I Wish ‘Sex Education’ Had Been Released When I was 15

I was taught sex ed less than 10 years ago and it was seriously bad. The Netflix tv show highlights the tough adolescent stage of learning about all things sex.

Photo by Charles on Unsplash

*spoiler alert*

I think we can all agree that there are a lot of serious life skills that we weren’t taught at school. Financial skills being a major one — it almost seems like taxes are something we’re expected to take to like ducks to water…

Sex education is something that many of us were taught at school. I remember several situations where the topic was brought up, but realistically, less than 10 years later, I’ve had to learn easily teach-able things through life situations, the internet and talking with friends.

That’s where this tv show really shines.

As with puberty, I was late to start watching Sex Education; I watched the first episode just last week (and I’ve been hooked ever since).

What struck me is that if this show had been available when I was 15, I would’ve been way more informed about the topics of sex, masturbation and general embarrassing matters relating to relationships and sex.

Looking back, our sex education was incredibly sparse in many important areas…

What did sex education teaching involve in the early 2010s?

All I could remember about sex education at school were the following 3 teachings:

  • Always use protection (namely a condom) to avoid STI’s and pregnancy
  • STI’s are BAD (followed by a series of symptoms, gross pictures and treatments)
  • An explanation of how to put a condom on a banana (which was demonstrated by one popular student volunteer)

As I wasn’t sure if I’d missed something, I asked several friends, whom I went to school with, if they could elaborate on any other topics that I might have missed.

The consensus was that that was all we were taught. As the conversations developed, it became clear that were serious gaps in sex education when we were at school. And everyone started putting forward suggestions of how sex education could be taught better; which topics should be included and how it could be more inclusive and sex-positive (rather than creating an element of fear around having sex — just in case you might catch something).

As we see in the tv show sex education, the schoolyard is a fickle place where rumours spread like wildfire. The great “sex plague” of Chlamydia being a perfect example of an STD that we should be aware of, but not feared and misunderstood.

It’s also clear that around this time, students are insecure and have questions. Questions that they may not be completely comfortable talking about.

And that’s where Otis steps in. He is a fellow student who has a knack for sex therapy (despite being inexperienced himself). I think we could all have done with having a relatable sex therapist in our lives when we were navigating the mysteries that lie beneath those clothes.

So, what could we have learnt?

Honestly, our sex education was terribly inadequate.

We weren’t prepared for sex and if anything we were conditioned to be put off it, at the risk of catching an STI or becoming pregnant. It almost seemed like, if you really had to have sex then you should make sure that you wore a condom. But only if you really have to have sex.

There are so many problems with teaching as little as this.

First, we should be sex-positive. It is a normal part of life. It’s how we reproduce. There shouldn’t be a pressure to have sex but there equally shouldn’t be a curriculum that attempts to fear-monger by teaching the worst outcomes of sex.

Secondly, the provision for different sexualities wasn’t catered for. Admittedly the insurgence of acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community is a more recent one. But it is just as important to teach for these members as it is for the straight members.

Thirdly, it is clear that there’s a particularly major stigma surrounding women in sex. There’s a very clear focus on the penis. It gets hard, you put a condom on, bish, bash, bosh. But what happens to girls? Why don’t we get an explanation about how our bodies work? It may not be as prominent as an erect penis but understanding how our vaginas react when we’re excited is something we often have to just learn for ourselves.

And let’s not forget, consent, relationships, abortions, sexual abuse and many more sex-related topics.

Why the tv show is so poignant

What struck me, just a few episodes into watching Sex Education, is the broad range of topics that this show confronts and each is followed through in a sensitive, informative and realistic way. This all plays out in a sixth form full of pubescent adolescents showing the interplay of confusion, worry and humiliation that, I’m sure we’ll all remember, is rife in that environment.

The characters consist of students who have sex a lot. But also, the virgins who are seeking to lose their virginity… or in Otis’ case, purely seeking the ability to masturbate.

There are parts of sex that we have to learn ourselves but being able to relate to a character that is seeming to go through similar struggles, and being able to see how they manage to grapple with their insecurities to eventually find some kind of solution (or at least an acceptance of that) problem, that must be very comforting.

In one episode Otis suggests one of the girls may have vaginismus (tightening of the vagina when you try to insert something). Despite not managing to come to a full conclusion on how to remedy the condition, Otis tries to understand why this girl is so keen to be having sex, which turns out to be down to a fear of never losing her virginity.

Not only does that episode deal with a little-known condition, but it also could put current sixth formers’ minds at rest that they don’t need to have sex right now.

This tv show also grapples with much more difficult topics too.

Just 3 episodes in we are met with the topic of abortion; admittedly this is still quite controversial around the world. Despite Maeve’s tough girl appearance, she is still clearly affected by the process. Most genuinely, the programme effectively portrayed the differing views of abortions, as well as the fact that it can still be a difficult thing to do even if you want an abortion. Despite the controversial nature of abortion, adolescents need to make their own decision on whether they believe it’s right or wrong. At the very least they should know about it, in my opinion.

In between the hard-hitting topics, there are also humorous scenes. A long-running comedic thread is Otis’ inability to masturbate. That was quite a learning curve for me. I just assumed it was quite natural for a guy to masturbate from the get-go. However, it turns out that is not always the case and some may have to fumble around (just like girls do).

I’ve found that this tv show has been relatable to my own life and it’s seriously made me think that I would’ve been way more prepared had I been able to watch something like this when I was 15.

I genuinely think that this tv show could be the new sex education. No need for an old, unrelatable teacher to skim through slides depicting disgusting STI’s, just plug-in and play ‘Sex Education’ and I’m pretty sure the 15-year-olds will be way more prepared for sex than we were 8 years ago!

However, the show is 18+ so maybe at the very least, it could be good research for sex education curriculum leaders to discover what needs to be included.

What do you think?

How was your sex education? Do you think this tv show would be a good resource to aid the teaching of it? How deep should we go in the teaching of sex education?

I can’t quite believe that I’m feeling open enough to publicly write about… S. E. X. But if we can all be more open about this whole thing, I think we can save future generations from a lot of insecurity, embarrassment and humiliation.

It seems that there is work being put in to improve sex education. New regulations are in place in the UK at least. Although this hasn’t always been very easy to implement and some changes to sex education lessons have come under fire from parents; the introduction of an LGBT topic at a school in Birmingham caused some to protest.

It’s important to note that we are all different and we’ll reach different stages at different times to our peers, and that’s okay. Being more comfortable and informed can only make that process a little easier, surely?

Thanks for reading and please do let me know what you think regarding sex education in schools. And do you think this tv show would be a good way to complement the teaching?

Biology Grad & PADI Divemaster | Aspiring writer & visual creator | Seeking to make a difference by changing the narrative. Contact me: katieshepherd.com/links

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