As far as entertainment options go, 2020 was a very good year to be stuck at home with time on your hands. No matter what type of sex scenes you’re into, you could probably find them (and develop a taste for new ones) on one of the many porn-adjacent shows on Netflix and other streaming services.
But a few of the shows and series we watched in 2020 really stood out for the way they dealt with issues related to sex and sexuality. Now that the Oscars are over, we encourage you to add these award-worthy shows to your queue. And the Nurxy goes to . . .
Best Look at the Complexities of Consent: I May Destroy You
This HBO series about a Millennial writer coping with the aftermath of sexual assault thoughtfully explores the topic of consent and draws attention to many different types of assault and betrayal. The narrative centers around main character Arabella seeking vengeance for being drugged and raped, but the series explores other types of sexual assault too, like when a guy she’s consensually having sex with takes the condom off mid-act without telling her. Or when her friend Kwame has consensual sex with a Grindr hook-up, but then is forced to do it a second time, against his will, as he’s trying to leave. Or when Arabella’s other bestie Terry has a threesome with two guys and thinks she’s orchestrated it all, only to realize later that the guys knew each other but pretended they didn’t. Although this might sound depressing (and could be triggering for survivors), I May Destroy You is filled with moments of humor and joy — mostly from Arabella, Terry and Kwame’s sweet and strong friendship — and will make anyone think more deeply about the meaning of consent and boundaries in both the bedroom and life.
Best Reminder that Sex Is for Every Body: Everything’s Gonna Be Okay
Over two episodes of the Freeform show Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, 17-year-old Matilda, who is on the autism spectrum, has sex for the first time in a scene that will be familiar to a whole lot of neurotypical people (drunk, at a party, in a one-night stand scenario). What’s not typical is how those around Matilda react, as they question if autism means she’s unable to consent, and she asserts that she has the right to have drunken, unsatisfying first sex if she wants to. We give kudos to this show for navigating complex consent territory and reminding everybody that sex is for . . . every body.
Best Truth-Telling Looks at Adolescence (TIE): Pen15 and Never Have I Ever
Sure there’s a time for teen dramas like Outer Banks and Riverdale, acted by model-types in their 20s, but for unflinching looks at how it really feels to navigate adolescence and sexual awakenings the prize goes in a tie to Never Have I Ever and Pen15. These two shows mine the teen years for humor and insights into puberty, friendship and first lusts, celebrating all the messiness that real people experience when they’re no longer kids but far from adulthood.
Best Reminder of How Far We’ve Come: Bridgerton
While this period piece had no shortage of steamy scenes, what may have been the biggest turn-on about watching it was realizing how much better things are today. Bridgerton ingenue Daphne has been kept so ignorant of all things sex that she still doesn’t know how babies are made until well past her wedding night, then she tries to force her husband into getting her pregnant against his will (which, as our contributing educator Cassandra Corrado has pointed out, is a form of sexual assault called reproductive coercion). Then there’s the unmarried pregnant girl compelled to try to trick Daphne’s brother into marrying her lest she bring her family down in shame, and Daphne’s other brother can’t be with the woman he he’s hot for because she’s not of adequate social status. The modern era might have its challenges, but at least Sex Ed can be found online, birth control arrives in the mail, and people have a whole lot more control over their bodies and their lives.
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