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Series / Sex Education

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"Everybody's either thinking about shagging, about to shag, or actually shagging, and you can't even jack your beanstalk."note 

"Yeah, sex therapy. You have a gift. It would be irresponsible to waste it."

Sex Education is a Netflix original series created by Laurie Nunn. The first season premiered on January 11, 2019.

The series follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), his best friend Eric Effoing (Ncuti Gatwa), and Maeve (Emma Mackey), local outcast and Otis's crush, three students about to start sixth form. Otis' mother Jean (Gillian Anderson) is a renowned sex therapist, and Otis and Maeve start up a sex clinic at his high school based on the knowledge he absorbed growing up around his oversharing mother. Drama, hilarity, and awkwardness ensue as Otis now finds himself dealing not only with his schoolmates' sexual shenanigans and hang-ups, but his own Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality as well.

The series is filmed in Great Britain and takes advantage of their relatively relaxed indecency laws. It is Not Safe for Work, though scarcely intended to titillate, focusing more on the awkward and dysfunctional elements of sex.


Sex Education contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: Good sex is absolutely achievable, but only if you are honest with yourself about what you want and don't want.
  • Almost Holding Hands: One recurring visual hint that Eric and his bully, Adam, are catching feelings for each other is their hands reaching out and touching, but without holding hands.
  • Almost Kiss: Otis and Maeve come very close to kissing in one episode.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Despite being set in modern times based on the technology the characters use (they have smartphones, and Otis and Eric at one point use a Nintendo Switchnote ), the cars, fashion, and hairstyles are reminiscent of the 80's.
  • Anorgasmia:
    • Otis suffers this, coupled with a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality — whenever he tries masturbating, he freaks out before he gets to orgasm. This is later revealed to be due to witnessing a traumatic event when he was young.
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    • In the first episode, Aimee complains that her then-boyfriend Adam is unable to come no matter how they have sex. After a spontaneous bout of sex therapy with Otis, it is revealed that he can't get there because of his Parental Issues. He is eventually able to overcome it.
    • Lily Iglehart - who's obsessed with the thought of sexual activity - has vaginismus and is unable to enjoy penetrative sexual contact. She is finally able to experience pleasure from penetation in the final episode of season 2.
  • Asexuality: Florence, a minor character, is asexual.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Adam smashes Aimee's grandmother's urn on her new boyfriend's head.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: In-universe, the chlamydia outbreak causes unwarranted hysteria because several people think it's airborne. (It isn't.)
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After Adam drops his pants in front of the whole school, a direct view of his crotch is conveniently blocked by someone's head. The camera then promptly switches to a close up of his ass, with his 'two coke cans' very visibly dangling between his legs.
    • In Episode 5, a guy holding a bottle of alcohol loudly approaches Eric (who is dressed in drag). The audience is led to fear that he may be a violent homophobe, but he sincerely compliments Eric and wishes him a happy birthday. And then this sense of security is all for naught, because Eric is attacked later that day by a different man.
    • The fourth episode of Season 2 opens with a shot of clothes and shoes laying on the floor, and excited exclamations from a woman. The shot then pans up to reveal Otis and Ola...playing video games.
  • The Bully: There's Adam, the headmaster's kid (who is mostly coping with the enormous pressure his dad puts him under), and the Untouchables (who rely on non-physical methods like prank dates and cyberbullying). Refreshingly averted by Lovable Jock Jackson.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: In Season 2, Maeve constantly refers to her mother by her real name "Erin".
  • The Cameo: Stephen Fry as the TV quizmaster in season 2, episode 8.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Many of the characters are some form of LGBTQ+.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Percocet Sean gives to Liam during the dance. After finding them, Headmaster Groff uses the pills to accuse Maeve and Otis of running a drug ring in the school.
    • The sweater Otis gives to Maeve. In the season one finale, Maeve attempts to return the sweater to make up with Otis, only to witness him kissing Ola.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes:
    • Mr. Groff, the school principal, and his son Adam, a delinquent who struggles in class. Adam himself lampshades this in the first episode.
    • Downplayed with Jean (a sex therapist) and her son Otis, who has a Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality. However, Otis proves to be a fairly competent sex therapist and psychologist as well.
  • Clique Tour: Ola gets one in the first episode of season 2, as the New Transfer Student. Lily tours her around the school and points out a few of Moordale's cliques.
  • Crying Wolf: Jean becomes enamored with home repairman Jakob, and starts breaking household appliances for excuses to invite him back over. After he gets fed up with the arrangement, the plumbing breaks down for real.
  • Detention Episode: The seventh episode of season two. Olivia, Lily, Maeve, Aimee, Viv, and Ola are misblamed for an incident of Slut-Shaming and forced into detention until they can find something that ties them together. They eventually realize that they all share sexual harassment in common.
  • Drag Queen: Eric. Over the course of his arc, he becomes more open with his cross-dressing.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • Otis can't achieve an orgasm and chooses to abstain completely, pretending to masturbate using tissues, hand cream, and a magazine in an attempt to keep his issues a secret from his mother, who keeps interfering in his personal life. It gets better after he talks it out with his mother and shares a kiss with Ola.
    • Aimee spends an afternoon pleasuring herself at Otis' suggestions, to find out what she truly likes besides pleasuring her partner.
  • Dead Sparks: Mr. and Mrs. Groff are revealed to be going through this in Season 2; theirs has been a Sexless Marriage for around six years.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Deconstructed in episode 7. Liam doggedly keeps trying to win Lizzie's affections, but since she's really not interested and he hadn't tried to get to know her, she's just annoyed by him and sees him as a stalker. Otis tells him to just accept that she rejected him and move on.
  • Domestic Abuse: Of the psychological kind. Otis' father Remi cheated on his mother with his patients regularly, and when she'd call him out on it he would try to gaslight her into thinking she was crazy, which we see did cause her a great deal of damage. Despite being broken up, he still seems to get a kick out of cutting her down about her writing and doing what he can to undermine her belief in herself.
    • Headmaster Groff is psychologically abusive towards his son, Adam and as we find out more about his family in Season 2, towards his wife as well. It finally leads to Mrs. Groff divorcing him.
  • Erotic Eating: Eric, Ruby, and Olivia simulate giving blowjobs on bananas at Aimee's party.
  • Everyone Has Lots of Sex: At their first day back at school, Eric points this out to Otis, kicking off Otis' sex therapy gig.
  • Family Business: Otis' mother is a sex therapist and is extremely open about sexuality towards Otis, who has picked up a lot from her and subsequently freelances sex therapy to his classmates.
  • First Kiss: Otis and Ola at the end of the first season.
  • For Your Own Good: What Headmaster Groff says when he sends his son, Adam, to military school against his wishes.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Utterly averted, trampled on and set on fire. When Maeve becomes pregnant, there is little debate on the subject. The clinic worker asks whether she has considered adoption, she jokes that no one would want a pregnant teenager and apart from some anti-choice protesters in front of the clinic, no one else tries to dissuade her.
  • Girl Posse: The Untouchables are a clique of the most popular students. They're comprised of females Ruby, Olivia, and Aimee, with one gay man (Anwar) thrown in. The drama is pretty played up, as the other members exploit Aimee and there are definite rifts within the group.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture:
    • Conversed. Maeve says she hates these things in romcoms, and cites the boombox scene from Say Anything... as an example.
    • Invoked. In a moment of weakness, Otis suggests that Jackson stages a grand gesture for Maeve to confess his love and make her understand he loves her, and it surprisingly works in getting her to date him and be serious about their relationship.
    • Deconstructed in episode 7, where Otis's client Liam has tried every romantic gesture in the book. Otis chides him for not accepting his crush's "no". Liam argues that it worked for Jackson and Maeve but Otis fires back that it's different because Maeve actually likes Jackson.
      Otis: "No" means "no".
      Liam: ...Except for when it means "yes".
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Otis goes through a phase of jealousy about Maeve's relationship with Jackson, even attempting to sabotage it. He mostly gets over it, only...
    • Maeve also seems a bit jealous of Otis going out with Ola, and rather cruelly lets slip Otis' lack of experience to her. While she's not too bothered about it, it does tip her off about the tension between Otis and Maeve, which strains things a bit.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Otis and Eric. Eric is gay, but the two of them are as close as brothers.
  • High School: Despite the fact that the show is nominally set in the UK, Moordale Secondary boasts many characteristics that are Suspiciously Similar to an American high school, such as varsity sports, locker systems, and a dance that is very much like a traditional American prom. This confused some British viewers.note 
  • High-School Dance: Moordale Secondary hosts a dance reminiscent of old-school American dances, featuring a live band and cheesy 80s decorations.
  • Hopeless Suitor: A subplot involves Liam, a fellow Moordale classmate, who is obsessed with a girl named Lizzie (to the point of spelling out "I love you" with leaves and baking her cake as Grand Romantic Gesture) who at first barely notices him and eventually considers him a stalker.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: In 2x05, Remi takes Otis and Eric on a camping trip, and it does not go well.
  • I Am Spartacus: In episode 5, a picture of a student's vulvanote  is sent to the whole school, with the anonymous sender threatening to reveal another nude picture (this time with the owner's face) on the next day if the victim doesn't make a public apology for her rude behavior. It is resolved via this trope, with several students — including some boys — standing up to claim ownership of the photo. What's special is that the person who initiates the entire ritual is the one who sent the picture in the first place, having since learned a lesson via intervention from Otis and Maeve. This also allows the actual owner of the vulva to claim it in relative anonymity.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: A number of characters, to the point it's something of a running theme. Jean, Eric, Adam, and Maeve especially have some hang-ups with self-loathing and loneliness.
  • Interclass Friendship: Aimee, who's rich, lives in a mansion, and one of the most popular girls at school, and Maeve, who's poor, lives in a caravan, and is a school outcast, who have been secretly friends. Until Aimee finally dumps her popular friends for Maeve, embracing their friendship.
  • Interclass Romance: Maeve lives in a caravan, both her parents are gone, and she occasionally steals propane canisters to save money. Jackson is a popular star athlete whose parents clearly have money. Maeve seems to have some self-loathing over the whole thing and initially prefers the relationship not be made public.
  • Internal Deconstruction: Season 2 fully shows the flaws in the premise. No, a teenage boy, no matter how empathetic, is going to be able to provide the therapy actually needed by his classmates. Otis has neither the education nor the expertise to actually competently handle these complex issues, and his previous short-term success has gone to his head.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Eric and Adam are thrown in detention together. Adam keeps annoying Eric and then they start fighting. As Adam holds Eric down, Eric yells at him to get off, and then desperately spits at Adam's face. He immediately says sorry but Adam spits back at him. Their physical fight turns into kissing and then Adam gives Eric a blowjob. However, Adam threatens Eric to not tell anyone, but later initiates subtle touches when they're in class.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Jean's explosion of anger towards Jakob could have certainly been handled better, all her grievances were perfectly valid: he practically moved in with her, constantly left an assortment of clothes, loose change and papers around her otherwise neat house, kept interrupting important conversations that she had with her son, made changes to her own house against her express indications by installing a pan shelf and interrupted one of her workshops while doing so.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold:
    • Maeve comes across as cold and rude on the outside, but is also extremely principled and willing to help even the rudest of her fellow classmates.
    • Zig-Zagged with Adam, who is mostly just a big jerk, but has a few kind moments: he really loves Aimee, his mother and his dog Madam, shares a sweet moment with Eric during class after they made out, is visibly at loss how to live up to his fathers expectations and is genuinely distraught when he forces him to go to military boarding school.
    • Olivia strikes back at Alpha Bitch Ruby by texting a photo of Ruby's vulva to the entire school, promising to text a full photo, including the woman's face, in 24 hours unless an apology is tendered. At the end of the episode, she repents by claiming the photo is of herself, triggering the I Am Spartacus moment.
  • Junkie Parent: Maeve's mother, Erin, is a drug addict.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Sweet ditzy Aimee is the light one and tough Maeve is the dark one. They're friends.
  • Loving Bully: It is revealed in the season 1 finale that Adam has feelings for Eric when they start making out in the music room.
  • Meddling Parents: Jean stresses the importance of openness on all subjects with Otis, but it often seems more like compulsive helicopter parenting.
  • The Missus and the Ex: In Season 2, Jakob (Jean's Missus) drops by at the Milburns' when Remi (Jean's Ex) is over, causing an awkward situation.
  • Mushroom Samba: Aimee's boyfriend Kyle at one point gets so high he claims he feels like a carpet.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Played with; this is definitely the case with Lily, though she almost has sex twice and kind of settles on staying a virgin deliberately for a while. Averted with 'Warhammer Tom' who is, to everyone's surprise, quite sexually active. If Otis counts as a nerd (which he might), then he also qualifies.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing:
    • The very first therapy session. On the plus side: Otis and Maeve convince Adam to take ownership of his family name and his penis size and he manages to orgasm during sex because of it. On the minus side: The "taking ownership" part happens by him flashing the students in the cafeteria which costs him his girlfriend and sets in motion the (further) decline of his relationship to his father.
    • Otis inadvertently sets Maeve and Jackson up officially by uncontrollably spilling her likes and dislikes. It turns out to be a pretty healthy relationship for both of them, but he still went behind Maeve's back to do it.
    • Otis airs his grievances with Maeve and Ola during his house party. While he's arguably justified in thinking he's been mistreated (though he made some poor choices himself), he chooses to do this very publicly, deeply humiliating both girls. Once he sobers up, he is suitably horrified.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Just before Episode 2's house party, Eric and Otis get into a wrestling match that ends with Eric's rump landing in fresh mud. He spends the party explaining that he did not, in fact, shit himself.
  • Old People Are Nonsexual: Headmaster Groff believes this. When his wife attempts to initiate sex after a years-long dry spell, he scoffs and dismisses it with "We're not 23 anymore, Maureen." Sex therapist Jean defies this notion, as many of her clients are older, and she gives Maureen advice on the topic.
  • Only Friend: Otis and Eric are best friends and socialize only with each other before the beginning. Otis then starts hanging out with Maeve and Eric auditions for a swing band. They both get other friends, sorta-friends and love interests.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: Eric's father quietly disapproves of his flamboyant outfits and crossdressing. This concern is justified as it incites violent homophobic action against him. By the end of the season, his father still disapproves, but supports his son nonetheless.
  • Percussive Therapy: The second season features a junkyard. Adam comes here to smash things as an outlet, which he shows Eric. Following the Detention Episode, the other girls come here and wreck things as In-Universe Catharsis for their shared experiences of sexual harassment.
  • Playing Cyrano: Jackson comes to Otis asking for help in getting Maeve to like him more. Otis refuses, then accidentally helps anyway by not being able to shut up when he talks about her.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Otis tries to masturbate to a textbook diagram of a vagina in the first episode but can't quite do it.
  • Power Trio: Otis, Eric and Maeve. They're the three main characters being all school outcasts not very popular who sometimes hang out all together.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Jackson tries to bargain with Headmaster Groff to keep Maeve in school, with his participation in an important swimming competition as a bargaining chip. The Headmaster is taken aback but doesn't say anything. Things quiet down for a short time and Jackson participates in the race, only to be told afterwards by Headmaster Groff that he doesn't take bribes, leaving Maeve's fate unrevealed by the end of season one.
    • When Jean finds out about the sex clinic, she's understandably angry. Otis thinks its because he kept it from her, but as she points out, he's 16 and unlicensed, and simply knowing the psychology behind it doesn't mean he's qualified to give it. She is upset he's lying to her about it (mostly because his lying is too similar to Remi's), but the main problem is the unethical nature of his clinic.
    • When a man masturbates on Aimee on the bus, she mostly shrugs it off and the episode mostly treats it as a light-hearted B-plot. Except the experience really bothered her - she breaks down crying after reporting it to the police, and she struggles to get back on the same bus afterward.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After 16 years and one season of putting up with her invasive and inappropriate behavior, Otis finally gives one of these to his Mother in episode 8 after finding out about the book she wrote about him without his permission.
  • R-Rated Opening: The pilot episode has very graphic sex scene in the first thirty seconds involving two teenagers.
  • Retro Universe: Played with. The show is ostensibly set in the present day, but with 80s fashions, music and cars coexisting with modern phones and laptops.
  • Running Gag: Jean's lovers (and Ola) bursting in Otis's room thinking it is the bathroom.
  • Scenery Porn: The small, unnamed English countryside town the series takes place in. Resplendent with rolling hills, sweeping views, verdant forests and some stunning homes, the sex sometimes takes a backseat to the overall beauty of the environment.
  • Schizo Tech: Modern day phones and computers coexist alongside 80s televisions, radios and vehicles.
  • Sex Miseducation Class: What we see of the school's sex ed class consists of the students fumbling to put a condom onto a prosthetic penis. It leaves the students woefully unequipped for the ups and downs of real-life sex, which is why the awkward and virginal Otis — who was raised by a sex therapist — starts making money from giving sex advice to his classmates.
  • The Shrink:
    • Otis, the child of a trained psychologist and sexual health therapist, has picked up the trade on his own. He's portrayed primarily as Type III Awesome shrink. He's surprisingly understanding, insightful and helpful and many fellow students seek his help.
    • Otis' mother Jean is a licensed therapist who focuses on sex and relationships. She also hosts vagina workshops. She's portrayed as Type III Awesome shrink who really helps her clients. However, her son Otis is her blind spot and she often tries to "therapise" him, and she spontaneously writes a book about his sex phobias.
    • Otis' father Remi is shown to be a Type I Harmful shrink; besides the fact he emotionally bullied his wife and cheated on her regularly, he cheated on her with his patients, who he's implied to have manipulated into desiring him during treatmentnote , and it directly leads to the trauma that left Otis unable to have sex.
  • Smug Straight Edge: There's a clique called the Sober Virgins who mostly hang out talking about how much they like non-alcoholic beverages and abstinence. They still look down on Otis.
  • Soup Is Medicine: Jakob brings Jean some soup when she's sick while he's fixing her bathroom. Jean finds him irresistible and she later tells him the soup was a nice touch.
    Jakob: It's for you. It's soup. For a sick person.
    Jean: Oh, no! Oh, you shouldn't have done that. I'm feeling so much better today. Just a scratchy throat.
    Jakob: Still, uh... eat the soup. It's good for you.
  • Spiteful Spit: Eric and his bully Adam are in detention together and are supposed to clean one room at school. Adam keeps annoying Eric and then they start wrestling. As Adam holds Eric down, Eric spits at Adam's face. He immediately says sorry but Adam spits back at him. However, their fight turns into kissing...
  • Their First Time:
    • A non-romantic version. Lily and Otis platonically attempt to lose both their virginities to each other, but it doesn't work.
    • His first sincere romantic attempt is with Ola. They plan it out for a full day beforehand and it gets shut down when she finds Maeve's texts on his phone.
    • In Otis' second non-romantic take on this trope, he finally loses his virginity to Alpha Bitch Ruby, a girl he is not interested in at all. Even worse, he is drunk and does not remember the incident at all, not even if he used protection. Interestingly, Otis doesn't show a lot of remorse after what has happened and the show doesn't treat virginity as something special.
  • Themed Party: The school hosts a fairy-tale themed dance called "Happily Ever After".
  • Token Trio: The three main characters: Otis (White Male Lead), Eric (black and gay best friend) and Maeve (white girl).
  • The Un-Favourite: Groff's attitude towards his son Adam, asking why he can't be "Diligent, reliable, resilient" like his sister as mentioned when he is reprimanding Adam in his office in 1x02.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Otis realizes his feelings for Maeve just before the latter enters a relationship. After this relationship ends, it is implied that Maeve realizes her feelings for Otis, but sees him kissing Ola.
  • Very Special Episode: Subverted. The large majority of episodes actually tackle something significant (abortion in 1x03, infidelity in 1x04 and 1x06, cyberbullying in 1x05, homophobia in 1x05, the importance of knowing yourself in 1x06, the ethics of psychological practice in 1x04 and 1x08, the Primal Scene in 1x06), and as such the show doesn't bother hyping them up.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Moordale is a fictional town and school. Despite being set in England (and shot in Wales), Moordale Secondary feels more like a classical American high school.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Headmaster Groff's constant way of treating his son Adam. He absolutely refuses to see and accept Adam just as he is, and tries to make him (what he views as) better.
  • Wild Teen Party:
    • Many things go down at Aimee's party in the second episode. Otis stumbles onto a relationship dispute and manages to fix it, Adam gets into a brawl with Aimee's new boyfriend, and Eric and the Untouchables give blowjobs to bananas, among the standard party staples.
    • Otis accidentally throws one in the second season, where he manages to get wildly drunk, insult both Ola and Maeve and drunkenly loses his virginity to Ruby.


Video Example(s):


Otis' Mom the Sex Guru

"Why didn't you tell me she was hot?"

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / StacysMom

Media sources:

Main / StacysMom