This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Talking to your parents about sex, deep throating and masturbation is the "icky" emotional equivalent of being inside a festival portaloo that has been tipped upside down. Most of my classmates were lucky enough to get away with a quick chat about "being careful", and that was that. Nothing close to what Otis from Netflix's new show Sex Education has to put up with. His mum is a sex therapist, who helps clients rediscover the intimacy in their relationships. "Like a prostitute?" one of his classmates asks at one point. "No, like a crazy doctor," Otis corrects him.
In another scene, when his far cooler classmate Adam comes to visit and stumbles into Otis' mum's home practice, Otis is forced to answer why "there are so many paintings of pussies on the walls", and then why a DVD of a guy squeezing his own balls is playing on the telly. All Otis can do to protect the family secret is pretend the video is part of his own personal porn collection. He'll say anything to hide what his mother does for a living. His efforts, however, ultimately prove pointless, when everyone at school is treated to a sex-ed video starring his mother using an aubergine to demonstrate how to masturbate, and what a cock feels like when it's about to come.
I can feel Otis' pain. My childhood home was filled with enough conversations about erect penises to make anyone uncomfortable, let alone a kid going through puberty. My dad is a proud and passionate urologist, or: a penis doctor. And though our home wasn't full of how-to sex films, my dad was constantly embarrassing me.
For example, as a family we used to visit our local pool to swim lengths. But I stopped going when, around the time I hit puberty, my dad insisted on using the towel he was gifted by a Viagra company. On the towel, in the brand's famous blue, was the equation: Venus symbol + limp limb + Viagra = an erect penis.
When I was 14, my dad came to my school to give a guest lecture on venereal diseases and safe sex. I tried to fake food poisoning to get out of having to go in that day, but it's pretty hard to play sick when your father is an actual doctor. So instead of making me take the bus, he drove me to school himself, in a car that's fitted with a "Captain Catheter" bumper sticker. As he drove, he sang along to a song by the band Mannheim Uroband, which has lyrics such as, "Oh prostate, you're always there for us."
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To be fair, Otis has it a little harder than me. In the morning, his mum's one-night-stands keep stumbling into his room, mistaking it for the toilet. After breakfast, he has to make small chat with her patients – one of whom is wearing a strap-on – and he has to sit by and watch his mum share a joint with Adam, while giving his classmate a lecture on impotence.
But eventually, Otis discovers that his unusual upbringing can have its advantages. Not only because he becomes an expert of sorts on the female anatomy, but also because teenagers – even though they pretend otherwise – have no idea about sex, making Otis his school's lone sex expert.
Again, I can relate. For every "your dad sticks his finger in people's arses for money" taunt, or "how many cocks has your dad had in his hand?" goading, a classmate would ask me a genuine question about sex and puberty. And then, as I got older, I started to notice a few of the boys at school were avoiding eye contact with me. I had no idea why until I mentioned it to my parents over lunch, and my dad said, "You have no idea how many of them have sat on my couch."
He was right. I didn't know, but my classmates didn't know that I didn't know. It was then that I realised being the son of a urologist may not be so bad after all. Or, as Otis' best friend Eric puts it: Knowledge is power and power is status.