A couple days ago, I stumbled upon a tweet by user @Maletcm that read: “the current generation of teenagers is growing up watching Sex Education by Netflix which is all about consent and sincerity and self-recognition, and wow. We grew up watching Skins, thinking that having mental health issues was cool”.
I am not here to bash on one show to lift up another. In fact, I really enjoyed “Skins,” but I do understand where this user is coming from.
Regardless of its quality, “Skins” did romanticize mental illness and irresponsible behavior like excessive drinking, careless sex, drugs, and more. Teenagers represent an impressionable audience when it comes to all these subjects; even though no content is completely responsible for the outlook or tendencies of someone - let alone an entire generation, the media we consume has an impact on how we see the world and our actions, especially during our teens years - when we are more vulnerable to opinions from others and are constantly exposed to situations in which we may encounter drugs.
This is why “Sex Education” is so important.
What is it about?
“Sex Education”follows 16-year-old Otis, who is the son of a sex therapist.
Through his mother he has learned (regardless of whether he wanted to or not) a lot about sex and how it affects people’s lives and relationships. Still, all his knowledge lies in theory, because Otis himself is sexually repressed: he can’t masturbate, even when all the guys his age appear to have no problem.
With this knowledge, he takes it upon himself to educate people in his school about sex, helping them each with their personal problems. A lot of extremely important subjects that have just in recent years been openly discussed also surface in this show.
Sex has been a taboo in our society for years. Blame religion, social norms, or whatever you want to, but the fact is that no one talks about sex as openly as we should. At least, not including everything it involves.
Sex is not only between a man and a woman. It goes far beyond, and so do the taboos this show attempts to break. Subjects like abortion, female masturbation, toxic masculinity, homosexuality, and more, have been avoided in conversation even when we have questions, seen as something that shouldn’t be talked about, or something that’s either good or bad. Making these topics forbidden has led people to have extremely black and white opinions. For example, having an abortion either makes you a murderer or an icon who decided to have a say over her body.
This level of ignorance can be dangerous, given that it can lead people to have abortions in secret, risking their lives. Some members of the LBGTQ+ community hide forever in fear of something being wrong with them, instead of proudly owning who they are. There is always an unspoken pressure of the things that should be happening in your body according to society, and those that shouldn’t. Without enough information, it’s easy to think you’re all alone and fail to seek the proper resources or support.
Portraying every shade of gray
The approach that this show takes on these subjects is of extreme importance; it doesn’t state them as something good or bad, but as something that simply is.
Sexuality cannot be portrayed in black and white. There are plenty of shades of gray in between, which we learn to explore through the show’s characters.
“Sex Education” leaves no one behind, and it shows both parts of the coin: the ones that like to have sex, the ones who don’t. Those who want an abortion, those who are fiercely against it. Proudly homosexual people, and those who have to hide in fear as well. By portraying matters so relevant in this way, watchers can find comfort in knowing they are not alone. Knowing that nothing that happens in their body, no matter how insecure or self-conscious it makes them feel, is inherently good or bad.
Most importantly, it delivers the message that we are the only ones who should have a say over our bodies. It shows that no matter if you’re popular or an outcast, we are all human: just as vulnerable, and just as insecure.
A Big Step for Future Generations
Information and education are powerful. The more people know about these things, especially young people, the more they can find the help they need, relate to other people their age, and most of all, realize that what is happening in their minds and bodies might not be as unusual, or even wrong, as they might have thought before. It breaks taboos and talks about things that, whether we like to talk about them or not, exist.
Most of all, it doesn’t make a big deal out of any of it. Everything is portrayed as completely normal, and in a world where most subjects regarding sexuality are seen as such a big deal, watching “Sex Education” is definitely a breath of fresh air.