Review: How “Sex Education” Does Everything Right

(Beware of Spoilers)

Before I started watching Sex Education on Netflix, I was under the false impression that its name was just a way to catch the attention, maybe an inside joke– nothing related to the show itself.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Because Sex Education does exactly what the name says: it educates you about sex, in the most interesting way possible, intertwined with a story that hooks you from the very beginning.

And the best part? The diversity.

Not only do we see plain old heterosexual sex, but also the sex that most schools today don’t find important enough to talk about.

There are lesbians, bisexual, asexual and pansexual people, and one of the most important characters, Eric, is not only iconic, but also a gay teenager who is finally coming around to accepting himself for who he is.

With Eric, we see our first trope, beaten: the gay best friend. While Eric is, technically, the gay best friend of the main character, Otis, he is also a person of his own. Unlike the portrayal of most gay best friends, Eric is not secretly in one-sided love with his straight friend. Instead, he has interests (love and otherwise) of his own, and though he is already out from the very first episode, we see him grow to love himself and take pride in who he is over the two seasons. He is unapologetically vibrant, pulling off every outfit and dialogue like no one else could.

Being a black, gay person like Eric is, is something that needs to be portrayed more on television because it is a much-needed reminder that white people are not the only ones who can be gay. With homophobia still being deep-rooted in parts of the black community, it is amazing to see how Eric’s relationship with his family, religion and sexuality is depicted in the show.

The thought of Eric, of course, leads us to Adam. Adam, from the very beginning of the series, is everything Eric fears: he is Eric’s bully, and has been for years. Until one fateful detention that the two share, where things take a turn for the better. But only temporarily.

Adam’s internalized homophobia is a very real and raw part of the show. It was these years of internalized homophobia that led him to (unjustifiably) bully Eric. So, in a twisted way, it was Adam’s inability to love himself made Eric unable to accept himself as well.

In the second season, we see Adam struggle more with his sexuality, often overcompensating by saying things like, “Well, I only notice girls” or distastefully calling gay people “poofs.”

It is only in the last episode of this season, that we finally see Adam accept himself, or at least take the first step towards it.

He comes out as bisexual for the first time and is not attacked for it.

“I want to hold your hand” is a declaration that is unbelievably sweet and innocent, but it means so much, especially to LGBTQA+ couples, who are often unable to make even the smallest romantic gestures in public.

With Ola, we look at a completely different way of accepting one’s sexuality.

When Ola first has sex dreams about her (girl) friend, she is confused. Over a few episodes, we see her curious but relaxed as she researches sexualities.

Unlike Adam, she is unaffected by the fact that she is pansexual, and there is no big, flashy coming out moment.

“I’m pansexual,” she says, and that is it.

There is no drama when she dates a girl. The only thing her father comments on is the fact that she dressed up for her girlfriend.

Pansexuality is not a topic that is usually covered in shows, so to see it here, covered so naturally, is heart-warming.

The bright, happy colour palettes and visually pleasing sceneries are not the only radiance in the show: it is also the diversity of the cast. From Indians to French people, Christians to Muslims and atheists, Sex Education includes everyone with ease.

There is no part of it that feels forced or ‘fake woke’, and it sends out a clear message of acceptance.

In a way, it is almost fantasy– the normalcy with which sexualities, genders, religions and races are treated. There is no single gay or lesbian character. Just like straight people, there are several, scattered around, with different personalities that don’t submit to a certain stereotype.

Anwar, a popular student, is openly gay, just like Eric. Jackson, another student, has lesbian mothers. Yet another student, Lily, realizes that she likes girls, after ages of thinking she was straight. The girl who plays Juliet in the school play declares that she never wants to have sex, and learns about asexuality. Rahim, the new French student, is gay and makes no attempts to hide it.

And no one shames anyone for who they are.

Not only this, but Sex Education is also not afraid to shine a light on issues that mostly go unnoticed, such as intersectional identities.

With no sugarcoating, being LGBTQA+ is different for people of colour, who already face discrimination for the colour of their skin or the way they talk and look. To add something so taboo inevitably makes things even harder for them.

It also emphasizes consent and encourages practices like protected sex, being honest and trusting your partner, and respect.

Cutting the drama, Sex Education is, in fact, the sex education that so many schools and households today fail to provide. It is a world where sex is openly, healthily talked about, and people are accepted and respected for who they are. It is a show that many of us, including me, need as we grow up. A show that makes everything easier and brighter.

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Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.
Saachi Gupta

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