Sex Education is now in its second season, and after the success of the first it continues to provide a new take on ‘coming of age’ drama along with adolescent sexuality. Laurie Nunn, the creator of Sex Education, has created a series with numerous complex characters, beautiful and varied relationships, with a nuanced portrayal of queerness as she wrties characters whose identity doesn’t centre around their sexuality.
In the first season we were introduced to Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), the unapologetic and shameless best friend of protagonist Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), but has avoided being reduced to the singular archetype of the gay best friend. The show has created a multi-faceted character, with his own views and opinions, showcasing his faith and his relationship with his family. Eric’s Ghanaian and Nigerian descent is also important representation within queer representation on TV which is predominantly white.
In season two, Eric’s story line is one as old as time, the complicated love triangle with the impossible decision of which boy to choose; a story line usually reserved for straight characters. Within this triangle are another two complex and dynamic queer boys, who couldn’t be more different from one another. One love interest is new character Rahim (Sami Outalbali), a very handsome and very confident transfer student from France. Rahim is very open and comfortable with his sexuality, even instructing Otis and Eric on anal douching and raising the question of anal sex during a sex education lesson. This blossoming romance between Eric and Rahim hits a bump, in the form of religious beliefs: Rahim is an atheist as a result of his family having to leave their country of origin because of religion. This pairing of a queer relationship and religion is fairly unique as you often don’t see queer characters deal with spirituality in this way.
The second love interest, final piece of the love triangle, and (spoiler) eventual endgame is Eric’s former bully Adam (Connor Swindells). After a short time at a military academy, Adam returns and still has feelings for Eric after their brief romance in season one. Throughout this season, Adam has to deal with his own internalized homophobia, anger, and his strict and disapproving dad. With few bisexual male characters on screen, Adam’s path of self-acceptance is incredibly important, showing that figuring out your identity might not always be easy but will eventually work out, demonstrating that accepting all aspects of yourself is always the best option. Adam’s journey comes to its end in a very public and romantic display, all with the backdrop of a very phallic retelling of Romeo and Juliet!
Another character that comes to accept her sexuality during this season is Ola (Patricia Allison), who started the season in a relationship with Otis. Following their breakup Ola takes an online test to determine her sexuality, after having a sex dream about her friend Lilly (Tanya Reynolds). Her quick and blasé acceptance of her pansexuality, along with her confidence in wearing rainbow colours and masculine outfits is refreshing to see. Ola’s character offers a very different relationship with her sexuality compared to her friend Adam – a friendship we didn’t know we needed
The Sex Education writers also need to be congratulated for their inclusion of an asexual character. Asexuality is fundamentally underrepresented to the point of invisibility on screen. Many don’t even consider it to be part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum and with the chance to represent asexual charcacters often cast aside for more sexually driven ones. Including a girl who feels like she’s broken because she doesn’t feel the same way as her peers but having her be a nuanced, funny and interesting character is such a fantastic step forward from the distinct absence of asexuality, not just in the arts but in the media and general life. It’s a positive move forward and one we can only hope will continue in season three.
The queer representation in Sex Education doesn’t stop at these characters but is a nuanced and real undercurrent throughout the show. Queerness is sewn into the fabric of the everyday and it‘s brilliant. This show has got queer representation right, it has shown it in all its glory and all its intricacies. Sex Education is a wonderful display of humour and openness, an exploration of sexuality and gender that we can only hope begins to become a part of the younger generations beginning to find out who they are.
Image Credit: Netflix