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Sex Education accurately deals with real life issues through a teenage lens

Sex Education accurately deals with real life issues through a teenage lens

Eric and Lily starring at a screen while wearing make-up

If you haven’t already given new show Sex Education a chance, then view this as my official pitch.

Get comfortable, because this is gonna be a long one.

The show was released onto Netflix on 11 January.

It focuses on main character Otis, played by sweetheart Asa Butterfield. We watch as he teams up with school reject Maeve, played by Margot Robbie doppelganger Emma Mackey, to set up a clinic to deal with their fellow students’ sex and relationship issues.

Maeve deals with the money and business side of things, while Otis is the one giving the advice.

You’re wondering how a socially awkward virgin might be equipped to deal with such problems? Well, his mother (Jean, played by bi icon Gillian Anderson) just so happens to be a well-known sex therapist.

Serious spoilers ahead (you’ve been warned)

A vital part of the show is Otis’ relationship with best friend Eric.

Eric is one of many LGBTI characters featured.

Throughout the course of the show, we witness Eric deal with a lot –  From living in a religious African household to being the victim of a homophobic attack.

I know I’m not the only one who felt nervous for Eric in the build up to said attack.

Otis and Eric were due to travel to watch a screening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch while both in drag. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Otis ends up unable to join Eric.

Eric Effiong, Otis’ best friend | Photo: Sex Education Netflix

‘Gay best friend to the school’s mean girls’

As an LGBTI person, I was immediately set on edge by the thought of a young queer person, travelling along, while in drag. Any queer person can unfortunately relate to the feelings Eric was having in that situation.

The aftermath of the homophobic attack itself particularly is quite intense and really shows you a new side to Eric. But personally, it’s the aftermath that makes it worth watching.

Your average teenage would have absolutely no idea to go out coping with such a thing, and that’s exactly the point.

Had Eric immediately sat down and rang the police to report the incident, it wouldn’t have felt as real. An attack is scary and the first thing you probably want is comfort – Just as Eric seeks when he heads straight to his best friend’s house.

Eric even takes out his emotions following the attack on the school’s only other openly gay person – Anwar.

Don’t get me wrong. The ‘gay best friend to the school’s mean girls’ type character has been wildly overdone at this point.

What makes Anwar different is that he’s Indian, and until the encounter with Eric, hadn’t come out to his family. He isn’t the ‘gay best friend to the school’s mean girls’ who has been out to his parents since he was eight.

This glimpse into his family life adds some much appreciated depth.

Anwar. played by Chaneil Kular | Photo: Sex Education Netflix

‘You can’t engineer a relationship’

While Anwar and Eric are the only out gay men at the school, they’re far from the only queer people at the school we encounter.

In episode 4 we follow the relationships issues of same-sex couple Ruthie and Tanya.

They’re best friends. Tanya was really supportive of Ruthie when she came out. Not long later, Tanya also came out.

From there, the pair thought it just made sense to date because they already got along so well.

Personally, I have seen very similar things happen in the real world.

It’s something that does actually happens and definitely isn’t discussed enough.

It’s similar to the way that if you’re the only queer person if your workplace, when another queer person joins, there’s an expectation that you’ll date or hook up at some point. I’m sure we can all agree that this is downright annoying.

Seeing such a rarely portrayed relationship dynamic is refreshing. While Ruthie originally takes the stance that a straight boy can’t help them with their relationship, he does end up giving her some hard hitting (and true) advice: ‘You can’t choose who you’re attracted to. You can’t engineer a relationship.’

She also makes the incredibly accurate observation that it’s ‘weird a teenage boy is a sex therapist.’ We’re all with you on that one, Ruthie.

Ruthie (L, played by Lily Newmar) and Tanya (R, played by Alice Hewkin) | Photo: Sex Education Netflix

Casual representation

I have two more queer reasons you should watch the show.

There’s a really hot regular on the show called Jackson, played by Kedar Williams-Stirling. (He’s not the reason – But also, you should watch the show to see just how hot he is.)

Maybe I completely missed it, but there was barely any previous mention that he had two Moms before his Moms were there on screen. There was no ‘Hey this is Jackson, and he has two Moms.’

He just, had them. They were just there. I loved that casual normalization of having two parents of the same gender. Oh – and they’re another interracial couple.

My final queer reason is that I, alongside many people on Twitter, am fairly convinced that Otis is a romantic asexual person. It was a feeling I had from the very first episode, and had all the way until the last episode.

Jackson’s parents | Photo: Sex Education Netflix

‘It is stupid and ridiculous, but also… real’

There are also plenty of non-queer reasons as to why everyone should give the show a shot.

The script is brilliant, and it will have you genuinely laughing out loud. Eric is damn well hilarious. And I challenge you to not fall in love with Otis’ Mom, Jean.

It deals with real, hard-hitting stuff that the teens of today can come face-to-face with.

There’s an emotional episode where main character Maeve finds out she is pregnant and decides to have an abortion.

Teenage abortion is another issue that is vastly underrepresented in the media.

The scenes of her going through the process are overwhelmingly emotional and intimate. Your heart really aches for dear Maeve, a character who by this point you’re already well attached to.

Not only do you see Maeve dealing with this, you get to see how Otis deals with it. There are a couple of amazing moments where he’s trying desperately to figure out how he can best support her – And ends up buying her some flowers and a sandwich.

Again, this is one of those incredibly awkward moments where it is stupid and ridiculous, but also feels very real.

I would be the first person to put my hand up and say that even as a womb-bearing person, I still would struggle to know how to best support a friend who was having an abortion.

Now I know what not to turn up with.

Otis after Maeve’s abortion | Photo: Sex Education Netflix

A truly relatable teen show

The show also tackles leaked private pictures (of someone’s vagina), a woman getting over the stigma around female masturbation… I could go on for days.

Before you say ‘leaked nudes isn’t something that happens in real life’ – It happened to a girl I knew in high school.

At this point, this is practically my love letter about the show/to the show.

I enjoyed watching shows like Skins and Gossip Girl as a teen. They were entertaining. But, they were never really relatable for me.

Sex Education is that relatable show I wish I’d had when I was in high school.

So, the show has eight episodes. If you watch one a day, you’ll be finished by next week. See you then to discuss?

Let Charlie know your thoughts on Sex Education via Twitter.

See also

https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/bisexual-sexuality-prefix/

https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/polyam-tana-bella/