Sex Education

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Sex Education TV Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Quirky comedy has terrific premise, tons of mature content.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 63 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

This comedy is dirty, but sweet. Characters are very frank about sex and desire in a way that comes off as positive, healthy. Themes of communication, self-acceptance, compassion are clearly communicated. Relationships grow and strengthen over course of show. People with problems are able to improve under care of accepting therapists, though issues do not evaporate suddenly or magically, and characters are shown dealing with them over a long period of time. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jean is an older woman who's not ashamed of her sexuality or to talk about sex with her teen son. Otis is a confused young man but confident in many ways and grows over course of series. Otis and Jean have a genuine relationship that also grows. Maeve is called "slag," made the subject of sex jokes at school. Eric is a proud and out gay teen. Both are able to resolve some -- but not all -- of their issues. Characters are diverse in age, race, body type, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical ability, including characters who are not conventionally attractive (but aren't told that they're wrong or foolish for having romantic attractions, even to those who are considered more attractive by most) and a character who uses a wheelchair (but is still seen as a whole person with romantic and sexual feelings, and a viable romantic prospect for others). Gay love stories are taken as seriously as heterosexual ones. Overall tone is light and comic, but the show doesn't mock or humiliate its characters.  

Violence

Violence has connections to bullying, including sexual harassment: Eric is bullied and shaken down by a boy who threatens him physically, slaps him, slams him up against lockers, and more; their relationship grows more complicated toward the end of season 1 and in season 2, when it becomes sexual (and eventually becomes supportive and affectionate). A girl knees a boy in the crotch after he repeatedly tells her "nice rack." A character self-harms in season 2 in order to temporarily evade his parents' unreasonable expectations; he recovers, and when his parents find out about the self-harm, they are able to evolve into a more sympathetic and honest relationship. 

Sex

Sexual content is frequent and very mature. Both males and females are visible nude, including a scene in which a boy displays his naked uncircumcised penis to a crowd at school. Characters have very explicit sex, with lots of movement and noises as well as bare breasts and talk about orgasms, positions, body fluids, masturbation, pornography, etc. A character methodically lays out the supplies for masturbation (lube, tissues, pornography with a nude woman on the cover) before being interrupted by one of his mother's lovers, in one of her robes. A girl is the subject of sexual rumors, like about her giving oral sex to multiple males on a dare. We hear about one couple's experience with "strap-on" sex, two teen boys having a sexual affair talk at length about "douching" before anal sex, a boy masturbates frequently and intensely (his genitals are covered by clothes but we do see a spurt of bodily fluids when it hits a car's window), and so on. Expect same-sex kissing and dating, as well as at least one character who comes to terms with her asexual status. 

Language

Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," "piss" (for urinating). Sexual words are common: "t-ts," "c--k," "strap-on," "spunk," "jizz," "hand jobs." A girl is called "slag" and "nympho," a gay teen is called "f-g." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage drinking and drug use is casual and frequent. Teens smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey and beer. A teen shares a joint with the mom of one of his friends. A teen boy takes three Viagra in hopes of giving his girlfriend better sex.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sex Education is a comedy about a sex therapist (Gillian Anderson) and her semi-miserable, definitely sexually uneasy teenage son (Asa Butterfield). The overall vibe is sweet: Characters are supportive of each other, and they generally treat each other with acceptance and kindness. Notable exceptions are two bullied characters -- Eric, who's physically menaced for being gay and gentle, and Maeve, who's the "slag" (the show is set in England) of the school. But their arcs have some redemption, as both work to handle their abusers and accept themselves. Sexual content is extremely frank: Viewers see both male and female nudity, including close-ups of genitals. Characters have sex with lots of movement, noise, and realistic talk about orgasms, sexual practices, positions, body fluids, body parts, and on and on. Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples kiss and date; the show has a general openness and acceptance around gender identity issues and many types of sexual orientations, including asexuality. Women, including one in her 50s, have strong/central roles, and their desires and sexuality are represented as much as those of male characters. Language is frequent and often sexual: Expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," and "hell," as well as "c--k," "jizz," "t-ts," "f-g," and "slag." Teens habitually drink, smoke cigarettes, and smoke pot, including a scene in which one character's mom flirtatiously shares a joint with a teen. In another scene, a boy takes multiple Viagra in hopes of having better sex with his girlfriend and suffers a painful erection, which is played for laughs. Bottom line? This show is mature but positive, with realistic problems and relatable characters who often show each other profound kindness in the midst of TV absurdity. Sex Education's second season is more of the same sexual frankness, often with a comic spin (like when a boy is discovered masturbating in a car by his mother and body fluids spurt onto the car's window), but sometimes presented more seriously (a girl who suffers from vaginismus is shown working on her issue over the course of the series and doesn't magically get better just because she falls in love). In the second season, too, though this show is lighthearted, characters and their desires and problems are taken seriously, and they find realistic ways to improve their lot. New characters are also a diverse lot in terms of race, ethnicity, body type, gender and sexual identity, and physical ability (including a character who uses a wheelchair to get around and is considered attractive and romantically viable). 

Wondering if Sex Education is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHaelal February 4, 2019

Kids already know

My kid didn’t want to watch the show with me (understandably), but we’ve discussed it a lot. He’s soon to be thirteen and there wasn’t anything in this show tha... Continue reading
Adult Written byBeaGee January 21, 2020

If they're going to learn about it, this is a good place to do so.

A lot of reviewers are expressing how blatant this show is about sex and how they feel it's for adult audiences only. It's a shame that they're... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJane1234 January 25, 2019

Interesting, funny and informative

Sex education is really funny and I loved it!! Yes it has a lot of sex, nudity and profanity but you can actually learn a lot from this tv show and understand b... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byellia321 February 7, 2019

Incredible, amazing, interesting show!

Yes, it has a lot of sexual scenes in it, but it isn’t pointless or irrelevant and the overall message is incredibly positive and worth it. The way this show po... Continue reading

What's the story?

Otis (Asa Butterfield) has had pretty unconventional SEX EDUCATION. His mom, Jean (Gillian Anderson), is a sex therapist who practices the sexual freedom she preaches to her clients and to her son. So maybe it's no surprise that when savvy school pariah Maeve (Emma Mackey) points out that many of their classmates are struggling with their own sex lives, Otis is ready to dispense some of the wisdom he's heard over the years. But is their business just business? Or is there something else brewing between the two? 

Is it any good?

Stocked with great actors and built around a premise with comic legs (if you're OK with an unusually mature sex romp mostly set in a high school), this quirky comedy is a total kick. Its teens are brimming with hormones: making out before school, getting busy afterwards -- even Otis' eager best friend (the disarmingly charming Ncuti Gatwa) gave "two and a half hand jobs" to a boy he met on vacation. The sexual barrage continues at home, where Otis' mom asks him frankly about his masturbation habits, and passes on intimate advice to a classmate who came over to work on a project. Meanwhile, as the show begins, Otis himself is a late bloomer. Or not interested. Or something, even as he passes on his extensive knowledge on the subjects to teens struggling with varied dysfunctions. (In the show's second season, Otis matures sexually, becoming interested in sex and romance, even as he still struggles with interpersonal dynamics.)

It's an interesting contrast to vintage teen sex comedies, which blithely assume that everyone's doing it, or wants to, and the only problem is a lack of sex, not too much of it. Or not the right kind, or with the wrong person, all dilemmas faced by those who come to Otis and Jean for their advice. It's a nice shot of realism in a show that often reads as absurd -- e.g., in the show's first episode, a young man climbs on a cafeteria table and exposes himself to the student body as a stab at "owning his narrative." Despite such hijinks, the show is centered on a central and little-examined truth: Though most (but not all!) people want love and sex, far fewer know exactly how to get it, or what to do with it once they have it. That mooring lends Sex Education an essential sweetness and relatability that will make viewers want to see more -- because they'll see themselves. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the premise of the show. Is it realistic that teens would pay for sex therapy from a nonprofessional? Or from anyone, at all? Why do shows heighten reality? Is it for comic or dramatic effect, or both? Does the premise of this show work for you? 

  • Most of the actors cast on Sex Education as teens are in their 20s. Does that make it harder for them to believably play teens? Does it make their sexual activities easier to watch? Why would older actors be cast instead of teens? Would this show be uncomfortable to watch if the cast was mostly actual teens? 

  • How do the characters on Sex Education demonstrate empathy and communication? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

For kids who love teen TV

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate