The closest that I have gotten to an actual sex education is back in grade school, when we talked in class about how the human reproductive system works. It was really more like a biology class than a sex-ed, but it did enlighten me about the fascinating, and at the same time, horrifying details of sexual intercourse. I didn’t really get the “talk”, so other than that particular class, much of what I know about sex really come from ermm…alternative “sources”.
If we had Netflix back then, “Sex Education” would have probably been one of those sources. “Sex Education” is a coming-of-age dramedy that follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), a socially awkward high school student who, despite having no actual sexual experience (even with himself, IYKWIM), becomes an unlikely sex guru in his school. Otis’ expertise comes the fact that his mom, Jean (Gillian Anderson), is a sex therapist, and their home is decked with all sorts of books, videos, and other references for her work. Not to mention that sex is also an openly discussed topic in their family.
Recognizing that their high school is teeming with repressed students who are “either thinking about shagging, about to shag, or actually shagging,” Otis teams up with Maeve (Emma Mackey), and his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) to set up an underground sex therapy clinic in their school. Otis helps his “clients” deal with their sexual issues, but as he goes through his therapy sessions, he realizes that he may also have some issues of his own.
Needless to say, “Sex Education” does have a lot of sex in it and to be fair, you might actually pick-up a nugget or two from the show. The film starts out feeling like a teen sex comedy from the 90’s, complete with tropes like house parties, hot jocks, awkward virgins, and an invasive parent. The show does this so well that that the only time I realized that it’s on a more contemporary setting, is when the characters started whipping out their smartphones or started searching for porn online.
A few more episodes into the season, and “Sex Education”’ morphs from “American Pie” to something more like “Big Mouth” and “The End of the F***ing World”. Each episode comes with a unique client case “How To Get Away with Murder” style, and explores not just sex per se, but also the wonders and complexities of sexuality. Sex is presented not as something taboo but rather, it is discussed openly and in a more mature manner – just like how actual sex-ed should be.
The cast is spot-on – Asa Butterfield is charming as the awkward yet adorable Otis Milburn. Emma Mackey is giving off strong Margot Robbie vibes as the whip-smart Maeve Wiley. Ncuti Gatwa is fierce, fab, and full of heart as Otis’ supportive BFF, Eric. The most notable performance in the show though, is Gillian Anderson as Otis’ mom Jean Milburn. Otis may be embarrassed of his mom’s job but really, she’s the cool mom anybody would want to have.
“Sex Education” is a fun, fresh, and yep to some degree, educational approach to teen comedy. Catch the first season, now streaming on Netflix.