Sex Education

The Netflix show Sex Education is actually a great source of sex education.

Who knew?

Seriously though, some of its scene and plot beats seem almost purposefully constructed for the sole purpose of delivering useful and affirming information about sex, romance and intimacy. One character learns about pansexuality and reads a dictionary definition of it from her phone. Another learns about asexuality from a therapist. In one scene a group of young women share with each other their prior experiences of having been sexually harassed or assaulted.

If poorly executed, as it does in many actual sex education programs and materials, this sort of information delivery may come off forced, arbitrary and incredibly cringe-worthy, but Sex Education absolutely sells it. These moment of exposition are delivered with sincerity and subtlety, but it is not just the masterful control of tone and pacing that sells these moments, but the contextualization of this information within the stories of characters we follow throughout the series. They feel vivid and honest. Happiness is not earned without adversity. Mistakes are made and consequences felt.

Sex Education understands that sexuality and romance do not exist in a bubble. They are lived and experienced as part of our struggles with society and the dynamics of relationships with others, and the show shows this. In the sexual assault subplot, where a stranger masturbates onto Aimee Gibbs’ jeans, we aren’t simply shown the proper means of reporting to the police, but we are shown the full spectrum of experiences Aimee experiences, from the initial feelings of denial to the pervasive post-assault trauma to the relationship difficulties.

Sex Education does not patronize or condescend. It talks about sex and romance sincerely and honestly. It refuses to treat teenagers as stupid, but as rich lived individuals in their own right. It educates them through empathizing with them.