Sex Education

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Women's stories come to the fore in season 2

The eagerly anticipated second series of Sex Education is currently on Netflix.

The first and second series documents the loves, relationships and sex lives of students at Moordale Secondary, a suspiciously American looking school in a town that is perpetually sunny.

Despite its stylised look, Sex Education is an honest and realistic depiction of young people navigating their sex lives.

Moving at times, incredibly awkward at others, Sex Education and shows such as Euphoria on HBO are leading the way in representing the sexuality of young adults on the screen in a way that feels fresh and, most important, honest.

The second series of Sex Education develops its characters, and especially its female characters, to a greater extent than the first.

Women play a much more central role, whereas last season the storyline was centred on Otis and his best friend Eric.

This means that stories about women’s sexualities in a sexist society are pushed to the forefront.

A poignant example is a storyline where a character called Aimee is sexually assaulted on a bus. The scene plays out in a way that is all too familiar to women. Initially Aimee doesn’t recognise that anything bad has happened to her, and even dismisses the assault as a joke. It is only when her friend Maeve points out that she has been assaulted that feelings of shame and disbelief set in.

According to the charity Safeline, one in four women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, yet 80 percent of women do not report it. Aimee does report the assault, but is predictably not able to find the reassurance she needs from the police. The perpetrator is never brought to justice, which again is depressingly common.

Aimee does manage to gain some of her confidence back, but only through the unwavering support from her female friends who share with her their own experiences of sexual assault, and help her overcome her fear of being on the bus where the assault took place.

The show presents this storyline with brutal honesty, but maintains a small hope that those who have experienced sexual assault can feel less alone by sharing their stories.

Sex Education is highly entertaining, but importantly it actually tries to teach. It seeks to draw out some of the anxieties young people have about sex, to create a conversation, and to promote openness about sex and relationships.

For young people sex is often a daunting prospect; porn as well as the wider media have put a set of expectations on everyone — how to look, how to act and when to have sex.

What Sex Education does brilliantly is break apart these expectations. It says sex is varied and looks different for everyone.