The first season of Sex Education came out last January and left most of us in awe – craving for more. Sex Education is not just about sex but it’s about acceptance, self-appreciation, and making the most of what we have. Unlike most coming-of-age/teen dramas, sex education does not treat teenagers’ sex lives humorously but rather gently.
In the first season we were introduced to Otis (Asa Butterfield) who has a great deal of knowledge about sex thanks to his mother (Gillian Anderson) and her profession as a sex and relationship therapist. Maeve (Emma Mackey) sees Otis’ dense knowledge about sex and his skill in therapising as an easy money-making opportunity. Thereby, encouraging Otis to start an informal sex clinic at school. Otis begins to offer therapy to angsty students of Moordale. Students thoroughly consider and implement on his advice and begin to see a betterment in their sexual experiences.
Much of the first season was based around the sex clinic and sexual tensions amongst teenagers. In the second season, however, the show’s focus shifts from the sex clinic towards other issues. The show broadened the scope of topics being discussed i.e. sexual assault, asexuality, pansexuality, bisexuality, parental isolation, consent, fear of intimacy, slut shaming. It is worth mentioning that, not once did it feel tacky or such that the show was addressing too many issues at the same time.
Throughout the show there were many instances that made me sit back and reflect on-to certain things. However, there were some incidents that particularly stuck to me.
The first of these is asexual representation. The show challenges the presupposition that, everyone has sex. Florence, a student at Moordale is cast to play Juliet in the school play who struggles to bring more emotion to her character. As a solution her peers casually suggest ‘just think about sex.’ An anxious Florence pays a visit to Jean Milburn who now has an office at the school to address students’ sexual concerns. Jean comforts Florence by explaining asexuality to her and delivers, perhaps, one of the most unforgettable dialogues of the season ‘Sex doesn’t make you whole. And so, how could you ever be broken?’
The show also features sexual assault, which is dealt with very delicately. Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) is on the bus for school when she realises a man is masturbating behind her – feeling extremely uncomfortable, she immediately gets off the bus. Initially, she tried to brush it off. However, Maeve convinces her to go to the police where things go fairly well.
For the rest of the season, Aimee begins to show post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident. The event also affects her relationship with her boyfriend Steve – she no longer enjoys being touched by him.
In the seventh episode, six girls including Aimee are accused of vandalism and slut shaming a teacher, they all end up in detention. It is during a heated argument between Maeve and Orla that Aimee breaks down exclaiming ‘she can’t get on the bus anymore’. She explains “he had this really kind face … so it’s like, if he could do something like that then anyone could. I always felt safe before but now I don’t.”
After listening to Aimee, the other girls begin to share their own experiences as well. Olivia (Simone Ashley) recalls how she was groped at the train station – agreeing that sometimes she can feel a bit funny too in crowds. Orla joins in sharing how she was once followed by a man on her way home, who eventually left after seeing her dad. She says that it made her angry because she does not want to be dependant on another man to protect her.
Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu) recalls that as a kid she was no longer allowed to go to the public pool after a man flashed his penis to her underneath the water. She thought it was unfair because the pool was her favourite place. While, Maeve recalls how she was catcalled by a group of guys and a woman blamed her for the way she was dressed. In response, Maeve went home and cut her shorts even shorter. The episode displays how different people can respond in different ways. But more importantly, it reminds the audience that sometimes all you need to do is open up to others about your experiences.
In the first season, we witnessed a lot of tension between Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and Adam (Connor Swindells) – Adam often bullied Eric. However, by the end of the second season there is a turn of events and we see Eric and Adam kiss.
In all honesty, Adam was my least favourite character of the first season mainly because of his portrayal as a homophobic bully, which is why I was not rooting for Adam and Eric. It appeared to be the typical ‘homophobic bully falls in love with the gay victim’ narrative, which can be seen as an attempt to normalise toxic relationships by the television. However, their story takes a different turn in the second season and is not as disappointing as I expected it to be.
This season, Adam tries to make amends perhaps attempts to repair his relationship with Eric. He invites Eric at night to smash things at the junkyard – soon enough they develop a bond. However, when Otis hears about this – he expresses discontent reminding Eric how Adam has bullied Eric for years.
Unlike most shows, Sex Education did not just shrug the issue off under the claim that people change but it took the time to address the issue – there were times when Adam struggled. It was a very raw depiction that change does not come easy.
The second season of the series went above and beyond my expectations. The show addressed so many more issues with humour and love. If there is one show that, everyone definitely needs to watch – it has to be Sex Education because the show is somehow relatable to audiences of all age groups. It is never judgemental but always insistent that it is okay to feel the way you do. Sex Education, is perhaps, the most wholesome start to 2020.