5 sex positive coming of age shows to stream on Netflix
Teen dramas like 'I Am Not Okay With This' and 'Sex Education' teach the importance of healthy relationships, consent and acceptance.
Photo courtesy of Netflix.
Glee and Skins helped pave the way for inclusivity on television, but teenage TV shows are getting queerer and more sex positive as we get further into the 21st century. And it's about time. While some certainly do representation better than others, Netflix seems to be leading us into the future. From queer kids with supernatural powers to high school students holding clinics in attempts to make up for a lack of good sex education, the streaming service is showing teens that sex, sexuality, and gender aren’t taboo subjects. They are teaching the importance of healthy relationships, consent and acceptance. Get ready to binge watch some of our favorite sex positive coming of age shows on Netflix.
I Am Not Okay With This
Based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel, I Am Not Okay With This is an unapologetic account of how much high school can suck. It takes the melodramatic nature of adolescence, the constant feeling that every embarrassing thing is a matter of life and death, and makes it a reality. This show is full of secrecy: secret powers, secret crushes, and a looming death without explanation. It’s no wonder Sydney (Sophia Lillis) has anger issues. Created by Jonathan Entwistle (The End of the F****ing World) and produced by Shawn Levy (Stranger Things), I Am Not Okay With This explores the supernatural while tackling some very real-world issues from internal and external homophobia to not having enough money to buy groceries. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) serves as an impeccably dressed weed-smoking, vinyl-listening, VHS-watching foil, and Syd's sidekick, much to her dismay. There is even a sex scene where the foreplay is comparing the awkward places acne appears other than your face. It’s not as overtly LGBTQ+ and sex positive as other Netflix originals, but the inclusion feels natural in the storyline and follows the source material.
Sex Education stays true to its name -- depicting everything from adolescent erectile dysfunction to sexual assault on public transit. The show is centered around Otis Milburn’s (Asa Butterfield) decision to start an underground sex clinic with the girl he has a crush on, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey). He draws from his experience from being the son of an acclaimed sex therapist Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson). It demystifies sex through honest conversation and is witty and poignant enough to be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. It flips stereotypes -- the most hypersexual character is a girl with vaginismus, who draws alien porn, and the bad boy character has trouble performing sexually. No single sexual dysfunction, orientation or disease is demonized in the show even though every “client” acts like their problem is the most embarrassing thing that Otis has ever heard. The second season even explores the lack of adequate sexual education at their high school, which though it is set in the UK, feels like a universal problem. Thankfully, Sex Education was just picked up for a third season.
Almost all of the characters in Ryan Murphy’s satire of modern politics are queer, but that’s somehow not what the show is about. The Politician is full of drama, affairs, and even attempted murder, but it never uses the queerness of its characters as a plot point. Payton (Ben Platt) doesn’t even deny when his opponent Astrid Sloan (Lucy Boynton) makes a comment about him being more into her boyfriend during their threesome. He just tells her that attacking sexual fluidity will not win her the position of class president. Payton’s campaign manager James (Theo Germaine) is trans, but his identity is never discussed. There is no transphobia. No storyline about his transition. He just is. Payton’s mother, Georgina (Gwenyth Paltrow) has an extramarital affair with a woman and the drama is solely due to the fact that she had an affair at all. Leaning a little older when it comes to the sexual content, the show explores a wide range of relationship dynamics even including a character who identifies as a gender non-conforming lesbian, Sky Leighton. While the queer representation far surmounts any other form of representation, it is set at an upper-class private school in Santa Barbara, it at least tries to address a variety of identities. The premiere date is yet to be announced, but The Politician will return for a second season.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
From pansexual warlocks to magical BDSM dungeons, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina doesn’t shy away from sex or sexuality. Ambrose’s (Chance Perdomo) pansexuality is addressed and celebrated without it becoming his defining characteristic. There is no judgment or turmoil when he goes from dating a man to dating women -- his love for both is accepted in equal measure. Susie's (Lachlan Watson) transition to Theo happens with grace and careful explanation, while still allowing him to live within a space of confusion. Where Ambrose avoids prejudice -- unsurprisingly the magic community is more LGBTQ+ friendly than Greendale -- Theo gets bullied by the football team for his androgynous appearance. This storyline shows the reality of rejection and ridicule that many gender non-conforming people face on a daily basis, but it also shows that Theo’s support system helps him stand up for himself. The show doesn’t shy away from the difficulties trans people face regularly from bullying to the fear that love will be more difficult for them to find.
The reboot also handles sex with responsibility -- framing it as something to be enjoyed when you are ready, not feared and demonized. When Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) is trying to decide if she wants to engage in a sexual ritual with her boyfriend, her best friend Rosalind (Jaz Sinclair) gives her one of the best checklists for deciding if you want to go all the way: Do you like him? Do you trust him? Is he pressuring you? The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 4 is expected to come out later this year.
Atypical follows Sam (Keir Gilchrist) a teenager with autism and his family through his final year of high school and into his freshman year of college. The first season has Sam making his first foray into the world of dating and while he’s not exactly good at it at first, he has plenty of help. His best friend Zahid (Nik Dodani) frequently does more harm than good, as do both of his parents, but at least they’re trying. After a few failed dating attempts and an unrequited confession of love, Sam eventually finds Paige (Jenna Boyd) the valedictorian of their class who likes him for him and has no problem taking the time to guide him through his first relationship. While Sam is the main character, his sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Pain) takes on a bigger role as the show goes on. Her relationship with her boyfriend is healthy and loving, but that doesn’t stop her from developing complicated feelings for her best friend Izzie (Fivel Stewart). Though the couple is vehemently shipped across the internet, Izzie and Casey have a hard time accepting the change in their relationship whether it be from fear of judgment or fear of change. Atypical has little LGBTQ representation compared to some of the other Netflix shows in this list, but it is important to note that few shows even try to tackle what it is like to be a teen on the spectrum.