How ‘Sex Education’ Is Preparing Me To Have The Dreaded "Talk" With My Son
When I turned on Sex Education for the first time, I thanked the Netflix gods that my 5-year-old was in his room playing because the show opens with a loud sex scene. I guess I should have expected that, given the name of the series, but I was still shocked enough to look over my shoulder every few seconds and make sure my son wasn't standing in the doorway, scarred for life. As I watched more, though, I was also shocked to see how Sex Education can be useful for a parent with a child of any age. Obviously I haven't had many serious discussions with my son just yet, but the show gives me hope that he can grow up to be just as woke as some of the male characters in the dramedy — and is helping me prepare for when I'm going to have to tell him about the birds and the bees.
Some of the usual high school tropes are present in Sex Education, like the sexually confused bully and the (sometimes) clueless jock. There’s also the misunderstood and gentle-hearted outcast who matures by the end of the season. But among the (many) misinformed teenage boys in Sex Education, there are also those who are open and honest about sex and relationships. And those characters give me hope that my son can be just as empathetic and smart about sex when he gets older.
If my son was older, Sex Education is definitely something I’d want him to watch and learn from. Not because I’m *that* cool of a mom, but because the main character, Otis, is a shining example of how I think all teenage boys should approach sex. It helps that the character's mom is a sex therapist, so for better or worse he's been exposed to a lot more honesty about sex than most teens. But Otis is able to see how sex, emotions, and relationships correlate with each other — the kind of mature reasoning I certainly didn't have at that age.
In case you haven’t yet watched the show, the premise is that Otis, an awkward yet lovable teenage boy, decides to hold a secret sex clinic at his high school to earn extra money and use everything he’s inadvertently learned about sex and relationships over the years to his advantage. At first, things are a little wonky because Otis is awkward and — gasp — a virgin. But as he catches his stride, he starts to warm up to his role and help his "patients" work through the sexual issues they face in their high school relationships.
As someone who set out to lose her virginity to "get it over with" as a teenager myself, I can say I wish I'd had some of Otis' insight when I was 16. I know there’s a chance my son won't grow up to be as wild as I once was, but shows like Sex Education set the right kind of example for teenagers. When my son is older, I would like him to see Otis as an example of a "normal teenager" — one who isn't afraid to talk about sex and the complications that sometimes come with it.
We all know that teenagers are having sex and that most of them view their relationships a lot more seriously than we as adults might see them from the outside looking in. Sex Education puts a spotlight on the reality of sexually active teenagers, but also shows how young men are just as bewildered about sex and just as much in need of guidance as their female peers. It also sets up some of the most positive male models I've seen on TV in recent memory.
My son is still at an age where he looks forward to my help when he wipes after going to the bathroom, so I don't have to compete with his buddies in the advice-giving department just yet. But when he eventually outgrows Captain Underpants and his problems get more serious, Sex Education is a show I would want him to learn from.
It's strange to say that a fictional teenage boy has given me tools to be able to talk to my son about sex someday, but it's true in this case. In one episode, Otis suggests to Aimee that she try masturbating to get to know her body better instead of faking orgasm during sex. "Figure out what works for you and your body," he tells her, absolutely blowing her young mind. I don't know if my son will one day come to me or my husband for advice about masturbation, but I like to think this simple sort of response would help him along the way.
Another time, Otis tells a classmate, "Everyone has bodies, right? It’s nothing to be ashamed of." I already try to instill this in my son so he isn't ashamed or self-conscious about any part of his body. As he matures and grows into puberty, however, I feel like it will be more important than ever to let him know that the changes and feelings are all perfectly normal. If also a little icky at times. I mean, no one loves body odor.
Another thing Sex Education does well is focus on the kids' emotional relationships — which anyone who's ever been an adolescent knows can be even more confusing than the sex stuff. Self magazine spoke to sex therapists about how realistic Sex Education is in that regard and one therapist noted a scene where Otis counsels a lesbian couple from his high school.
"My favorite scene was when Otis counseled the two lesbians in the pool," Dr. Rosara Torrisi said. "At some point one of them remarks that the issue can't be the relationship, that it's just the sex. I hear this a lot. Yes, having a good relationship can help sex. And having good sex can help the relationship. But often as a sex therapist, I see people scapegoat the sex in order to hide their fears about the relationship."
The fact that Sex Education *went* there is refreshing and gives me hope that maybe my son will grow up to be a little more mature and think harder about sex than I did. When I was a kid, I had the pressure from more experienced friends, half-assed sex education at school, and not much else to go on. My son gets to grow up at a time when talking about sex is a little easier and TV shows like Sex Education are made to help open that line of communication even wider.
Teenage relationships are, for the most part, less serious that the ones we develop as adults. But while I see the value in not putting too much importance on young relationships, kids are going to be having sex anyway. So, we might as well make sure they're as well-informed as possible. This includes encouraging them to communicate about sex within their relationships and digging for deeper problems that could be there. I dread the day when I have to admit my own kid is sexually active, but it’s going to happen, and Sex Education makes me hopeful that it won’t be all bad.