Sex Education
This shines a light on some of the awkwardness of growing up. (Amelia Fins, Montclair State University)

Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ Charmingly Takes on the Issues With Intimacy

This show isn’t afraid to address just how awkward and confusing intimacy can be. 

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Sex Education
This shines a light on some of the awkwardness of growing up. (Amelia Fins, Montclair State University)

This show isn’t afraid to address just how awkward and confusing intimacy can be. 

“Sex Education” is a Netflix original British comedy-drama that explores high school age characters coming to terms with sexual relationships, as well as intimacy in general. It first premiered in January 2019 and has one season of eight episodes that are 50 or so minutes long. 

The show follows 16-year-old Otis, played by Asa Butterfield, and his concerns about being a virgin as well as his inability to masturbate. Otis’ mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), is a sex therapist, so their relationship becomes more and more complicated as “Sex Education” progresses. 

The main plot point is set up as Otis argues with his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) while they arrive back at school for the fall. Eric claims that everyone in their grade has had sex over the summer except Otis. This addresses a really important issue, which is the pressure for high school students around having sex, and we see how Otis is affected by the knowledge he’s one of the only virgins. 

Eric is openly gay, and he seems a lot more comfortable in his sexuality than Otis, who can’t even masturbate. Despite how Eric pokes fun at Otis’ atypical sex drive, their friendship is solid and caring throughout most of the show. They both have selfish moments, but it’s clear they are each other’s constants when navigating high school relationships, bullies, etc. 

It’s nice how Eric is not your usual “gay best friend” sidekick who only exists for sassy commentary and the changing up of sexualities; he has a lot of depth and as we follow his story, he’s an easy character to sympathize with — sometimes easier to sympathize with than Otis. 

“Sex Education” has multiple story threads that mostly have to do with the awkwardness and confusion that often surrounds intimacy when we’re teenagers. Otis meets Maeve (Emma Mackey), seemingly a “bad girl” with a promiscuous reputation, and through a series of strange and chance encounters, they find themselves opening an unofficial sex therapy clinic. 

Otis uses advice he’s heard his mother give to her patients and provides therapy to kids at his school who need sex advice. At first, no one seems interested because Otis’ guidance doesn’t help the first girl who goes to him. But when he saves a couple’s relationship at a party, suddenly everyone wants his opinion. 

This impromptu sex therapy becomes an important device in “Sex Education” because it’s the only way Otis stays connected to Maeve, who he develops a strong crush on. She has her own problems with intimacy as she believes sex should come with no attachments, yet ends up dating a guy she’s been casually hooking up with.

Otis can’t figure out how to tell Maeve his feelings in a way where she would actually reciprocate, and he feels inadequate due to the fact he’s still a virgin and she’s not. It turns into a whole situation where Otis can’t shake his feelings for Maeve, but he also can’t deny that his sexual inexperience is holding him back. 

The show presents an important issue through Otis and Maeve: that romantic relationships often hinge on sexual intimacy, but that it’s not the only important component nor should it be the only aspect holding a relationship together. Maeve eventually realizes the guy she’s currently dating might be sexually satisfying her, yet not emotionally. It seems she connects with Otis better emotionally, but it’s up in the air whether she decides he is the one for her. 

“Sex Education” has a lot of heartfelt and emotional moments that make the characters relatable, and the problems they have with intimacy feel very real. It’s not just a show about showing characters in their teens having sex and getting into new relationships, but it genuinely confronts some of young people’s biggest concerns, issues and struggles with sex. 

There’s not only a physical component but an emotional and mental one to intimacy that the show describes well. “Sex Education” shows how complicated relationships really are, whether they’re casual or not. Characters have conflicting feelings, they can be selfish and most of their relationships undergo change. 

It’s easy to see how these characters mirror real people and some of us can probably even pick out actions we would’ve done as teens. Intimacy in general is a perplexing subject to figure out, especially when you’re young, and this show demonstrates those complexities in a realistic, charming way. 

“Sex Education” got a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and due to its wide success, it’s no surprise the show has been renewed for a second season. The filming for Season 2 has officially started, so the next eight episodes will probably air sometime in 2020.

Apparently all of the main cast is coming back, and Season 2 will still focus on Otis’ story. Since Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger and didn’t feel quite finished, fans are ecstatic. 

The last episode of Season 1 leaves us with a lot of loose ends — the main cliffhanger being that Maeve sees Otis kissing another girl, Ola (Patricia Allison). We see Maeve’s reaction, which isn’t happy, but we don’t know if she’ll fight for Otis or accept that maybe he’s finally grown tired of waiting for his chance with her. 

We also have the fact that Eric has his own love story going on, Otis’ mom finally wants to commit to someone and other loose ends that you’ll just have to watch to know. 

There’s a lot to love about “Sex Education,” from its intriguing set of characters to the wonderfully bizarre situations they find themselves in. You find yourself rooting for them and they mirror us as an audience because they’ve felt confused, lost, alone, intimidated, etc. 

We’ve all felt those emotions when dealing with intimacy — the characters also have those same moments of elation, discovery and closeness. 

“Sex Education” is a perfect show to watch if you want something that doesn’t take long to get into. Soon you’ll be at the end of Season 1 wondering how all these stories will play out. There’s some valuable lessons and relatable content in this show, making it a must-watch for teens (of age) and adults alike. 

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