Glee’s Sex Education Episode
It was only a matter of time before Glee tackled the subject of sex education, and I’m happy to say this week’s show “Sexy” (watch Glee on Hulu) did not disappoint this sex educator mom. The genius of the episode was that it did not actually deliver much explicit sex education, but it hammered away at the fact that teenagers need it, they aren’t good at getting it, and if you are a parent or teacher you need to make sure they do get it. And for those of us who watch Glee with their kids, the show itself became a fabulous series of “teachable moments”: my 8-year-old wanted to know what Sapphic love was and my 14-year-old shared her own story of watching her science teacher put a condom on a broomstick handle.
The teacher who gets to deliver the lesson is guest star Gwyneth Paltrow, returning as the crazy-but-hip substitute named Holly Holliday, whose approach to sex education is to slip in educational messages through songs. She is the teacher you wish you had as a teenager, and the teacher whose methods will always result in hordes of PTA parents petitioning to have her fired. In the show, her over-the-top approach results in a sexy rendition of “Do You Want To Touch Me There,” because “all intimacy begins with a touch”, and ends with the Holly slipping in the STD nugget: “Remember, when you have with someone you have sex with everyone they’ve ever had sex with. And everyone’s got a random.” In another scene she helps one of the female characters express her feelings for another girl. I may be sentimental, but my 14-year-old was tearing up when their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s song Landslide was over; it was a sweet coming of age, queer-positive moment.
But the scene stealer once again came courtesy of Kurt’s dad, played to perfection by Mike O’Malley. A well-intentioned gay friend of Kurt’s gently suggests to Kurt’s dad that his son needs sex advice (Kurt plugs his ears and sings Broadway showtunes when conversations with friends turn explicit). The dad heeds his advice and delivers one of the most realistic sex talks I’ve ever seen depicted on TV, or in sex ed roleplaying. I am tempted to go back and transcribe it word for word so I can use it with my own kids. Despite the awkwardness of the subject, and the dad’s own discomfort with his son’s homosexuality—he is able to lay out the reasons why his son deserves the gift of good sex (but not till his 30th birthday!), and why he needs to be informed now.
The gag of the “celibacy club” expanding in size because the kids all somehow get scared celibate was not the right message to end on, though it was clearly the butt of so many jokes it was hard to take seriously. The icing on the cake for me personally was the incredibly sexy dance version of Prince’s Kiss, set to a tango and sung by Holly and Will (the earnest teacher, who bless his heart, ain’t afraid to sing in his falsetto. And if you liked that, you definitely want to check out the Singing In the Rain/Umbrella mash up they did in a recent episode below.)
One last personal note: my kids were staying at my mom’s house the night this aired on TV because I was away on business. They didn’t know it was about sex ed, and when my mom read about before it started she deemed it “inappropriate” for them. I wasn’t surprised--my mother could never talk to me about sex, and I can’t imagine how uncomfortable my kids would have been watching this with their grandparents (not to mention vice versa)--but I was SO happy I had the opportunity to watch it with them myself. I was able to answer their questions without embarrassment or judgment, enjoy the music, and bond.
Bonus Glee Video:
- I Beg of Thee: Watch Glee
- Glee’s Madonna Tribute: My Sex Ed TV Moment
- October is National Family Sex Education Month
- Sex Education: Teenager Style
- Condom On a Sock Demo