Sex education was often a mortifying experience at school that many of us would rather forget – but now Netflix is bringing it all flooding back with a new comedy drama about a teenage student sex therapist.
The series follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), a socially awkward high school student whose mother, played by The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson, is a sex therapist.
Having grown up in a house full of vagina diagrams and NSFW videos, Otis is a reluctant expert who is persuaded by his classmate Maeve (Emma Mackey) to set up an underground sex therapy clinic at school.
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The series is a painful portrayal of just how outdated, unhelpful and just plain awkward sex education at school can be. Meanwhile, Otis soon finds himself overrun with requests to solve the weird and wonderful intimacy problems of his fellow students.
I can sympathise.
In one particularly excruciating sex ed lesson, I remember my year eight class was shown a video of a woman giving birth – but because it was on VHS, the teacher had to rewind the video to the beginning, meaning we ended up watching the whole process in reverse.
Still traumatised to this day.
Here, the young cast of Sex Education add a few more mortifying memories to the list…
Kedar Williams-Stirling plays school jock Jackson
“I remember one class where my teacher had to wear these white gloves because she had really dry hands, and she was demonstrating how to put on a condom. That was the only class I remember, and I didn’t really enjoy it. She had a plastic penis on the table, her white gloves on, and it was very… clinical.
“It was very Western, there was nothing about Karma Sutra, none of that was touched on! None of the whole consciousness of sex as an experience.”
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Aimee-Lou Wood plays ‘It’ girl Amy
“There was this little shit in my class and he said to Mr Taylor – who was the most repressed, awkward teacher – ‘Mr Taylor, I watched a video last night and this woman was licking the guy’s penis. Why was she doing that?’ And Mr Taylor went bright red, looked like he was going to erupt, and said, ‘Well, it’s because there are lots of nerve endings in the penis and it probably felt good!’ It was just so great.”
Wood has a lot of sex scenes in the series, and says she is slightly apprehensive about her parents watching the show. “My family are so excited and they keep saying, ‘But babe, we’ll just fast forward the sex scenes.’ And I’m like, ‘The thing is with Amy though, is that most of my scenes are of that nature.’
“The thing is, it’s not gratuitous, it’s not sexy. It’s kind of awkward and funny which makes me more comfortable with them watching it. I think if I was having a proper making love scene I’d be like, ‘Do. Not. Watch.’”
Ncuti Gatwa plays Otis’s gay best friend Eric
“Sex education started early in Scotland because we’ve got a very high underage teenage pregnancy rate, so they wanted to get it in early for all of us. It was always very technical and clinical, and they made sex this weird adult thing that adults do, and it was like, ‘We all have these feelings as well and we’re running around with a bunch of hormones. You need to humanise this for us.’”
Gatwa – who in the show does a blowjob demonstration on a banana and says he hasn’t eaten one since – is very much looking forward to his parents watching the series. “I can’t wait, I want to set up a camera. My dad is a minister, can you imagine? This is going to be very interesting; I can’t wait to see their reactions. I’ve made the call, I was like, ‘Mum, I’m starring in a sex comedy.’ She was like, ‘Oh god.’”
Emma Mackey plays bad-girl Maeve
“We were taught about sex in a reproductive way at school. Like, ‘Sex is for reproduction and we have sex to reproduce.’ No, you have sex for pleasure as well. Most people our age and our generation aren’t planning to have babies right now, and that conversation is completely ignored and hushed.”
Sex Education lands on Netflix on Friday 11th January