Sex Education on Netflix is the best portrayal of sex, and teenagers, out there – GQ
We’re swamped with coming-of-age sex stories set in schools. But Netflix’s new British teen comedy has the brains and heart to make it feel like the real thing.Sex Education is the sharpest, smartest – dare I say wokest? – comedy I’ve seen in years. It is the best portrayal of the chaotic neutrality of teenagers you’ll ever see. If you’re not going home to watch it tonight, I don’t know if we can ever speak again.
Asa Butterfield (who you’ll remember as a young boy in everything) plays Otis, the son of a sex therapist (played by Gillian Anderson), who is in constant crisis over his own wants and needs. In spite of the fact he is pretending to masturbate, he can guide you round a vagina better than anyone and has picked up an innate ability to counsel people with the sexual issues nobody will talk to them about. Maeve (Emma Mackey) is the school loner with dyed hair who is secretly friends with everyone and also running a multitude of side hustles. Together they decide to create a sexual therapy business in their school, which is full of repressed and confused people of every sexuality, ethnicity and background.
If the premise hasn’t sold you, I get it: so far, portrayals of sex on the screen swing between overly virtuous and hyper-grotesque. Where’s the dirty-but-enjoyable middle ground otherwise known as real life? A show that goes so hard (pun intended) on teenagers getting it off has to have a beating heart, a sense of empathy and a beautifully written script to rise above the masses. Luckily, all three of these things can be found here.
There’s a scene in the middle of the first episode that proved to be the moment I knew this show was for me. Nobody even had sex in it: hidden in the asbestos-riddled abandoned toilets, Maeve and Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) play a game of cards and smoke. Aimee is talking to her friend about how her boyfriend, Adam (Connor Swindells), the school’s archaic bully, can’t seem to orgasm. It’s a lovely chat between two women in which their sexual appetite is right there at the core of it. Then Aimee sees the popular kids – the clique she hangs out with – approaching. Knowing she can’t be seen with the school’s angry exile, they both apologise that these meetings have to be so clandestine and part with affected Northern twangs and a call of “ta-rah, pet!”. It’s a beautiful scene because both women display the abilities to a) communicate and b) show empathy, two things nearly all teen dramas have relied on nixing from the adolescent mindset in the name of tension. Everything about it feels like friendship.