Is ‘Sex Education’ On Netflix An Accurate View Of Our Issues When We Were Kids?

July 1, 2019

Couple passionately embracing in city street, tender relationship, safe sex

Since the cult show ‘Sex Education‘ burst onto our computer screens earlier this year, it’s seen a lot of people jump on the bandwagon. From Generation Z teens to the baby boomers, everyone seems to have found something that resonates with them in this show.

As the name suggests, it’s all about sex. But not in the vivid, pornographic way you might be used to seeing online. Instead, it tries to home in on a realistic portrayal of sex in our teenage years, in a way far more beautiful and accurate than any other show before it. Along with first loves, the LGBTQ+ storylines, small-town, small world views, and nods to the glossy, 80s films of the past, there’s nothing this show doesn’t address. Yet, there are some areas where this accuracy falls short.

What do we actually go through as teenagers?

Everyone grows up in a different way. Some have money, some don’t. Some have a liberal, open family, and some struggle with a family defined by strict, religious views. Some have sex earlier, and some… well, they don’t have it at all. But one thing everyone goes through is their own sexual awakening. Whether it’s finding a fetish or having your first orgasm, it’s as stressful as it is fun.

Emma Mackey starring as Maeve in the TV Show ‘Sex Education’

On top of dealing with school pressures and heavy hormones, we are discovering who we are. Now, it may sound cliché; perhaps it is, but when you’re that young, every single problem you face feels like the end of the world. And then to find out that everyone around you is screwing like rabbits before you are? That’s where sex and pressure meet their ever-problematic pairing.

When we grow up, we know that a lot of these issues- while totally valid- are now a mere whisper in the wind. But for a time, they defined our lives, and they shape who we are- both inside the bedroom and out. Surely, a time of that much significance deserves an accurate representation in a popular show. That is exactly what Sex Education aimed to do.

Where Sex Education Got It Right

We’ll start with the main character: Otis. Living in a picturesque house with his sex therapist mother, he comes back to school after summer to find that he and his best friend are the only people who haven’t been getting it on. Coupled with the fact he finds it impossible to masturbate due to some deep-rooted daddy issues, he symbolises every single teenage boy who feels pressured into fitting in with his peers.

Asa Butterfield and Ncuti Gatwa play as Otis and Eric in the show ‘Sex Education’

And then, his best friend Eric. As a gay, gender fluid teenager who craves companionship, but is raised in a devoutly religious family, he feels trapped by his father’s prejudices and finds escape in cross-dressing. If you grew up in a similar situation- as many people do- this is the storyline which will resonate the most, especially when he encounters a violent, homophobic attack from small-town thugs.

Maeve is a character who embodies the outsider. Living in a trailer park without a family, she is supremely clever and sexually experienced, but has a crippling fear of love, and often indulges in self-destructive behaviour. When she falls pregnant, it becomes clear that the show also seeks to show us how much society and traditional school education fails kids from underprivileged backgrounds.

Those are just the main three characters, and you can already see just how much they embody issues that teenagers of every generation face. With more minor characters, we see sexual identity, academic pressure, a fear of intimacy and even fetishes being explored, in ways that have never been done so artfully or frankly on screen before.    

It is as much an accurate portrayal as it is a nostalgic look at teenage life; as much an inspirational program for current kids as it is a witty comedy. Interspersed with the dark moments, there are also times of tenderness, friendship, and ultimately, love. It goes to show that a series doesn’t have to be eternally depressing for it to be realistic.

Where The Netflix Show Falls Short

Don’t get me wrong, Sex Education is one of the best shows we’ve seen on Netflix in a long time. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with it that need to be addressed. Namely, where it strays on being an accurate view of teenage life.

One of the many notable scenes from Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’

What most people pick up on is the setting. Filmed in the rolling hills of the Welsh countryside, the show seems to be turned up high on the colour setting the whole way through. Far from the gritty, realistic portrayals set in urban Britain, there’s a certain High School Musical quality to it, where grand gestures are a far cry from everyday teenage life. Despite this being the main criticism, others have said that the 80s-but-modern theme is the show’s attempt at representing teenagers of all generations.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is the whole sex therapy thing. Sure, it’s a great way to address current issues head-on from a new angle, but it’s not something that ever happens in real life. In its defense, though, it acts as a great critique on the sex education system in schools, but it also gives some valuable sex tips to teenagers- and adults- who want to improve their sex life. One thing it doesn’t address, however, is the sex industry.

From the life of teenage escorts to the growing teenage addiction to porn, there are, it seems, some issues they’re afraid to tackle. But I guess that’s where sites like XEscorts step in as adults, with their honest un-adultered advice.

Sure, it isn’t all accurate, but one thing’s for sure: it highlights some of the most relatable issues we experienced, and shows a lighter, brighter path to kids going through that right now. It’s cheesy and it’s cringy, but talks about things other shows are afraid to do. It’s as idealistic as it is realistic, but is that such a problem?


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