Sex education. Such a pleasant conversation, right?
Netflix’s hit show, aptly-named Sex Education, has undertaken the bold task of trying to talk about sex in a relatable yet hilarious fashion. Now in its second season, the series has become known for approaching a variety of serious topics, including abortion, consent, and sexual assault.
Among the topics discussed in season 2 was asexuality.
In episode four, Florence, a drama student, approaches Otis for advice about her lack of desire to have sex and the simultaneous pressure she feels from those around her to have it and stop feeling “like a freak.” Unfortunately, Otis misinterprets her concerns as “not being ready” and tells her she just needs to “find the right person.”
Otis’s comments are actually ones that many young asexuals hear. “You’re just not ready yet,” or “you just need to find the right person” may seem like innocuous comments to the non-asexual ear, but are actually extremely dismissive. They often equate a person who does not feel sexual attraction to someone who is emotionally immature. Or, worse, they make it sound like asexuals can be “cured” if only they could find a warm body to have sex with.
Fortunately, Florence later comes across someone who is actually equipped to talk about her issues: Otis’s mother and trained sex therapist Jean. In her office, Florence explains that she does not want to have sex with anyone ever and that she feels “broken” because of it.
When Jean asks Florence how she feels when she thinks about having sex, Florence answers that she feels indifferent, “like I’m surrounded by a huge feast with everything I could want to eat, but I’m not hungry.”
Upon this, Jean asks Florence is she is aware of what asexuality is. She then proceeds to provide one of the most accurate definitions of asexuality ever given on TV.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, she delivers one of the most beautiful statements ever heard on the show. She tells Florence, “sex doesn’t make us whole. And so, how could you ever be broken?”
What’s truly amazing about this episode is all the ways in which it gets asexuality right.
Oftentimes, in a society that is often hypersexual, asexuals are made to feel “broken.” They feel isolated from a physiological phenomenon, “this hunger,” that everyone but them seems to be obsessed with.
The show even differentiates the desire for romance versus sex, showcasing a romantic asexual like Florence, while also acknowledging those who “don’t want either” (shoutout to Aro-Aces).
Asexuality is an orientation that is rarely covered by mainstream media, much less within the conversation of sex. Aside from shows like BoJack Horseman and Shadowhunters, it’s hard to name shows that actually portray characters that identify as ace.
For shows like Sex Education to talk about asexuality in this manner, especially within the context of sex education, is something revolutionary.
Sex Education has already been streamed by millions of viewers around the world. This means that not only do all these fans get a beginner’s education on what asexuality is, but they also know have the language to potentially understand themselves. Studies theorize that at least %1 of the human population may be asexual, so that means that thousands of people, just like Florence, may actually gain the representation they need to understand who they are.
Asexual people aren’t broken. Asexuals are real and deserve to be seen too, just like everybody else.