Puberty is gross. Your body changes, your hormones rage, and your life will never be the same again. Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece Big Mouth on Netflix understands that this extended awkward period is an isolated, confusing time when no one knows what's going on, they just know it sucks. As it turns out, even as an adult you might have no idea what was going on back in the day (or what's happening now), especially if you were the victim of a less-than-ideal sex-ed program at school.
Listen, I loved my Catholic high school, but when your health teacher's legal name is Ms. Hymen and you're the only one laughing, something is very, very wrong. I had crowdsourced my sex-ed through trial and error, casual girl talk, and the occasional Wikipedia black hole. Even as a quote-unquote adult, there's still a lot I don't know, but these Big Mouth sex-ed lessons filled some very important holes.
If you attended middle school or high school after 2010, you've probably heard of 'blue waffle. This fictional STI spread across the internet when a truly disgusting photo of a diseased blue labia became the go-to shock image for pranking your friends and giving them nightmares for the rest of their adult lives (because your innocence was well and truly lost after seeing that sh*t). Naturally, that image was followed by a blue waffle penis and the story of an STI that can only be transferred from women to men. Big Mouth's Emmy-nominated Planned Parenthood episode dropped a lot of knowledge, but this myth being debunked was the icing on the cake.
Jessi meets her vagina on the season one episode "Girls Are Horny Too," but this wasn't the first time Netflix shed some light on the sad truth that not all women know what's going on "down there." Orange Is The New Black titled an entire second season episode after "A Whole Other Hole" explaining that the vaginal opening and the urethra are two separate holes, but Kristen Wiig's talking vagina on Big Mouth introduced the two-holed truth to a new audience.
While the blame for a lot of these sex-ed fails lies solely on the American school system, this one was on me. I didn't know about the female urethra until a talking animated vagina told me it existed, but even then, I didn't put two and two together to realize that boys *also* have a urethra. It was a throwaway line on Big Mouth's Queer Eye crossover during season three that helped me learn this obvious sex-ed lesson, when Tan France explains that Coach Steve somehow managed to stuff his entire shirt into his urethra during a failed French tuck attempt. Boys and girls really aren't that different after all.
No one likes a head pusher, but Big Mouth's sex-ed made it abundantly clear that pressuring someone into sexual acts isn't consent. We've always known The Head Push is annoying, but during a high school theatre party, the older kids of Big Mouth school a Head Pusher on why he's the absolute worst. Consent isn't the absence of a "no," it's a freely given and enthusiastic "yes." That not-so-innocuous head push takes away the "freely given" aspect of the equation, and Nick's older sister Leah was completely right to throw her former crush Daniel out of her bedroom, her party, and her life. Sadly, consent isn't a compulsory part of the American sex-ed curriculum.
We're in a burgeoning era of body positivity (bye-bye, Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, hello Fenty!), but there's more to loving your body than feeling sexy. Big Mouth's second episode on season two teaches its leading ladies to appreciate their bodies during a trip to a spa. Rather than showing confident naked women through the male gaze like in Porky's (or basically any other movie), Big Mouth depicted women's bodies without sexualizing them while emphasizing their beauty and power. Instead of showing the female body as a sexual plaything or some mechanism for churning out babies, Big Mouth's sex-ed emphasized their human worth.
To be fair, the first time I heard about masturbation was during a middle school sex-ed course. It was only talked about in regard to boys, and the entire class started laughing every time the word was mentioned. A wonderful introduction to the topic, it was not. It wasn't until college that I learned what Big Mouth explains during season three's "How to Have an Orgasm": Most women masturbate, too. Women rarely talk about pleasuring themselves, and it's so uncommon in media that Marnie's masturbation scene on Girls made national headlines. This was in 2012, people!
Speaking of common misconceptions, television shows and movies usually portray men as sex monsters with one-track minds and little shame. It doesn't help that women are regularly warned that their dates "only want one thing" (or that a lot of guys do seem to only want that one thing). Big Mouth's intimate look into the male psyche as it's forming, as written by adult men, gives a unique perspective on male feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and insecurity in a way that finally hammered home how men do, in fact, have feelings. They might ghost you, but they're still human.
Returning to the groundbreaking season three episode "How to Have an Orgasm," Jessi has trouble finishing using only her hand, which makes her anxious and unmotivated to try again. It's so easy for guys to get themselves off, and because that's the only depiction of masturbation regularly shown in the media, a lot of ladies think it should be really easy for women to get themselves off, too. Yeah, no. Jessi eventually gets down with a vibrating toothbrush, while her friend Missy prefers using a special pillow. There's more than one way to have an orgasm, and stressing about it will only make it harder. It's normal to have a little trouble figuring yourself out — just, please, use a condom if you're going to masturbate with a household object. Season four better include an episode about UTIs.
Okay, not *all* porn is fine. PornHub, for example, hosts a lot of content that exploits underaged girls, shows human trafficking victims, or was uploaded as revenge porn. There's also a lot of porn that creates unrealistic expectations for women in bed and looks nothing like real-life sex. None of that is okay. Ethical porn does exist, however, and you shouldn't feel ashamed of watching it. Big Mouth introduces porn in a realistic way (using Sylvester Stallone porn that exists IRL), but it also shows the dangers of using porn to avoid your feelings. If you know someone who's using porn to numb their humanity, send them to a therapist to work that sh*t out.
Kristen Wiig's talking vagina taught us more than just where pee comes from. We talk about the vagina so casually that it's easy to forget the word "vagina" only refers to the internal canal that connects your uterus to the outside world. And, yes, this colloquialization is probably the result of ingrained social misogyny that only cares about the part of a woman's genitals that benefits men. The entrance is formed by the vulva and the labia, which is split into the Labia Majora and the Labia Minora. If you took a basic human anatomy class, you probably knew all of this and could map all of these sections out on a diagram. If you were given the option to skip anatomy and take an introductory law course instead, you might have heard about this for the first time on a Netflix show created by that dude who played Ruxin on The League.
Let's pour one out for the first girl in your seventh-grade class to get boobs. Sure, we were all jealous of her because we all secretly crave attention and feel the need to live up to toxic beauty standards, but that girl really went through it. Big Mouth's sex-ed shows her struggle both through the boys' objectifying reaction to Mother Nature's early gift *and* through girl-on-girl slut-shaming. Jealousy is ugly, and Jessi learns that the hard way when some harmless gossip becomes super harmful gossip and spreads through her entire school. Just because you know that your intentions are pure and you support women doesn't mean everyone you're talking to shares your beliefs.
It's easy to not question school dress codes. It sounds fine to ask that children not wear skirts higher than six inches above the knee or shirts with straps thinner than three inches. Except, it isn't. Season three's "Girls Are Angry Too" shows that dress codes only enforce victim-blaming and support rape culture by implying that women need to cover up so that men don't sexualize them, instead of just asking the men to not sexualize children. If you tell boys who are going through puberty that they're monsters who can't control themselves and tell girls that it's women who need to change their behavior, what do you think is going to happen?
Technically, this isn't one of Big Mouth's sex-ed lessons, but the series' standardized testing episode raised concerns about Adderall usage I had never thought of before. Usually, Adderall is described as a magical test-taking pill that will make you so hyper-focused, it's basically cheating. What its proponents don't explain is that taking Adderall when you don't actually need it can have some seriously messed up side effects, whether it's as mild as losing a little sleep or as aggressive as Missy's full mental breakdown. This study drug can actually cause you to tweak out and be less prepared than you would have been if you'd just tried your best and acknowledged that standardized tests are stupid anyway.
Andrew Glouberman identifies as straight. He's given it serious consideration and come to the conclusion that he isn't sexually interested in men, but it would have been fine if he was. Andrew Glouberman also gets hard while looking at videos of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. And Dwayne isn't the only man on Big Mouth's extended universe that has sent blood flowing to Andrew's happy place. Sexuality is complicated — Seriously, is anyone 100% straight? — and being a heterosexual person who occasionally finds other men (or women) sexually attractive is perfectly normal.
It's also perfectly normal to not be straight. Big Mouth's sex-ed inspired a New York Times think piece on how some gay teens still find it difficult to come out even in liberal schools for a variety of reasons both external and internal, but Big Mouth normalizes queer identities and a healthy childhood exploration of sexual identity. LGBTQ children are "going through changes," as the theme song repeatedly puts it, just like Big Mouth's many straight characters, and their experiences shouldn't be otherized or relegated to Indie Film territory.
Likewise, you can't control who you're attracted to. Even if it's your best friend's goth older brother. During season three's child wedding, Jessi realizes that she's super into Nick's older brother, Judd, even though he's weird and she doesn't like him as a person. So it goes. Jessi asks her hormone monstress if she'll ever grow out of liking guys she can't have, and we can answer that for her. No, you won't. Lola probably didn't expect to be into Andrew, but she went along with it anyway. You want who you want, and as long as it's legal and not toxic/destructive, we should all be fine with that.
Big Mouth's Planned Parenthood episode is the sex-ed course we all needed in high school. Blue waffle isn't real! Neither is the pull-out method! And PP is more than just an abortion provider! This is not information you receive in a school where even condoms are a conversational no-no, so it shouldn't be surprising that many students learn very little about abortion itself in their health classes. Andrew's mother meets her husband on the way back from receiving an abortion, then goes onto have a healthy baby boy when she's ready for him. This is possible because, contrary to popular belief, successful elective abortions don't cause infertility. Seriously, you can Google it!
Again, Planned Parenthood does way more than provide abortions. Of the 9.5 million services provided in 2014, only 324,000 involved pregnancy termination. STI screenings and birth control are obvious services for a company known for its reproductive health care, but I didn't know that Planned Parenthood offered cancer screenings until Big Mouth's Planned Parenthood episode. Planned Parenthood screens for cervical cancer through Pap and HPV tests, Colposcopies, Cryotherapy, and LEEP, it provides mammograms and clinical breast exams to screen for breast cancer, and it helps men find out if they're at risk for testicular cancer. Yeah, PP isn't just a lady thing.
It's truly shocking how many people forget that feminism needs to be intersectional and inclusive. This extends to all female-identifying gender identities (and non-female gender identities, because feminism is about equality for all) and all ethnicities, but as Big Mouth's sex-ed makes clear during its third season sl*t walk, inclusivity also means welcoming women whose protest looks different than yours. Missy is a feminist, but she isn't comfortable dressing provocatively to make a point. Pressuring her into behaviors that make her uncomfortable isn't inclusive, especially when she's still trying to show her solidarity in other ways. We're fighting for women's right to choose how they dress, even if they want to dress like Minions.
We've all mistakenly felt entitled to our crushes for one reason or another — maybe they're your ex, maybe you saw them first, maybe you're just an *sshole — but Big Mouth's season three finale showed the ridiculousness of dibs better than any IRL dibs fiasco ever could. Missy has made it clear that she doesn't want to be with Andrew, so it should have been fine for her to get together with Nick once she broke up with her other boyfriend. Andrew can't control how Missy feels, and if two people want to be with each other, some tangentially-related third party's feelings shouldn't stop them. Nick could have given Andrew a heads' up and Missy could have dumped her other boyfriend sooner, but people aren't property, so Andrew's claim to Missy was totally bogus. Remember this the next time you want to burn a bridge over some stupid crush.
Big Mouth's sex-ed shows the right way to be wrong when Nick tries to help the sl*t walk participants by calling them sl*ts, then learns from his mistake. An even better example of trying your best and learning how to be better comes from Big Mouth's creators themselves, who mistakenly identified Freddie Mercury as gay during season one, then apologized and clarified that he was bisexual in a later season. The creators have also apologized for misrepresenting pansexuality during season three, and we'd be shocked if they didn't weave a more accurate definition into later seasons.
Andrew and Nick's friend breakup at the end of season three was heartbreaking, not only because we've grown to love these disgusting little idiots, but also because we've all had a toxic friend. We've probably also all *been* a toxic friend, but not everyone is as eloquent when sharing their feelings as Andrew was. It's OK to breakup with friendships that no longer serve your growth, especially if it's done with the detached compassion that Andrew shows Nick. Sadly, it's just as likely that we've been in Nick's shoes and not realized that our behavior was hurting the people we love.
Gaslighting awareness should be included in every sex-ed class from here to The Planet Formerly Known As Pluto. Poor, lonely Lola was the victim of gaslighting from her faux-ally teacher during season three's Disclosure musical, which was itself a wonderful lesson on how messed up the movie Disclosure is and why we should always believe women. At this point, many women have figured out how to spot gaslighting from sh*tty dudes who can't take responsibility for their own drama, but this wasn't the first time Lola has been gaslighted on Big Mouth. Devin's treatment of Lola, especially during the sleepover episode on season one, is another example of this sad little monster being convinced that she's the problem in a toxic relationship built solely to idealize her partner.
Birth control has come a long way from Elaine Benes's beloved sponge. In another golden nugget from Big Mouth's Planned Parenthood episode, Leah learns all about her birth control options on a Bachelor parody where she meets an IUD, a diaphragm, that bar that gets injected into your arm, birth control pills, condoms, and the inadvisable pull-out method. When I was in high school, I knew about three of those options. Considering the IUD could have its own Bachelorette spin-off debating the benefits of the Mirena vs. the Skyla and all their friends, it's clear birth control is a cornucopia of confusion.
No, The Cloud isn't some freaky new STD. We're talking about Steve Jobs's terrible invention where all of your photos and data are uploaded to some nebulous external system you can share with your entire family and a plethora of internet hackers. Andrew accidentally uploads his nudes to the Glouberman Family Cloud account, teaching us two very important lessons: never put your face in a nude, and don't upload anything to the Cloud that you wouldn't want your parents to find.
Have you ever wondered why the head cheerleader always seems to be with the captain of the football team? It's not that they're the only attractive people in school or that all jocks instinctively get along well with cheerleaders. It's all about social hierarchy. Big Mouth's sex-ed deconstructs this phenomenon when Devin is dethroned as the hottest girl at Bridgeton Middle School by Ali Wong, leading her child husband Devon to question his devotion to her. Clout is not a stable basis for relationships, just ask Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau.
This one goes out to my theatre kids. Just like those football captains always have a head cheerleader on their arm, Millie Dillmount always ends up with her Jimmy Smith. That's a little Thoroughly Modern Millie reference for you. The showmance is a time-honored tradition we've seen replicated on middle school stages and Hollywood film sets alike, but Big Mouth teaches us to maybe not go with our first instincts on this one. Sometimes, you're not attracted to your co-star, you're attracted to their character (or their acting, or the moment, or their wig, or whatever). Nick and Missy had to find this out the hard way in Disclosure: The Musical, especially since it was real for our rejected leading lady.
This one seems like a no brainer, but a big part of sex-ed seems to revolve around the understanding that thinking with your genitals will get you into zany situations. And by zany situations, we mean lowkey life-changing messes like catching an STD, getting pregnant, or hooking up with a Republican. As we learned from Jay's pillow pregnancy on Big Mouth season one, people don't always tell the truth during sex. We probably won't tell our bedroom pillow that we're a successful 40-year-old magician, but we might feel the urge to say "I love you" when we don't mean it or make promises we don't intend to keep. Resist the temptation! If you can't say anything true, don't say anything at all.
If Big Mouth's existence didn't already prove that adults are still going through struggles with sex, sexuality, and life's changes, the storylines of Big Mouth's grown-ups should do the trick. Nick's parents are by far the most well-adjusted, but even Mrs. Birch is still struggling with pre-emptive empty nest worries. Marty Glouberman needs to lay off the scallops and Greg Glaser needs to lay off the marijuana, but Shannon Glaser's exploration of her sexuality and embracing her attraction to Cantor Dina is probably the best example of adults navigating questions about sex and relationships long after puberty has ended.