Netflix's "Sex Education" is Sex Education

Picture your first day of sex education. How old were you? Do you remember who sat next to you? Who gave the presentation? Whether it be by your school, your peers, or your family, the moment in which the world around you began discussing “sex” was a game-changer. More often than not, whether you knew it or not, what you learned sucked. 

Most American students go to either Catholic or public elementary, middle, and high school. In 32 states, NBC reports, sexual health education is not legally required to be taught. Catholic schools have no laws about what their sexual health education must be. Catholic and private schools can teach sex in terms of “abstinence only,” shaming students away from sexual activity through imbuing fear of STIs and pregnancy. They can also forgo any type of education, or teach incorrect information to teenagers. Almost every student in high school is going through puberty. Many teens begin sexual relationships and start having sexual encounters with others during this period of their lives. 

Arguments against mandated, scientifically-accurate sex education usually involve privacy and choice. Primarily, Catholic Parents Online argues that, “the primary teachers of children are their parents. It is their right and responsibility to teach sexual morality to their children.” But, how many of your peers could talk openly about sexual health with their families and friends? Could your friends ask their parents to go on birth control? How did those around you really learn about sexual health? 

The political viewpoints on sex education are surrounding a reported spike in STIs and STDs in Americans under 24. Dr. Leena Nathan, in a news article for UCLA, agrees that there is a spike in STIs and STDs. Most discussions revolving around sexual education phrase it in terms of preventing the transmission of disease through abstinence. However, we should consider a framework around sexual education that is not fear-based or preventative. Sexual education could instead be fundamentally positive, giving students resources and frameworks for conversations and encounters that don’t put them at risk for trauma, illness, and unplanned pregnancies.

In January of 2019, Netflix released season one of their original series “Sex Education.” A powerful dramedy of youth and angst, there is a strong theme throughout the entirety of season one. The conclusion drawn from the show is that when people are empowered to talk about sexual health within their communities without shame, those communities benefit. 

“Sex Education” follows 16-year old Otis and his endeavors as his school’s new desperately needed sex therapist. As Otis prescribes his peers with game-changing advice and sexual empowerment, viewers gain too. It feels iconic to watch people talk with one another about something so taboo. Otis’ story makes viewers question the norms of masculinity, sexuality, relationships, communication, and shame. 

The series is radical. While the American dialogue on sex education focuses how little can or should be taught in classrooms, “Sex Education” does the opposite. Witnessing people, young people, interact and communicate about sexual health flips the education from a detractive perspective to a positive one.

Sex is a lot more than just penetration between two cis, heterosexual people. Not every type of sex has the potential to cause pregnancy. If we’re implementing and engaging in a conversation about sex, let’s make it a real conversation. What does sex look like, and is it your place to say what someone else is doing is sex or not? 

We are defined by how we interact with others. We must be able to engage in ways that don’t hurt us. We must be able to live by example in sexual settings, following positive role models from our lives and from the media. By supporting these role models, we encourage more growth and conversation surrounding this topic.