Sex Education is back on Netflix with its second season, and if you have been putting off watching it, assuming that it is just a comedy about sexually (hyper) active teens, then think again. When I watched the first season of this outrageously bold show, I was astonished. Nudity makes me uncomfortable and teen nudity isn’t something I look forward to as a viewer. But when you manage to get past your prudishness and the initial cultural shock, that was perhaps exclusive to me, having done my schooling in a small town, there is so much to learn from Sex Education, even for adults, and especially for parents.
Did your school curriculum answer all the questions that you had in mind? Didn’t the lack of knowledge lead to misconceptions? And it took years and access to a fast broadband connection to get rid of.
What’s it all about
Set in Moordale High, the series revolves around Otis (Asa Butterfield), a teenager whose mother (Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist. Otis cannot bring himself to masturbate. To help us understand the magnanimity of his trouble, his best friend Eric (a dazzling Ncuti Gatwa) proclaims that everyone in their class has had sex over the summer. Circumstances lead Otis to befriend Maeve (Emma Mackey), a loner with ill-reputate, who practically breathes feminist literature, and together they start a “sex-clinic” with doling out sex advice to fellow schoolmates, while Maeve manages appointments and collects fees.
What’s the need for that, you may wonder. Clearly, schools in the UK have sex education in their curriculum, but just like India, it turns out the sex-education at Moordale High tells students everything they already know and nothing that they want to know. Revisit your journey of discovering your sexuality as a teenager. Did your school curriculum answer all the questions that you had in mind? Didn’t the lack of knowledge lead to misconceptions? And it took years and access to a fast broadband connection to get rid of. In a hilarious scene in season two of the series, students are shown in throes of hysteria, wearing face masks to protect themselves from an outbreak of chlamydia, which is a sexually transmitted disease. This aptly portrays the state of sex-education worldwide and the harm that misinformation brings our way.
How is it different from other teen shows
On the surface, Sex Education‘s setting appears to have sprung out of a teen rom-com from the early 2000s. An underdog hero who is a nerd, a gay best friend stuck in a love triangle, college divas who double up as bullies, a college hottie who every girl on the campus pines for, a rebellious girl who takes an interest in our hero, and how they are attracted to each other despite having very different personalities. It is an ingenious trick to ease viewers into an unconventional storyline, by setting it up in a clichéd premise.
Beyond the teen carefreeness that this show embodies lies a plethora of subjects that make for engaging viewing. Sex Education touches on topics like teen abortions, homophobia, vaginismus, bullying, fluid sexuality, sexual abuse and shaming. We see a young athlete intentionally fracture his hand to simply escape the pressure of performing mounted on him by his parents. We see a young girl walk miles to school on foot, because she cannot get on a bus after she was sexually assaulted by a co-passenger. Then there is this scene where girls exchange stories of harassment during detention, realising that “non-consensual penises” are the only thing that binds them together. These are some subjects which are rarely discussed, among teens and adults alike.
While the school curriculum covers the anatomical and physiological aspects of sex what about the psychological and emotional issues pertaining to the subject?
My biggest takeaways from the show
There is this lack of communication among teens and their parents, especially when it comes to sex, that this show puts into focus. I shiver at the very thought of teens Googling answers to their queries, because the adults around them, parents, teachers etc, fail to communicate, as they consider certain subjects to be taboo. Especially in a conservative society such as India, where sex itself is heavily stigmatised, how does a teen open up about bisexuality, or anal sex, or multiple sexual partners? Merely not discussing these issues won’t obliterate them in reality. While the school curriculum covers the anatomical and physiological aspects of sex, filling up students regarding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, what about the psychological and emotional issues pertaining to the subject?
As you learn by the end of season two, our children need access to thorough and authentic advice, if we do not want them to fall in traps such as the “sex-clinic” that Otis runs.
Image Credit : Netflix
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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