Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 18, 2021

Why Netflix’s Sex Education is so important

By CECILIA VORFELD | February 13, 2020

As you may know, the Netflix show Sex Education is all the talk these days, and I am one of those disciples who swear by it. Just to clarify, I am not a TV person. I am not even that much of a Netflix kind of gal. What I am, however, is a huge fan of sex education.

As an active member of SARU (our University’s Sexual Assault Resource Unit), I really value educating people about sex, healthy relationships and consent among other things. Therefore, when I do watch TV shows, I often criticize them for portraying unhealthy relationship habits, non-consensual behavior and unrealistic expectations about sex. 

This just ends up with me laughing at the screen with my girlfriends since we all know these films are filled with lies and false hopes. So I was happily surprised when I started watching Sex Education. I found the show to be portraying real truths about sex and relationship. It was such a wonderful surprise! I would encourage you all to watch it, and I would encourage your friends to see it, if they haven’t already.

Sex Education is a very valuable TV show for the way in which it is turning things around for the world of sex education in media. The main character’s mother works as a sex therapist, and that makes it easier for the show to include conversations about sex. Bringing up sex in other ways can be difficult. If you need to make it sound sexy and fun and attractive, it just ends up being unrealistic, to be honest.

It was also a good idea for the show to revolve primarily around her son, a high school student named Otis. High school is when some of these conversations come up, and it’s when relationships start to get more serious. I mean no disrespect to middle school or even elementary school relationships. I am sure those were serious and valid, too.

Another thing that I enjoy about Sex Education is that it is very inclusive and diverse. I am by no means an expert on multicultural affairs, sexual relationships or the LGBTQ community, but I will say that I appreciated having such a mix of characters.

First of all, Otis’ best friend, Eric, is black, gay and dresses in a variety of unconventional ways. However, it comes across as authentic. It doesn’t seem forced like the show is trying to tick boxes or fill criteria of being diverse and appealing to a wider modern audience. We come across a variety of members of the LGBTQ community over the two seasons, those who are proud of their identity, those who are still figuring things out, others that know but are perhaps ashamed. I find that Sex Education gives a really captivating view of different people’s experiences.

Despite the TV show’s main character being a young guy, I appreciate the various female characters in this show and exploring their sexual experiences. For instance, Otis’ mum is a self-made woman who is a single mother with a teenage son. 

She comes across as a strong, independent woman in the first season. In the second season, she does start to face some struggles and shows a more human and vulnerable side, which was interestingly developed, with an unexpected twist at the end of season two.

Maeve, Otis’ close friend, offers the perspective of a young girl from a troubled background who has to learn to be independent and support herself. She is a character I really grew to love because she clearly is smart, has a heart of gold but life has toughened her up and therefore leaves her with a rough exterior. 

The show even has an episode about a girl dealing with the aftermath of an assault. The girl seems to brush off the scenario as a non-event but it really begins to impact her life. With the help of some good girlfriends, she moves past it. It was lovely to see the TV show address a scenario like this. The show takes this incident seriously in order to show people that these experiences are valid. It shows one way to take care of uncomfortable situations like these.

I am so glad Sex Education was created and that it is out there on Netflix for people to watch and enjoy. At the end of the day, Sex Education is a very entertaining show, even if you don’t want to learn anything about sex (still, it is inevitable that you will learn something). The characters are relatable and diverse; the plot and subplots are engaging and raw; and the setting is gorgeous. Who could resist the gorgeous British accents?

Some movies just reinforce all these ideas that people always finish at the same time, that no one uses a condom or that your first time is this magical moment where everything is perfect. Compared to these movies, Sex Education will give you a better understanding of sex when you settle down and watch it (or, in my case, rewatch it). Sex is messy. Relationships are messy. Life is messy. However, with the right people, you don’t mind the mess so much and you can make it work. It can even be rather magical.

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