For the longest time, conversations about sex in art dangled between a two terms: pornography and erotica. Pornography is a term the meaning of which seems to be innately known to any speaker: it’s anything that arouses you.
Erotica, on the other hand, is a term that people have been arguing over for ages. It can mean anything from ‘sex used as a theme in a serious story’ to ‘more respectful and realistic representation of sex’. Each definition is validated by contrasting it with ‘pornography’, the meaning of which seems admirably more self-sufficient. Simply put, the X-rated stuff you can see in ‘Pornhub’ is pornography, while what Netflix came up with in ‘Lust Stories’ seems to be erotica.
OTT platforms have made space for a whole new genre of films and shows that deal with sex. More specifically, they deal with sex education.
Sex education has been a touchy subject in schools everywhere. Most schools in India refuse to teach the subject. When there are related bits in biology textbooks that must be taught, teachers rush through the it at Mach 2 speed, eyes fixed on the page, a fist clenching an already crumpled handkerchief.
The genre ‘sex education’ in films, on the other hand, is a liberal exploration of sex and everything around it, so much so that even the sanskaris among us who want a genuine discussion of the subject may gulp at first.
Two shows have been pushing the genre ahead, both from Netflix. One is an animated show called ‘Big Mouth’. While animation is being claimed by more “adult” shows such as ‘BoJack Horseman’, ‘Big Mouth’ does the opposite — it claims the art back for teens by talking about the problems associated with puberty.
Cartoons have historically been associated with what adults think teens want, or worse, what adults thinks teens need. In reality, anyone who has left a child alone with the internet knows that they land on the most sinister stuff.
‘Big Mouth’ claims the animation space for what teens ought to know about the time when their bodies are going through rapid changes.
The second season of best-known show in the genre dropped this week. It is blunty titled ‘Sex Education’ and it deals with a school set in Britain, although you tend to be skeptical about that if you have watched enough American High School dramas. The show centres on a boy who gives out sex advice to bunch of confused teens who seem to be getting everything about what love doing, wrong.
With this trope, the show explores a plethora of issues, busting our most persistent myths along the way. It is hugely entertaining partly because the complications around sex have always been dramatic in cinema, but the story-telling is fairly unprecendented. The second season pushes this even further. It starts off with the misunderstandings around chlamydia and goes on to talk about anal douching. The show critiques the educational system’s idea of how sex education should work: that the focus is too much on reproduction rather than on the pleasure, it throws around biological terms a lot (sperm, egg, zygote) and have a strict understanding on what children “must know”.
While the show is an attempt to fill out the lacunae in transatlantic lifestyles, there are very valuable lessons in it about consent to a country as unsafe for women as India.
Thankfully, despite many calls from the conservative voices in the country, there has been no censorship on the OTT content.
One can imagine how brutally and unnecessarily these sex education shows, which we badly need, can be cut by a body like the CBFC.