What ‘Sex Education’ gets right and wrong about sex and relationship advice, according to therapists

Sex education
‘Sex Education’ has been renewed for a fourth season. Netflix
  • Netflix’s hit show “Sex Education” covers taboo topics like masturbation, STDs, and sexual trauma.
  • Protagonists Otis and Maeve give out advice from Otis’ sex therapist mom, Jean, to fellow students.
  • Insider fact-checked some of the top tips Otis, Maeve, and Jean gave students.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

To help Adam with his performance anxiety that prevents him from orgasming, Otis tells him to change his outlook.
Sex Education season 1 scene
Adam and Aimee. Netflix
In the debut episode of the series, Adam is seen having sex with girlfriend Aimee but he has trouble having an orgasm.

Later, Adam confides in Otis that he has taken a Viagra to help him get an erection and ejaculate but it backfired because he took one too many, and now, Adam feels like his penis is “going to explode and not in a good way.”

During the course of their conversation, Adam tells Otis that he has performance anxiety because he feels a lot of pressure from both being the principal’s son and from wondering if he’s actually any good at having sex. 

Indeed, sexual health experts say anxiety and racing thoughts are a common reason otherwise healthy people could struggle to climax.

“Nothing kills the sexual experience or pulls you out of your body faster than that self criticism and worry,” psychotherapist Jenn Mann previously told Insider.

She said practicing meditation in your daily life and talking through sex-related anxiety with a partner beforehand can help quiet your mind in the bedroom.

Amy says she always feel like she has to put on a performance during sex and doesn’t know what she actually wants, so Otis suggests she masturbate.
Aimee Lou Wood in Sex Education
Aimee. Sam Taylor/Netflix
Aimee’s boyfriend, Steve, asks her what she likes to do but Aimee has trouble coming up with an answer. No one has ever asked her that before, she says. Steve responds that he feels like Aimee “performs” while having sex and Aimee admits that she is “always fake.”

When Aimee asks Otis for help navigating the situation, he recommends she try masturbating to figure out what she likes before having sex with Steve again.

Like Aimee, when a person is unsure about what would turn them on during partnered sex, sex therapists do suggest they explore their own bodies through masturbation.

As Otis told Aimee, self-pleasure can provide a safe space for sexual exploration and boost self-confidence during partnered sex.

Lily says that penetrative sex feels painful to her. Otis diagnoses her with vaginismus, a condition where vaginal muscles involuntarily contract.
Sex Education Lily & Ola 1
Lily and Ola. Netflix
Otis’ classmate Lily tries to have sex with a partner but every time he attempts penetration, she screams out in pain.  

Otis thinks she might be “unconsciously halting her progress to stay in control” because she doesn’t like not having control. He diagnoses her with vaginismus and says she’s scared to “let go” so he makes her ride her bike down a hill.

Discomfort during penetrative sex is a common problem for women that is often treated with vaginal dilation tools. In some cases, doctors use botox to relieve muscle cramping vaginismus causes.

According to Dr. Jaime Schwartz, a board-certified plastic surgeon that specializes in vaginismus, talking to a therapist can also provide long-term relief.

“Women are so used to having pain, that the mere anticipation of intercourse or inserting a tampon will trigger that subconscious pain response before it happens physically,” Schwartz told Insider. 

“Therapy can help stifle the anticipation response, especially after treating it effectively with botox,” Schwartz said.

After multiple students worry they contracted chlamydia from a band mate’s whistle, Otis explains that it’s impossible.
Sex education
Otis and Eric. Sam Taylor/Netflix
Season two of “Sex Education” starts off on a slightly chaotic note after multiple students think they’ve contracted chlamydia from sharing a pitch whistle. After a physical fight breaks out, Otis sets them straight and informs them that chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that cannot spread through shared band equipment. 

Chlamydia is spread through vaginal, oral, and anal sex, though 70% of people with the STI don’t know they have it because they’re asymptomatic.

“Even if you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after your sexual encounter,” OB/GYN Dr. Krishna Kakani previously told Insider.

You can also get chlamydia from genital-t0-genital contact without having sex, or during childbirth if the pregnant person has the STI.

Olivia says she covers her boyfriend’s face when she’s about to orgasm because she has an “ugly cum face.” Otis says Olivia should be honest about her vulnerability, and focus on pleasure, instead of hiding it.
Cast of Sex Education
Olivia and friends. Sam Taylor/Netflix
Every time Olivia has sex with her boyfriend, she covers his face with a pillow when she orgasms so he can’t see her face. She tells Otis it’s because she thinks she has an “ugly cum face, like a python swallowing an egg.”

Otis tells Olivia that it is normal to feel vulnerable while having sex and that it shouldn’t be about looking pretty but feeling good. She and her boyfriend need to work on their trust so she can show him all her bits, even the ones she thinks are ugly, he adds.

Indeed, pent-up feelings of shame about sex and sexuality, whether conscious or unconscious, can affect how you act in the bedroom, New York City-based sex therapist Rachel Wright previously told Insider.

Like Otis told Olivia, focusing on pleasure instead of a specific outcome like an orgasm can help, said Wright.

When Otis’ classmate worries something is wrong because she isn’t interested in sex like her peers, Otis’ mom Jean suggests she could be asexual.
Sex Education Jean Option 1
Jean. Netflix
A classmate tells Otis that she doesn’t want to have sex. He responds that she might feel pressure because everyone around her is having sex, but she only really needs to focus on her own journey. 

Otis’ mother, Jean, however, has better insight into the teenager’s situation and tells her that she might be asexual — and Otis’ classmate agrees.

Asexuality is one of the most misunderstood sexualities because of society’s fixation on sex, asexuality advocate and educator Yasmin Benoit previously told Insider.

Benoit is asexual and aromantic, meaning she experiences little to no attraction to others for sexual or romantic reasons. Like Otis’ classmate, Benoit realized she was asexual after noticing she wasn’t interested in romantically or sexually pursuing classmates like her peers were.

When a classmate’s girlfriend tells him she has trouble having an orgasm when they have sex, he tries to measure his penis based on bad advice from another classmate. Otis tells him to not be insecure about the size of his penis.
Sex Education Otis & Eric 1
Otis with Eric. Netflix
One of Otis’ classmates tells her boyfriend that she doesn’t orgasm when they have sex, but has with previous sexual partners. This revelation makes him feel insecure and he tries to measure his penis.

Unfortunately, while he’s trying to measure his penis, his clothes get stolen and he is forced to streak naked across the schoolyard while his horrified classmates look on. 

Later, Otis tells him that his penis isn’t “wonky,” it’s “unique. Maeve, who was also present during the conversation, chimes in to say that many women don’t orgasm through penetration alone and that the classmate should try to stimulate her clitoris as well. 

According to urologist Dr. Premal Patel, penis-related insecurities are common among his patients. Sometimes, their insecurities can cause anxiety to the point of erectile dysfunction, Patel previously told Insider.

As Otis told his classmate, taking the focus away from body parts and instead zoning into feelings of pleasure, and pleasuring your partner, can reduce this anxiety, Insider previously reported.

Aimee tells Jean that she no longer feels the desire to have sex after getting sexually assaulted. Jean says she wants to help Aimee with her relationship with her body.
Aimee and Steve on 'Sex Education'
Aimee and Steve. Sam Taylor/Netflix
In season two, Aimee is sexually assaulted while on the bus on her way to school. She starts therapy with Jean in the third season to understand and work through her trauma from the incident. 

One of the issues Aimee says she’s running into is that she no longer likes how her body feels and doesn’t enjoy it when her boyfriend Steve touches her. She tells Jean that this is new to her because she used to like her body and liked having sex. 

Aimee says she just wants to be the “old me.”

In response, Jean tells Aimee that she might never be the “old” Aimee again but they’re going to work together in therapy to process the trauma of Aimee’s sexual assault so they can gain clarity on the event and can work towards healing Aimee’s relationship with her body. 

It’s common to feel disconnected from your body after experiencing sexual trauma.

“It lives in the body and it can affect your libido, the level of safety you feel, and prevent relaxation, which is important for enjoying sex or orgasming,” Caroline Leach, a sex therapist at The Mind Embodied in Broomfield, Colorado, previously told Insider.

Leach said taking small steps so you know your body is safe can help. To do that, she suggests masturbating, starting a yoga practice, and putting lotion all over your body.

Being honest with partners about how you feel and what you need can also help, she said.

After Cynthia’s beloved cat dies, she wants to have sex all the time. Otis tells her husband that she’s possibly using sex to distract herself from her grief.
Jeffrey and Otis on Sex Education
Jeffrey and Otis. Netflix
Maeve’s trailer park landlord, Cynthia, and her husband, Jeffrey, accidentally kill their pet cat Jonathan while having sex and Cynthia just wants to have sex in the days that follow.

A confused Jeffrey tells Otis that he thought Cynthia would “fall apart” because the couple didn’t have any kids and Jonathan was like a son to her. Instead, according to Jeffrey, Cynthia hasn’t even cried.

Otis explains that grief hits people in different ways and that Cynthia probably wants to be intimate with Jeffrey to avoid feeling sad about Jonathan’s sudden death.

This is a pretty solid take on the situation, according to professionals. Everyone processes grief in their own way, including with distractions like sex.

Often, these distractions prevent people from processing their true emotions, prolonging feelings of hopelessness and unhealthy patterns, therapist Chloe Carmichael previously told Insider.

Mental health experts suggest journaling about uncomfortable feelings and honoring the people you’ve lost in your daily actions to move forward.