Netflix’s new show “Big Mouth” went viral for including a cartoon of female genitals teaching a middle school girl about her body, a stark contrast to the abstinence sex education taught in Texas public schools.
Story by Taylor Newman
Last month, a clip from “Big Mouth” went viral for all the right reasons. In the show, the female lead, Jessi - a sixth grade girl just hitting puberty - gets familiar with herself by talking to her genitals. This became a trending topic because the openness of the show is not typically found in everyday sex education.
In a study by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, a group that conducts educational studies research, “more than 83 percent of Texas school districts taught abstinence-only or no sex education in 2015-16.” Currently, unless parents teach their children supplementary sex education, most children will not receive comprehensive knowledge. Accurate information is imperative since sex therapist and author of “Sex Matters”, Dr. Louanne Cole Weston, says the age to start talking to children about sex is “younger than you think.”
The show focuses on a group of horny sixth grade students going through puberty and discovering themselves as they launch into the messy, emotional battlefield that is teenage-dom. Anything related to puberty is fair game, including personifying teenage hormones into physical, antagonistic creatures. The Hormone Monster and Hormone Monstress are loud, crass, fuzzy beasts that encourage the hidden sexual desires of the developing teenagers.
However, since the show is voiced by adult actors like John Mulaney and Nick Kroll, their conversations often dip into satirical arguments. The show makes fun of how stiff parents can be with their children when it comes to talking about sex and growing up. The clip is so controversial– not many young people are talked to so bluntly about their sexuality.
There is a stigma around something that, as the show describes, is a part of you. As the TFN Education Fund points out, “some programs portray women who are interested in sex, or women who are ‘too sexual’ in the way they dress, as manipulative, unnatural and not
respectable.” Since this stigma is primarily affecting women, girls might be prone to feeling shame towards thoughts about sex.
For example, there is controversy surrounding having the sex talk in high schools. Since abstinence is the main form of sex education in Texas, pubescent kids and young adults are left without a safe and open place to ask questions. There just isn’t an easy way for developing children to express their sexual desires, questions, or concerns. So Big Mouth character, Jessi does what most girls resort to: figuring it out on their own.
Luckily, Jessi receives a lot more help than most because her genitals actually talk back, relieving all the awkward tension normally surrounding self-exploration. After receiving a tour and a not-so-subtle hint that female pleasure is indeed normal, Jessi speaks for everyone by saying, “You are not what I was expecting!”
The most shamed part of every girl’s body is just as much a part of them as an arm or a leg.If abstinence education is going to stay, it needs to be more inclusive and comprehensive, so that young students can feel comfortable asking questions that should be as normal as a routine check-up.
The time for shaming young girls about their health is over. It shouldn’t take a set of cartoon genitals to teach people about the female anatomy.