How the show sparks up conversations on everything from consent to gender identity
BY ELLA DEVEREUX, IMAGE BY DAVE BENETT WIREIMAGE
“What is a strap on? Can we actually use the word Queer now? What does pansexual mean?”
Nobody likes talking about sex with their parents. Sex has historically been seen as private, something spoken about exclusively with the parties involved, and certainly not something to talk to your family about. This engrained idea of sex as taboo prevents a lot of meaningful conversations taking place at home. If you are lucky you might have “the birds and the bees” chat at some point in your teenage years, but that’s about it.
When Sex Education graced our screens in 2019, it shook up what it meant to talk about sex. A series unafraid to tackle taboo subjects surrounding sexuality, it opened a dialogue about a plethora of topics: consent and safety, exploring your gender, kink and abortion to name a few. In a time where sex education in the UK seems to be stagnant and outdated, programmes like Sex Education are a breath of fresh air. Jean (Gillian Anderson), a sex therapist who isn’t afraid to bring sex to the dinner table, has been heralded as a mother figure for everyone, including the older generations.
After my mum told me she and her friends had been watching Sex Education, I noticed a subtle change in the way conversations about sex happened in my own home. I would never understate that I was raised around liberal parents, but even in the most open of families, sex wasn’t something that was discussed that frequently. It felt as though Sex Education bridged a gap between generations to have more open conversations around sex, identity and self-expression. Mum wanted to know more about the differences and similarities between sexualities, and we had fruitful conversations about pansexuality, bisexuality and being Queer.
“Can we actually use the word Queer now?” my 76-year-old dad asked me over the phone, as he checked in with me to see what sexuality I would like to put down for the 2020 Census. And so a dialogue was opened up between us about language and the intersections of gender, sexuality and expression. With a 55-year age difference, and my dad’s generation often likened to being old fashioned, prudish and homophobic, it felt refreshing to hear his enthusiasm to keep up to speed with things that matter to me as a Queer person.
Until we have a rapid shake-up of sex education as we know it to be today, programmes like Sex Education are carrying these conversations in households. I can safely say I am very intrigued to see what sort of questions I am asked when season three drops on Netflix. Mum and dad: fire away!
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