Heard about Netflix’s new series “Sex Education”? It’s garnering a lot of press and tons of eyeballs (as in 40 million-member households, according to the streaming network). Not surprising when you consider the show’s compelling elements: a current British high school setting that’s infused with 1980’s imagery; leading characters who are openly gay and others who represent a myriad of ethnic and cultural backgrounds; terrific performances (including a wonderful turn by Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist trying to single-handedly raise a teenaged son), great writing, and…sex. Lots and lots of sex.
I’ve watched a few episodes of “Sex Education”, and it’s explicit, to be sure. We see breasts. We see butts. We even see a scrotum or two. And depending upon your own belief system, this may be shocking and inappropriate. Or, it may be a welcome and true-to-life exploration that is both simultaneously sweet and sex-positive.
Teenagers have been hooking up on-screen for decades. But “Sex Education” bears little resemblance to the testosterone-jacked films of yore. The show is less about the act of sex than the thoughts, feelings and questions that accompany it. Who among us hasn’t wondered whether we are doing it right or why something doesn’t feel great when everyone else tells us it should? Who hasn’t experienced the pressure to engage in a particular way or felt marginalized by their sexual preferences? When you consider that we’re all informed by life experience and the intersection of our identities (cultural, ethnic, spiritual, gender, sexual, physical ability, etc.) – not to mention the type of sex education we had (or the absence of one) – it’s no wonder there is so much confusion, shame, guilt and mystery around one of the most natural of human experiences.
A plot line in the final episode was of particular interest to us at Congtythamtu: a student tries to have intercourse with her boyfriend, and they find penetration impossible. Ultimately, she learns she has a condition called vaginismus – an involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles. Women with vaginismus often face physical, interpersonal and emotional challenges, and many feel isolated and helpless. The good news is that vaginismus is almost always treatable with appropriate medical and behavioral support (which we offer here at Congtythamtu).
Some have criticized Netflix and the show’s producers for not addressing vaginismus treatment properly. But ours is not a perfect world, and I argue that a fictional show isn’t technically responsible for providing accurate medical information. Instead, I applaud the writers for introducing the condition of vaginismus to young audiences. If any viewers are experiencing it, they will know they aren’t alone, and will hopefully seek help and guidance.
“Sex Education” is sexy, but it’s also smart, thoughtful, funny, and honest. Watching these kids stumble about the sexual landscape with intense and earnest curiosity is absolutely refreshing. It’s also a wake-up call to a society that promotes the sexualization of just about everything while at the same time denies its children a universal, age-appropriate, comprehensive sexual education curriculum. Obviously, the show doesn’t have all the answers, but “Sex Education” celebrates the messy quest on which we all embark to find them.
If you think your sex life isn’t as satisfying as it could be or something just doesn’t feel right, we can help. Whether you are experiencing low sex drive, painful sex, have trouble becoming sexually aroused or any other sexual dysfunction, we can help determine the proper treatment that works for you. Call or us for a free phone consultation.