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Pride Month Reads: Sex Ed 120% Addresses the Lack of Actual Education in Sex Education

5/5 thicker sex-ed textbooks

The students in Sex Ed 120

Have you ever spotted a manga at the bookstore, read the synopsis on the back, and thought, “My time has come, this is my calling,” before immediately purchasing it?

Hi. This was Sex Ed 120% for me.

Synopsis of Sex Ed 120% volume one

Sex Ed 120 volume one cover

Naoko Tsuji, an unorthodox health teacher at an all-girls school, doubts whether the sex-ed status quo truly teaches young people everything they need to know—so she ramps it up to 120%! Luckily for Tsuji, her class proves to be an almost unflappable group, including a BL fan, a lesbian, and a girl who just really likes her cat! With topics like safe sex for same-gender couples, masturbation positivity, and why sugar gliders have three vaginas, this sex education comedy is more than just dirty jokes. It’s time for class!

What this Pride Month Read has in store for you

There is a certain type of manga that is actually meant to educate you in a fun, entertaining way. Heaven’s Design Team, for example, gives actual facts about the Animal Kingdom. Something similar for me in the U.S. would be the likes of Carmen Sandiego, who managed to make Geography fun.

I’m bringing this up because this is exactly the kind of manga that Sex Ed 120% is. The topic? Better sex education for high school students.

Naoko Tsuji is appalled at how outdated the lesson plan is for sex-ed at the all-girls high school she’s teaching at. She’s also appalled at the number of teachers who deem teaching sex-ed as spreading some sort of deviant behavior instead of realizing that teenagers are sexually active. This is why Naoko feels that proper education is best, so these kids can be safe about the sex they’re engaging in and so they don’t grow up being completely oblivious about their bodies.

This also includes being more inclusive in the conversation, meaning that sex talk can’t just be limited to a heteronormative perspective, nor can it male-dominated.

Naoko Tsuji is absolutely right and she should say it.

Each chapter is laid out like a lesson plan from Naoko. This includes actual classroom conversations to moments outside the classroom, such as when Naoko and her colleague, Nakazawa-sensei, end up explaining how love hotels work and removing the immediate skeezy image that Nakazawa had when she ended up in that district by accident.

What I like about this manga is that it’s not about anyone hooking up (though Naoko is crushing on Nakazawa), it’s legitimately about teaching sex-ed in a better way. When one of Naoko’s students points out that condoms don’t really apply to her, Naoko brings up dental dams for oral sex. She doesn’t even make a comment about her student potentially being a lesbian (the student is a lesbian, but Naoko doesn’t find out until her student is comfortable enough to tell her), she flat out says that yes, the conversation shouldn’t just be told under a heterosexual lens or even a penetrative sex lens. She talks about how sex isn’t just about penetration, going so far as to address how dental dams can be used on female genitalia or the anus (and how condoms are more readily available than dental dams when both should be easily accessible).

Dental Dams

Naoko is trying to normalize a lot of topics that are left out of the conversation. Despite having statistics that show that women absolutely masturbate (as another example), the books Naoko has to work with from the school only address masturbation from the boy’s section. At one point, she talks about how the books don’t even mention the clitoris. What’s really great about this segment is that when talking about masturbation it’s NOT just about having sex. A lot of the manga is like this, actually, having moments where sex is talked about outside of seeking pleasure.

Stress relief

Naoko breaks down various reasons behind masturbation, like to relieve stress, and she and her students even talk about how fiction portrays it (and sex) in such an unrealistic way (ie: the positions people masturbate in).

On top of being sex-positive, the manga is just positive all around. When her students worry about how their bodies are changing, Naoko tells them that’s just a part of their development. Not only is weight gain spoken about positively, but so is body hair and other things that happen to us as we grow older.

Sex Ed 120% wasn’t on my radar, but I’m so glad I came across this book. To see a manga that’s addressing the need for better sex education that includes queer voices is refreshing. It’s also nice to see sex being talked about so casually, and in a way that treats it as a regular thing that some people engage in—or don’t, as there’s a student who isn’t interested in having sex at all but doesn’t mind learning about it. Furthermore, I like that the manga discusses other reasons behind having sex, such as masturbation being great stress relief, or just how knowing more about your body is a good thing.

Sex education is good information to have and I’m glad this manga breaks that down in a fun, easy to understand way.

Women masturbate

Sex Ed 120% is available over at Yen Press with volume 2 scheduled to be released this October.

(Image: Kikiki Tataki, Hotomura)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)