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Most people have a cringe-worthy memory from health class.

Whether it was watching a 60-year-old woman unroll a condom onto a phallic object or being the one kid who asked the "inappropriate" question the teacher was too uncomfortable to answer, sixth grade Sex Ed is a subject many want to avoid revisiting.

Despite all the embarrassing moments, young people have been, and will continue to be, curious about sex. Thanks to the Internet, they know what they're learning at school isn't the full picture.

In multiple surveys about Sex Ed, young people express a desire for more education, up-to-date information on healthy relationships, LGBTQ+ content, and fun, positive ways to learn about pleasure and intimacy. In other words, they want material that goes beyond what they learn in school or what they feel comfortable discussing with their parents. Ideally, they want to learn it from confident teachers who are comfortable with the subject matter.

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rue & jules | euphoria

Normally, cuffing season would be just taking off around this time of year, and you'd be narrowing down your romantic roster to ensure you end up with someone to cuddle through the winter months. But as the weather gets colder and the pandemic rages on, the odds of finding a significant other get slimmer and slimmer.

Since there are only so many "I miss you" texts you can send to your ex just to feel something before they block your number, maybe it's time to start fixating on fictional romantic couples to fill that void in your heart. While you could certainly use this time to get really into romance novels, let's be honest: At this point in quarantine, the only thing you're reading is takeout menus.

Submit to 2020 and let the TV binges begin. Here are 10 TV couples so hot that watching them just may keep you warm through the long, cold winter.

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Upon seeing the Netflix banner advertising their new program Sex Education starring Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, I was, as I am with all of Netflix's original programming, confused as to whether it was a series or a movie.

I also remained unconvinced that I needed another high school sex comedy in my life. I grew up on SKINS and Degrassi. I was easily satisfied with the smut that Riverdale was giving me every week, so I didn't think I had room in my life for anything else. Yet, my friend, who has pushed me to watch my favorite shows of the past year (Killing Eve and Marvelous Miss Maisel) told me she loved it, and that I would likely enjoy it too. Within that same day, another person texted me asking if I'd watched it and then hours later someone in a meme page (of course) proclaimed that Netflix had gotten it right big time with this show. It was self-aware, sex-positive and open-minded – all things that are hard to come by in today's media landscape. I was convinced to at least give it a try.

I loved it. I finished it in days (it probably would have been faster if I didn't have work obligations) and in so many ways the show made me gleam with pride over its honest depiction of teenage sex. I was impressed at the depictions of teenagers owning their sexuality and enthralled by the charming characters. Asa Butterfield plays Otis, the son of a sex therapist (played by Gillian Anderson), who is struggling to master his own sexual experiences. His best friend, Eric, is played by the effervescent Ncuti Gatwa who so confidently and maturely experiments with his own sexuality and gender expression. Maeve (played by Emma Mackey), is the outsider who's misunderstood. The world thinks of her as the promiscuous girl at school, but Maeve is brilliant. She makes money by writing her peers essays and is able to support herself despite her absentee parents. She and Otis form a friendship which leads them to open a sex clinic for their peers. Maeve is the business manager, and Otis takes the role of sex therapist because, despite his own lack of experience, the years of eavesdropping on his mother's clinic has given him all he needs to counsel his peers.

The friendship between Maeve and Otis is unlikely, but they bond over their desire to make money while also helping others. In true television fashion, it shows that they're not so different after all. Disappointingly, however, the show falls back on a tired trope – boy and girl become friends, and it quickly turns romantic.

*Spoilers Ahead*

By the third episode, Otis is seemingly falling for Maeve despite her lack of interest in him. In the final episode, Maeve has decided that she must also be interested in Otis, but it's too late as Otis has moved on. This may be the most problematic theme of the show. It's the line that Billy Crystal first uttered in When Harry Met Sally, "Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way." This idea that men and women can't maintain a platonic relationship because of sex has been the plot to many a romantic comedy, but in a show focused on sex positivity, it feels incredibly backwards.

And sure, Otis is in a time where he's desperate for his first sexual experience as a heterosexual male, and Maeve is the first girl he may have been close with. He thinks because she asked him to meet her somewhere (it turns out she needed him to accompany her out of a family planning clinic) that she's romantically interested in him. Instead, in this scenario, I want Otis to take the advice he gives to Maeve's partner Jackson – stop treating her like an object. Just because Otis acknowledges Maeve's interests does not somehow mean he's a better man than Jackson, who has a surface view of Maeve. He's still vying for her attention. He thinks that just because he's better than one guy, this means she must choose him. The reality is Maeve doesn't have to choose between them. She does, in fact, have a third option: choosing neither of them.

Friendships between heterosexual men and women don't have to turn romantic. When I think of the most empowering relationships in my life, the ones that have allowed me to learn about my own sexuality through honest conversation, all that comes to mind are my platonic friendships. I firmly believe that Maeve and Otis could be at the beginning of a similarly meaningful friendship. They're two characters who've formed an unlikely bond, and I want to see the antics that can ensue. What I'm not interested in is the same old "will they or won't they," and then they finally get together, and it ends poorly, and then they can't salvage the friendship. Or they get married. Either way, that's where the trope almost always leads, and I'm bored by it.

Instead, steer Maeve away from being a manic pixie dream girl and Otis away from being the boy who uses a girl to become a man. I want to see them support one another, as friends, because quite frankly, I don't see the romantic chemistry. I see a show developing a manic pixie dream girl for their lead man, but it doesn't have to be that way.

When I look at this show at its most fundamental, I absolutely adore it and want to follow the lives of these characters for years to come. However, I want it to take a sharp turn from the direction it's currently headed. For a show that's doing so much right, Sex Education still plays into traditional, heteronormative stereotypes, ones that are at best antiquated and at worst potentially dangerous. I'm rooting for Maeve and Otis but purely because I want to see them get through the painful years of high school alive. This show is so great, it shouldn't waste its time playing to dated romantic comedy plots.

Samantha is a Boston-based freelance writer and restaurant industry professional. She takes her martinis with gin and olives. You can follow her on Instagram @samantharosmangino

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REVIEW | Big Mouth Season Two: Because Thirteen-Year-Olds Are Disgusting

In Season 2, the animated Netflix comedy takes on bigger issues and earns bigger laughs.

When you think of the coming-of-age stories that shaped your journey to adulthood, you probably don't describe them with phrases like "cum-drenched."

But with the second season of Netflix's animated comedy series Big Mouth, it's difficult to avoid graphic descriptors because the series is, well, graphic.

Twelve year old girls learning how to love their naked bodies in a Korean spa, boys succumbing to the urge to masturbate to a drying bikini, and a gym teacher losing his virginity with his student's mother; these would all make for a live action show so dirty that the raunch would inevitably overshadow the importance of the subject matter. While other adult animated series like South Park and Family Guy have used the anything-goes freedom of animation to shock, amuse, and occasionally disgust their audiences, Big Mouth uses it to take an otherwise impossibly honest look at the grossest, most uncomfortable stage in everyone's life. The medium allows the show to do something teen sex comedies have never managed before: maintain the innocence of the young characters while simultaneously showing the grotesque banalities of puberty.


Compared to Season one, the comedy's second season takes the absurdity to a darker, more honest place. The audience gets an even deeper look into the psychology of early teenagerhood, bad decisions and all. But the characters remain not only likable, but almost painfully relatable. For example, Zeke — whose romantic relationship with his pillow the audience had to endure in the first season — remains unwaveringly optimistic and child-like. We can't help but feel for him, and even like him, despite his public masturbation habits. Andrew, who we see haunted by the shame monster because of his desire to "rub fronts" with a girl he doesn't really like, is so conflicted about the "perverted" thoughts he can't seem to squelch, that he continually and heart-wrenchingly tells his puberty monster that he's "just trying to be a decent guy." This duality allows the audience to see their own puberty in a different light, perhaps undoing some of the inevitable shame we all carry with us out of our early teenage years. Big Mouth says, "We're all disgusting at thirteen. It's part of it. Let's talk about it."

Don't get us wrong, Big Mouth isn't exactly a feel-good, family program. There are plenty of cringe-worthy moments, but the show manages to also weave in some important narratives on sexuality. For example, when Gina, a girl in the boy's grade, develops before the other girls, the boys learn that there's nothing wrong with liking boobs but that they have to remember to view women holistically. This lesson doesn't prevent any raunch or hilarity, but instead comes as a byproduct of clever writing and carefully considered plot lines. Big Mouth puts to rest the age-old argument that comedy of this kind must come at the price of misogyny.

What creators Nick Kroll, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin, and Andrew Goldberg do so well in Big Mouth is invite the audience to laugh with the struggling teenagers, not at them. They present us with three dimensional people on the cusp of adulthood, and allow them to be more than the butt of dirty jokes.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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