By Kate Waldock
Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ is funny, informative, and critically acclaimed. It follows the story of a young teenager called Otis whose mother is a sex therapist. He becomes enlisted by resident bad girl Maeve to educate school students about sex for money. It was actually filmed not far from Cardiff University; the main school building being an old University of South Wales campus.
The show does a brilliant job of reflecting teenagers’ worries about sex, and maturely and humorously explains sex in an educational way that is accessible to teenagers across the world. But why is it that Netflix has to be a young person’s teacher when it comes to the sensitive topic of sex? Despite the fact that the UK is more open than ever about sex education, the habits of the Victorian Era remain, where sex is a taboo topic, and abstinence in teens is encouraged. Of course, abstinence isn’t, and has rarely ever been, the reality, as ‘Sex Education’ demonstrates.
In mine and other students’ experiences, schools tend to focus on protection. For young girls this involves learning about various forms of contraception, including condoms, dental dams and hormone contraceptives. For boys the focus was almost entirely on condoms, with perhaps a brief conversation about the contraception women take. Despite improvements in laws for sex education, schools still have the final say on the quality of education children are receiving. Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ delves into topics such as sexuality without any censorship – a massively significant step in the right direction to normalising different sexualities. The show has received acclaim for its portrayal of a queer black boy navigating through his school life, while his family are religious, which is just one example of the niche situations the show interacts with that can hit home for some viewers when our education system could not.
It is a series that speaks to a minority that has been left out of history and education for so long. The Netflix show itself underlines the lack of sex education students receive through the very premise that students are so desperate for advice about normal things that every teenager goes through, that they are willing to pay money for it. Simple problems such as the way a naked body looks in comparison to what you see in porn are incredibly common, yet routinely overlooked by schools. Alternative ways to address these issues have been shown perfectly by this wonderfully funny portrayal of teenage life, as viewers watch girls and boys alike ask the awkward Otis why their body looks a certain way or does a certain thing.
It’s certainly a step in the right direction that we have such a show on a massive platform, but it does present the fact that schools should and can do so much better to help teenagers through one of the most complicated and yet common topics in life.