What "Sex Education" Teaches us About Female Sexuality

Since its release in January, everyone has been talking about the original Netflix series Sex Education. It depicts an Americanised British school that mixes stereotypes and reality. This makes the show so bingeable because in some shape or form, we can all relate to it. The show, and everyone in it, seems to be obsessed with sex, and that’s enough to make everyone want to watch it. But, behind the sexual stereotypes are lessons about female sexuality that raise issues about the stigma around female sexuality. Overall, the show serves to do exactly what the title says and tries to address some of these stigmas.

 

THE ABORTION EPISODE

The portrayal of the female protagonist, Maeve, and her decision to have an abortion after finding herself pregnant, is quite simple and pragmatic. There’s no exaggeration or sensationalism. We see Maeve at the clinic, filling out paperwork, sitting in the waiting room, then in the operating room and then waking up after the procedure. Although Maeve’s attitude too remains pragmatic, somewhat emotionless, there is a moving moment when another patient in the waiting room tells her ‘It’ll be alright’. By dealing with the issue of abortion in this way, the show highlights the ordinariness of the abortion procedure - that it’s not taboo, it’s not a sensational process that should be hidden from the public and we should know what it happens. What the show does here is show that for young girls like Maeve, it’s OK not to be afraid of abortion if you’re in a situation where you have to make that decision.

THE MASTURBATION MONTAGE

Female masturbation is another unspoken topic at school. The show follows the evolution of Aimee’s sexual experience, a full-on sex scene acting like she’s enjoying herself to please her boyfriend to her liberating discovery of self-pleasure. In regards to the latter, we see a montage of her exploring her body after a boy asks her what she wants in sex, and she comes to the realisation that ‘No one’s ever asked me this before’. In an episode of Abwoa Aboah’s The Gurls Talk Podcast, Emma Mackey (Maeve) and Aimee Lou Wood (Aimee), discuss the stigmatisation around female sexual pleasure and women enjoying sex, which leads girls to have sex for the wrong reason, because they feel like they should, because they want to please a man. Male masturbation has always been normal, but female masturbation was undiscussed, and seen as shameful, and rather than celebrating their own pleasure, girls feel the need to lie about whether or not they masturbate. The show is so important here in encouraging young women not only to speak to each other more openly about masturbation, but to speak up during sex about what they enjoy and whether they’re actually having a good time or not. 


 

THE REVENGE PORN EPISODE


The biggest scandals at school were always around revenge porn, and they happen in every school. There’s a whole episode centred around the plot of a faceless nude being circulated around the school and the rumours and bitching that go with it. While it turns out that it was Ruby’s best friend Olivia who spreads the image of Ruby’s ‘vagina’ as blackmail, the episode raises the issue of something that’s pertinent in many secondary schoolsl and colleges . It also deals with the stigma around female nudity by actually showing the image on screen, and the issue of body-shaming as the characters make comparisons with ‘Chewbacca’ and a ‘guinea pig’ due to the body-hair in the image. The lesson: no one should be body shamed, even if they are ‘bitchy’.