There are two key words that people keep mentioning to me at the moment. Sex Education. This is normally followed by something along the lines of ‘I loved it’ or ‘It was so good’, obviously they are not talking about their personal sex education experience, rather the Netflix series that is reportedly being viewed by 40million subscribers a month.
This series has almost for the first time, made talking about sex and sex education stigma and taboo free.
For me this just highlights how off the mark we are when it comes to readily and openly talking about sex. Something that is a natural part of being human, that we all have individual wants, desires and preferences for, and that is the main reason that in most cases, that we exist.
But yet there is this complete dirth of not just discussion but education. Because the sex education that has historically existed is not about sex, it’s about reproduction. Studies by Cindy Meston and David Buss found 237 reasons for why people have sex, which is a rough indication of how much good sex education that solely focuses on reproduction rather than pleasure, anatomy, intimacy and consent will do for people’s sex lives.
So although it might sound strange, this Netflix series has created a shift, education starts with conversations, and that’s exactly what it’s done. I’m not saying that it’s not entertainment, and some therapists have spoken out about how Gillian Anderson’s character Dr Jane Milburn isn’t necessarily an accurate presentation of how a therapist is portrayed; but I am sure that doctors and surgeons used to think the same about E.R.
The point is it is not directly designed as a source of education, but its accessibility is what makes it one. Younger people particularly get a lot of their information about life via media and screens, and so all it takes is for one person to recognise or see themselves in one of the characters from this show for them to think differently about what has been going on for them.
For one person to recognise the symptoms and feelings of Vaginismus, which is mentioned by Tanya Reynolds character Lily, is so helpful, and could even go as far as encouraging them to reach out and talk to someone about their symptoms. For us to be able to see on a mainstream, viewed by millions, imperfect sex lives and sexual problems and difficulties being played out, by everyday young individuals is a game changer.
The assumption is often that sexual problems happen to older people, or those in long term relationships and it is simply just not the case. Anxiety impacts sexuality, taboo impacts sexuality, silence impacts sexuality, and on top of that health does not discriminate.
I describe my work as a psychosexual therapist as helping people to get to a place of sexual health, happiness and wellbeing, whatever that looks like for them. This is not dictated by ‘norms’ ‘what is expected’ or ‘should’, but in what is unique and individual to that person. The focus is about what gives positive experiences, encourages desire, gives pleasure and gives people the chance to make their own consensual and informed decisions and choices, being the masters of their own sex life.
When I watched Sex Education, aside from absolutely loving it and almost watching all eight episodes back to back, I couldn’t avoid not thinking about how if we had more exposure and conversation to sexual difficulties, breaking away from this narrative of perfect looking, perfect couples having perfect sex then less people would feel shame or embarrassment about their sex lives, and would feel free to openly talk, discuss and ask what they wanted to in appropriate environments helping them to move into a better sexual space.
The one thing that all psychosexual therapists would agree on is that awareness is central to change, conversations produce change, and awareness produces change, and although Sex Education was about entertainment, what it does do is start a conversation.
Pic2: Alexandrakacha – Pic3: Pansyco