Here's what 'Sex Education' gets right about sex, according to experts

What's fact vs. fiction? What does 'Sex Education' get right throughout each season? Sexologists spill...

a scene from sex education season 4 of otis on a bike alongside his friend Ruby
(Image credit: Samuel Taylor/Netflix © 2023)

Sex Education season 4, the final hoorah, is upon us, and fans have plenty to look forward to (including a Dan Levy cameo!). Will Maeve and Otis get together at long last? Who is the father of Jean's baby, and how is Otis adjusting to brotherhood so late in life? Plus, what happens when he ventures to Cavendish College and learns he's not the only student sexpert on campus?

“His newfound confidence gets shaken quite quickly, and he has to grapple with feeling like he’s not center stage in different aspects of his life," executive producer Laurie Nunn told Netflix Tudum

There will certainly be some growing pains along the way, and it seems the teen has trouble finding his footing in this new chapter, not so unlike changes we've personally experienced growing up and coming into our own.

“Otis is 17 and he doesn’t always get things right," Nunn added. "That’s also part of his journey in this season in terms of figuring out how to treat people."

Regarding the show's premise, what does it get right about intimacy? Is Jane the invaluable sex source we believe her to be, and are these characters as authentic as they are lovable? Sexperts share their insight on what works about the show. 

What does 'Sex Education' get right about sex?

According to extensive research from EllaOne, sexperts are in agreement that the Netflix series is not only binge-worthy but accurate in terms of all that it represents.

1. It's inclusive

Otis is joined by a cast of characters that are all different, whether it be gender, race, sexual identity, abilities, etc. Everyone gets representation and an honest one free of stigma.  

“It’s great to see LGBTQI characters, even adorable teenage cosplay fetishists, getting screen time and not just appearing as 'token' characters,” sex and intimacy counselor Marcy Brink told EllaOne.

What's more, Sex Education flips the script and chooses to empower these characters instead of making them victims.  

"The characters break the boundaries of existing and repressive stereotypes and are given a platform to share their unique stories while holding onto their multifaceted identities," sensual intimacy coach Oli Lipski added in agreement. 

2. It goes beyond traditional education

In most cases, discussions about sex are often just a biology lesson, especially when the topic is introduced to teens. Per EllaOne, a 2019 survey uncovered that participants ages 18-35 wished that their intimacy overview covered more areas. Nearly 50% of those who participated wanted to know more about the emotions behind the act. Additionally, 40% of those who participated didn't learn about sexual pleasure and 30% wish consent was something that was more widely discussed.

It seems the show does a much more thorough job of covering intimacy from all viewpoints as opposed to IRL sex ed. Plus, we get viewpoints from a wide cast of characters. 

Sex Education does a fantastic job of showing the ups and downs, ins and outs, excitement and frustration of being a sexually awakened human," said somatic sex educator Amy McFarling.

3. It misses the mark on *one* thing, though

Though Sex Education is clearly widely revered, it doesn't quite hone in on abstinence, which is a reality for plenty of teens all over the world. 

“Although there are a plethora of real-life aspects that appear throughout the series, one aspect that does not feature much in the show is the choice to delay having sex,” says PJ Livett, the founder of rePHRASE. “This is also a valid decision that should be presented to young people. The show perhaps misses a trick when it comes to representing the lived experiences of teens, by assuming that all teens want to be sexually active."

4. Yes, Jean Milburn knows what she's doing

Yes, Jean accurately portrays what a sex therapist does on a daily basis, whether it comes to how she approaches sensitive topics with her clients, her son, and herself. She makes the topic accessible for everyone and less taboo. 

“I think Jean Milburn’s character is great because she models how to talk frankly about sexuality,” Marcy Brink said. “My daughter once asked me, “Mom, isn’t it embarrassing to talk about sex?” I told her it was, even for us sex therapists, but the benefits of good, open communication are worth a little blushing. And blushing is a sign of vitality, so why not blush a little?”

Catch the EllaOne findings in full before you binge the new season. Sex Education season 4 hits Netflix on Thursday, September 21.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.