Sex Education: More Than Just Sex

Ellie Jupp

When Sex Education debuted on Netflix in 2019, it was a revelation. Yet the series is more than the sex-filled, comedic drama many believe it to be. Impact‘s Ellie Jupp explores some of the deeper themes explored across its four seasons.

From pilot to finale, Sex Education was about more than just sex.

A Netflix original and fan-favourite series, Sex Education‘s final season brings an end to the challenging of teenage taboos with ‘Sex School’ scandals. Keeping us hooked on the edge of our seats with the constant ‘will they or won’t they?’s of Otis and Maeve, while watching everyone’s favourite authentic-self, Eric, discover how to be who he really is, Sex Education without a doubt succeeded in creating an enthralling modern-day tale with the perfect blend of teenage drama and classic coming-of-age. 

But with delving so boldly into more serious topics that were previously trod around like eggshells by the entertainment industry, it’s important recognise and acknowledge the sensitive themes that are prevalent to today’s world. 

White Privilege 

Let’s begin with everybody’s favourite ‘BROTP’ – Otis and Eric. Despite different backgrounds, upbringings, and in some sense, as season four briefly tapped into, a lack of anything in common – Otis and Eric’s friendship was always the true heart of the show from the get-go. However, the show doesn’t allow these core differences to go unacknowledged, and in fact touches on it in quite a sadly surreal manner in its piloted season.

Going through life as a straight and white man, Otis, no matter how hard he may try as Eric’s friend, could never truly understand the difference between how dangerous situations can be for him compared to Eric, a proudly gay, black man. The show tapped into Otis’ unacknowledged white privilege and naivety in the fifth episode, when he leaves Eric dressed up as Hedwig, visibly extremely feminine in his blonde wig and blingy, bejewelled denim. Eric, aware of his dangerous position once stood-up by Otis, doesn’t share this blissful ignorance, and knows how certain members of society, despite the modern progressive nature of such issues, perceive him to be.

This is sadly shown when Eric is assaulted by bigoted men and beaten into shunning his authentic self for a while. In such a sense, Sex Education arguably well-tackled the modern, sensitive issue of white privilege and the unintentional yet harmful ignorance that comes with it through Otis’ character. 

Sexual Assault

Another fan favourite who we’re bittersweetly waving goodbye, Aimee Gibbs, was the centrefold of another serious issue in the modern world that Sex Education tackled in a moving way. The second season sees Aimee experiencing an act of sexual assault on her bus ride to school. A plot point that is never dropped, forgotten about, or overseen in the seasons that followed, Aimee’s assault was both crucial and pivotal in the way that the show expressed the message of how women are often scared to speak up out of fear of being told they’re being ‘dramatic’ or that they ‘were asking for it’.

Aimee’s initial insistence that what happened to her was nothing serious, nothing Maeve should be concerned over, is potentially her own unconscious shield to protect herself– undermining her own experience before anyone else has the chance to do it first. This experience of Aimee’s, however, despite sensitive and hard to watch for some fans and viewers, brought us the heart-warming display of female solidarity and sisterhood later on in the second season, when the girls are locked in detention together.

From popular ‘Untouchable’ Olivia Hanan, to reserved and unique Lily Igleheart, the girls found themselves unable to bond or connect over anything. That is, until Aimee’s opening up about what happened to her, and her true admission of how it made her feel and acknowledging that it was, in fact, an assault, brings them together as they all share their experiences with the sensitive topic.

it’s safe to say that Sex Education approached this important topic with realistic sensitivity 

In the final season, we see Aimee seek out therapy from Jean Milburn, completing her character’s moving arc as her healing and acceptance journey plays out. I think it’s safe to say that Sex Education approached this important topic with realistic sensitivity and touched many fans’ and viewers’ hearts. 

Anxiety and Self-Harm

Jackson Marchetti’s – an underrated character of the series, and a personal favourite of mine – battle with anxiety delves into a serious, prominent storyline of self-harm in the show’s second season, when he purposely breaks his own hand. Jackson also battled with the pressures of being a sports prodigy, and the fear of disappointing his mum, which appeared to also be an explanation for why he did what he did.

the importance of reaching out for help and support for a friend, even when they reject it

Sex Education portrayed the lengths that teens with anxiety like Jackson will go to when they can no longer stand the pressure of expectations. His best friend on the show, Vivienne Odusanya, shows us the importance of reaching out for help and support for a friend, even when they reject it, or are hesitant to accept the shoulder to lean on.

One of the most interesting and compelling aspects of Jackson’s character is the contrast between what others see, and who he truly is. A handsome, popular ‘jock’ stereotype gives other character’s in the show, like Maeve, the impression that he must not have any real issues to battle in his personal life. He had all the girls at Moordale crushing on him, guys like Otis being jealous of him – he appeared to be living the dream. But with this duality, Sex Education shows the importance of not judging a person’s true character off of the character they present to the world. 

But to finish on a lighter note…

Netflix’s Sex Education has been a heck of a ride of joy, tears, frustration over favourite couples, and all the juicy drama of a classic guilty-pleasure soap opera. Though, the final season wrapped up with an ending that has left some fans disappointed; after all of that ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ drama of Otis and Maeve, the pair did not end up together! A controversial move from writers, knowing how much fans had routed for the ship, and it seemed Otis’ love interest Ruby Matthews did not make it to end-game status either.

But at least the beloved character, Eric Effiong, completed his heartfelt journey with self-acceptance, after battling issues related to his race, religious identity, and his confidence in his sexuality. As my personal favourite character of the series, I will be sad to see the back of Eric Effiong and I was happy to see him reach a well-deserved happy ending.

Ellie Jupp

Featured image courtesy of moren hsu via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article images courtesy of @sexeducation via Instagram. No changes were made to these images.

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