21 September 2023

Sex Education: What is it like to be a real-life Jean Milburn?

21 September 2023

As the new – and final – season of the hit Netflix series Sex Education drops, fans of the show will be excited about a lot of things, but perhaps most of all, the return of the much-loved character Jean Milburn, a flirty and adventurous sex therapist and educator, in her late 40s.

Played by Gillian Anderson, 55, who has previously starred in The Fall and The X-Files, and is much like Milburn in her open conversations about sexual liberation, particularly in the new book she is collecting real-life sex stories for.

But, what is it like to be a real-life Jean Milburn?

Sex therapy and coaching

“What Jean does [as an educator and therapist] is pretty spot on, particularly the normalising of sex and that it is OK to talk about it,” says sexologist and therapist Chantal Gautier.

“Sex education should encompass a wide range of subject matters, including sexual health, learning about the anatomy of our genitalia, the mechanisms of arousal, pleasure, discussion about consent, various relationship styles, contraception and perhaps most importantly, that our approach to sexual engagement is not a one-size-fits-all model.”

Much like the show, she explains: “Sex education can take place at schools, or home, as long as the focus is on inclusion, healthy conversations and normalising sex talk.”

Multiple forms of sex therapy and coaching exist.

“I support people who are ready and able to move forward, but need help doing so,” says Ruth Ramsay, sex coach and educator.

“With the lack of decent sex education, how we consider talking about sex ’embarrassing’, and how both mainstream culture and porn teach us it shouldn’t be necessary to talk, but then fill our heads with myths and lies about sex, lots of us need a bit of help,” Ramsay explains.

Daily routine

Day to day, being a sex coach or therapist is varied like any other job. For Ramsay, every day is a big mix.

“I respond to enquiries every day via my website or Instagram, mostly which aren’t ultimately for coaching. People don’t know where to turn for help, and if they find my website and feel comfortable, they ask me about all sorts of topics that require medical or therapist support,” she says.

“It’s good for me to be constantly reminded of the issues people have, and the wide network of support that is needed.”

And much like Milburn, the demands of those around her often guide her work life.

“That’s how my workshop How to Please A Woman In Bed came about – so many messages from guys not wanting or needing coaching, but wanting to know how to give more pleasure. For coaching, I set up a page to help people better understand what I do and don’t do.

“Where coaching might be the right step for someone, we have a discovery call – a free call where I learn more about them and they learn more about my coaching,” she explains.

And she always has things to stay on top of outside of coaching.

“There is usually an online presentation or talk or webinar I am getting ready for, or a podcast appearance I am prepping. I love being a messenger about how to have better sex.

“I try to keep up to date and curious with my own learning – listening to podcasts, reading books about sex, attending online events. And I try to practice what I preach: talking and communicating about sex with my husband, making time for it, trying new things, managing my stress levels and looking after my physical and mental wellness,” Ramsay shares candidly.

Prioritising pleasure

Like the fictional Milburn, Ramsay champions pleasure.

“There is no shame in wanting to learn more about sex. The big mainstream myths – that good sex should ‘just happen’, that it must be spontaneous, that if we have to talk about it, that’s some kind of failing – are so damaging and are stopping people from having good sex lives, especially in long-term relationships,” says Ramsay.

“I want people to know that enjoyable sexual pleasure is possible in long relationships, into older age, despite chronic illness or disability… but we need to learn about it and put some active energy into making it happen,” she explains.The show is true to life

For Gautier, sex therapy is very similar to Sex Education’s portrayal.

“Jean shows a level of openness, sense of normality and passion for the field, which is very similar to how I and other therapists approach our work,” she says. “Regarding the young people, the similarities are perhaps in the approach, and the use of language – making sex talk relatable to various age groups and issues.”

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