culture

‘Sex Education’ schools us on life (and sex)

January 29, 2019 – Jurmane Lallana

alike.com.ph—“Sex Education” is a coming-of-age story that centers on Otis (Asa Butterfield), an awkward teenager who becomes even more awkward because of his sex therapist mom. School outcast Maeve (Emma Mackey) spots Otis’ talent at giving sex and relationship advice, and convinces him to start a sex therapy clinic with her.

In an age where movie and series titles can be confusing, “Sex Ed” is as straightforward as a show can be—we already have an idea of what we’re getting into when we decide to watch it. With only eight episodes, it’s definitely a strong candidate for our #alikeWeekendBinge.

“Sex Ed” is able to get the realness of life. It’s not all drama and it’s not all comedy. It’s able to simulate what a normal day of a teenager is like: Exciting but also full of cringe (we honestly can’t count how many times we had to hit pause because of the embarrassment that was about to come). The series is unapologetic, branding nothing as taboo. Nothing is weird simply because everything is.

And with a lot of spoilers ahead, here are 14 lessons we picked up while watching the newest Netflix series that currently take the space of Manila’s road billboards:

1. People are brought together by circumstance and form unlikely alliances. Arguably, the best parts of Sex Ed are when Otis, Eric, and Maeve work together to perform a task. 

They’re so dysfunctional that it actually works—much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the “Harry Potter” series. Come to think of it: Like Harry, Otis is brilliant but heavily awkward (the “magic” basically is in his blood), Eric has Ron’s loyal best friend mentality except he’s extra fabulous. And with her insight and quick actions, Maeve would be Hermione—only if she didn’t scare people to death. If we do get a season 2, we certainly look forward to more adventures with this trio.





2. It’s okay to think and talk about sex. This already goes without saying, right? Well, in the Philippines where everything is almost always more conservative, people find it hard to open up about sex because it might be considered too vulgar.

However, Sex Ed reminds us that it’s perfectly normal to tackle sex head on. Like all things, it can be sad, it can be bad, but it can also be wonderful and mind-blowing. Furthermore, a lot of sexual problems are connected to life problems, and vice-versa.

For example, in the show, Otis points out that the reason why sex between Ruthie and Tanya is never okay is because Ruthie is not emotionally connected to the experience (she likes someone else). We also see Aimee’s pushover attitude crossover to her sex life–when asked about what she wants, she doesn’t know because she’s always allowed others to tell her what she should do. When Otis fixes her sexual problem, she finally finds the courage to rebuff her social clique and declare her friendship with Maeve.

3. “My vagina has betrayed me.” The show teaches us that we can be brutally honest because it won’t be the death of us (well at least, in most cases). Codes and mind games should take a backseat because the truth is awesome. 

There are two paragons of honesty in “Sex Ed.” First off, we have Lily (a personal favorite, portrayed by Tanya Reynolds). She doesn’t have everything figured out, but she’s not set back by inaction, to put it lightly. For the majority of the season, she’s on a quest to have her first sexual experience. When Jean asks her what happened to Otis, without hesitation, she answers that they were trying to have sex (she says this with both Jean and Jakob in the room).

Secondly, we have Ola. She flirts with Otis, tells him she likes him, and ends up getting invited to the school dance. Though at one point she gets labeled as a goat (not her fault, by the way), her journey in the show is pretty smooth sailing, and it’s because she says what’s on her mind.





4. “You’re 16. You’re not supposed to know the answers to anything… You’re going to be just fine.” “Sex Education” assures us that giving ourselves time to figure out things is a decency we owe to ourselves. Sure, Jean used Otis’ young age to calm him down after he told her that he’s not normal. However, as evidenced by all the parents in the show, even adults haven’t fully understood how to live, and they still learn a lot from their kids as they watch them grow up. 



5. If you’re going to live like this, you have to toughen up. This was what Eric’s dad told him when he went home bruised after Otis was a no-show at their supposed Hedwig and the Angry Inch meetup. Mr. Effoing  doesn’t really approve of Eric’s sexuality, but he tries to be the best parent he can be. In the end, he even says “Maybe I am learning from my brave son.” 

All parents shown in “Sex Ed” try to be there for their children (yes, even the principal and Mrs. Groff), but they differ in their approaches because it’s quite difficult to do. As they entered a conversation about their kids, Jakob told Jean: “We can never let them know how much they make us feel lonely.”


6. Sex Education shows that “you can’t choose who you’re attracted to. You can’t engineer a relationship.” This bathroom stall advice from Otis was specific to a sex clinic case he was working on, but you can see it throughout the eight episodes of the season. Otis is proof of this; he didn’t want to fall for Maeve (especially because he thinks he’s a kangaroo and she’s a lioness) but because of all the time they spent together doing the clinic, he did anyway… and got a massive erection when Maeve touched his eyebrow (possibly one of the funniest scenes in the series).





7. Things can be pretty messed up, but there is already a level of acceptance even in a toxic environment such as high school that indicates the times have really changed. The characters didn’t have to explain how certain things were in the show. They were just accepted and treated as normal with no stigma attached. 

For example, raised by an interracial lesbian couple, the golden boy Jackson is black and is good at both sports and academics (he has a lot of insecurities but I believe he does not mention his race once). Anwar, whom Eric fancies and hates at the same time, is a fashionable Indian gay guy who is part of Moordale’s elite and thinks he’s better than everyone else. His friend Ruby, the self-proclaimed queen bee and Regina George of the school, is also non-white but is at the top of the food chain and preys on all the “losers” on campus.

Interestingly enough, the weakest in their quartet happens to be rich white girl Aimee, who hangs around them to be cool but keeps getting bossed around on a daily basis.

More to this point, Eric and Anwar are the only two openly gay guys shown on Moordale, and yet nobody suggests or asks why they can’t get along since they’re both gay anyway. In the same way, the show doesn’t need to explain why Ola and Jakob don’t share the same ethnicity since they have a daughter-father relationship. As best friends, Otis and Eric don’t share a “no homo” moment, and they don’t skimp on showing physical affection towards each other just because Otis is straight and Eric is gay.

8. “You owe me a birthday.” Maeve-Otis scenes are awesome, but the highlight of the show may just be the friendship between Otis and Eric. Their rift was really uncomfortable to watch as their daily banter was the oil that kept the show engine running.

However, it made their reunion sweeter, culminating in a heartwarming dance. Eric supports Otis almost without question, and Otis dresses up in drag because he knows it’s important for Eric. They are, without a doubt, #FriendshipGoals.


9. There’s some sort of sex education inception that happens. Maybe we can call it a Sex Edu-ception? Kidding aside, what we mean by this is that the Otis’ clients approach him for advice and they learn from his wisdom, and yet, at the same time, Otis learns from each client he talks to. Watching Otis and his sessions helps us viewers learn, too. So in the end, the real question is: Who really is having the sex education?





10. “What do you get someone who’s having an abortion? Sunscreen. They need it in hell.” Despite this quote from the protester outside the clinic, “Sex Education” does not judge at all and tells us not to dwell on decisions we’ve made in the past. 

In most shows, when a character undergoes something controversial such as an abortion, her entire storyline begins to revolve around it, and her decision whether to go through with it or not becomes the climax of her story. We love how “Sex Education” puts this arc at the start of the show and does not let the abortion define who Maeve is.

Otis doesn’t mention it again, and although it may have played a part in her reluctance when it comes to Jackson, it’s not the focus of their breakup. The real culprit is Jackson overwhelms Maeve, because he’s “too much.”


11. Life sucks, but not everything is bad, and there’s always hope. Not everyone had a happy season ending in “Sex Ed,” but Adam probably had the worst. His father issues remain unresolved—and to top it off, he gets shipped off abruptly to military school against his wishes. 

Despite all of this, he was able to have a moment with Eric, and he found their lost dog just sitting on the grass, waiting for him. Although we saw him leaving, his story is most likely far from over. Hopefully, Principal Groff gets to show Adam his fun side, and they repair their severely damaged relationship.


12. “It’s my Vagina!” This scene was pretty funny and heartwarming because everyone in the student assembly just kept on shouting “vagina” (even guys) in support of someone they didn’t even know. This reminded me of that scene in In & Out where everyone kept shouting “I’m gay!.” Sure, it’s overly cheesy, and Ruby probably didn’t deserve such a save, but Moordale High, for once, banded together and became one voice, and that’s a good thing.


13. At the end of the day, we’re all just high schoolers who need “teachers” to believe in us. Miss Sands recognized Maeve’s excellent writing ability and encouraged her to say out loud that she’s smart. Mr. Hendricks from the brand asked Eric to join even though he’s not (yet) particularly good. All the students who came to Otis for advice—they just need someone to steer them towards the right direction. They simply need an honest conversation. Don’t we all?


14. “Sex Education” actually makes the procedural drama format interesting. You know how in crime and detective shows like “CSI,” someone mysteriously dies at the start and that’s the case they take on for that episode? For almost all of “Sex Ed’s” episodes, they start off with side characters who experience sex and relationship mishaps, and it gives us a clue of what Otis will handle throughout the episode in terms of the sex clinic. They act as plot devices that move the show along and make us understand Otis’ method of thinking more.

“Sex Education’s” treatment of teenage drama is certainly fresh, and we obviously want more!


Art by Pearl Antoinette Sevilla. Photos courtesy of Netflix. “Sex Education” is now streaming on Netflix. 


A BANKER TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYST, JURMANE LALLANA THRIVES ON MAKING SENSE OF WHAT'S IN FRONT OF HIM. HE BELIEVES THAT MOVIES AND TV SHOWS ARE ESSENTIALS IN LIFE, JUST LIKE FOOD. CATCH HIS THOUGHTS AND MUSINGS ON HIS BLOG AND FACEBOOK PAGE

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