids.

So while sex is a big theme and concern of the show, it’s not used for exploitative reasons. Sex is spoken about as a normal part of teens’ lives while making sexuality discovery and diversity natural. And as they showcase this, they break gender-related stereotypes towards sex. But the show also has a moment of assuring that sex doesn’t have to be involved in their life if they don’t want it to. 

Aside from sex, the Netflix show also has meaningful story arches that the characters go through with friends, which establishes that friendships are necessary to navigate through life. This is demonstrated with various characters, but it’s seen during the women's solidarity moments.

In other words, Sex Education is the best teen show because it explores sex and sexuality without shame and emphasizes the importance of friendship.

Hi! Hello! My pronouns are she/her, and I'm a storyteller who loves tea and cats.

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