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What Sex Education S3 Got Right about Sex & Intimacy

Netflix's Sex Education continues to serve a fresh, bold yet sensible perspective on sexual health and intimacy.

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Let's talk sex
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What Sex Education S3 Got Right about Sex & Intimacy
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Warning: This article contains spoilers of Sex Education season 3.

The much awaited season three of Netflix's Sex Education released on 17th September.

The show follows the lives of students at Moordale Secondary School as they navigate love, sex, school and life.

The series is known to be subversive of your typical teen dramas, and the show's USP is that it pushes boundaries and sheds light on topics others may be too coy to, especially when it comes to sex and sexual health.

The kids at Moordale, let's be honest, are way more mature, independent and sorted than most teenagers in reality. They also have a lot more sex.

But the show isn't so much about hard reality as it is about an imagined reality of what could be when the clouds of misinformation, taboo, prejudice and judgment surrounding the topic of sex are removed.
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In some sense, it creates an ideal space where young adults are given free rein to explore themselves, their sexualities, and the room to make and recover from mistakes–all the while giving lessons in sex, sexual health and intimacy that most of us didn't get in school.

I have my gripes with the plot and storylines, but as far as sex education goes, the show continues to hold its own.

Here is FIT's round up of 6 things that the show got right this season.

#1 Approach to Disability and Sex

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Maeve and Isaac in Episode 4 of Season 3</p></div>

Maeve and Isaac in Episode 4 of Season 3

(Source: Netflix)

There are a number of ways one can approach sex scenes, and with Maeve and Isaac getting together, I was excited to see how Sex Ed would do it when it came to a disabled-able couple. They didn't disappoint.

This scene in episode 4 is arguable one of the most sensitively done intimate scenes involving people with disabilities in any teen show (how many of these are there anyway?).

What made it all the more beautiful is how they managed to walk the tightrope between tender and well, hot.

The moment did not lose its sparks and the excitement of newness of two people getting together for the first time, despite its gentle treatment which did not come off as pandering.

It's also represents an important step in popular media towards normalising disability, desire and sex.

#2 'All Vulvas are Beautiful'

<div class="paragraphs"><p>You tell them Aimee!</p></div>

You tell them Aimee!

(Source: Instagram/Netflix)

Yes! (So are all penises) A large part of the show is dedicated to body positivity and body image insecurity—something teenagers notoriously grapple with.

Pornography can distort one's perception of what genitals are 'supposed to' look like– mainstream media doesn't help either. This can be especially damaging to younger people who use these 'perfect' parts as points of comparison for their own.

The show, especially in episode 6, takes its time driving in the point that there is nothing wrong or wonky about the way your genitals look through Aimee as she surfs through the website www.all-vulvas-are-beautiful.com that compares vulva to flowers, Georgia O'Keeffe style!

#3 Body Dysphoria

The show, true to its promise of pushing boundaries, in season 3, touches upon something that even western media has little explored so far – Gender identity and body dysphoria among young people and the lack of validation of their experiences from adults.

It makes an important point of upgrading school provisions (changing rooms, uniforms, and curriculums) to include the needs of trans, and non binary people.

As Cal (the gender fluid new person in the school) and Jackson's (the cis-het star student) relationship blossoms, we see how relationships are shaped and moulded by not just how you see your partner, but how you feel your partner sees you, especially when it comes to sex.

#4 The impact of Trauma on Sexual Relationships

"What that man did to you had nothing to do with your smile or your personality. It is absolutely not your fault. Do you understand?" Dr Jean Milburn tells Aimee.

This scene between the therapist and the survivor of sexual assault has been lauded by fans as one of the most powerful scenes in the show.

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Jean wraps it up with an important message. "Well, you may never be the old you Aimee. But that's okay."

This is what it's like for many who go through trauma. Their life is irrevocably altered. And like Aimee, many survivours of sexual assault find it difficult to have or enjoy sex even when their partner is as understanding, accommodating and gentle as Steve is.

Overcoming trauma isn't so much about 'getting over' it, as it is about making peace with it in order to carry on living.

However, one can't help but wish they had explored this topic more deeply than this conversation, taking us through Aimee's journey of processing the trauma and once again finding enjoyment in sex.

#5 Sex Positivity

The show also brings us face to face with what real world sex ed classes are like in the form of the Draconian SRE (Sex and Relationship Education) curriculum that is introduced by the new head teacher–complete with outdated 'educational videos', a 'no questions' policy, and gender segregation where childbirth (and its horrors) are only discussed with the girls. Sound familiar?

The show has an overarching theme of sex positivity which becomes the focus of episode 4 which talks of the need to arm young people with the knowledge and tools to make informed choices instead of shaming and scaring them off sex.

#6 Masterclass in HIV AIDS

After the harrowing Sex Ed class in episode 4, we get a glimpse of what sex Ed classes could and should be like when fear stricken Ruby, Olivia and Anwar find themselves in a health clinic speaking to a nurse there.

The nurse asks Anwar if he has unprotected sex, to which he responds, “Every film I’ve ever seen with a gay person ends with them having sex and dying of AIDS. I don’t want to die. So, yeah, I always use a condom.”

Following this, the nurse gives him (and us) a quick rundown of HIV, AIDS, the importance of getting regular tests and the revolutionary preventive treatment PrEP.

She goes on to explain, "for those that do contract the virus, there’s medicines now that enable them to live a long and healthy life, even get to the stage where the virus is undetectable, which means it can’t be passed on to somebody else," showing how young adults can be armed with relevant, and more importantly, up to date information about the illness without hammering into them shame and fear of the worst case scenario.

To tie it all up, Sex Education stays consistent with it's messaging that instead of shutting kids down, empowering young adults with information and a perspective on sex that is free of taboo and shame is not lewd or 'racy' but essential for their health and wellbeing.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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