"Buffy The Vampire Slayer taught me being gay was okay long before my schooling did."

There were many things Buffy: The Vampire Slayer gave me: sleepless nights, a fear of graveyards and a comprehensive sexual education.

Fans of the series will remember that good ol’ Buff went through the motions most of us experienced in our mid-to-late teens. Dating. Kissing. Jealousy. Sex.

The build up to the slayer’s “first time” was a slow burn, allowing her character to act out many of the thoughts, feelings and fears shared by girls everywhere.

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Buffy questioned what it would feel like, whether it would hurt, what her parents would say, what her friends would say and whether it would change her relationship.

Buffy and Angel. (Source: Mutant Enemy Productions.)

When sex did eventuate, it was shown to be both pleasurable and fraught with consequences. There may have been no 'condom on a banana' demonstration, but there was a very real snapshot into how relationships can, and do, change after sexual activity.

It was the late 90s, and other shows, films and products placed sex on pedestal of candlelit dinners, soft music and long-term relationships.

BTVS took that pedestal and smashed it. Sex didn't need to be any of those things - in fact, sometimes it was better without even a hint of romance.

Spike and Buffy outside the doublemeat palace. (Source: Mutant Enemy Productions.)

If you can remember the rough sex she shared with one haughty vampire against the wall of a fast-food restaurant, you will know exactly what I mean.

And sometimes, sex was not pleasant at all. One of the first episodes saw Buffy's best friend Xander try to sexually assault her after he became possessed by a demon spirit. An episode that came in a later season saw the young vampire slayer fight off an attempted rape from a man who said he loved her.

It was a lesson in consent that no viewer could forget. Buffy, the girl who could slay demons and save the world, was not immune from the very real trauma of sexual assault.

The consequences for the perpetrator's actions, like many real life situations, were not black and white. Although the pair did not engage in sex after that episode, he was not removed from her life or denied her love.

It seems almost unbelievable that a show about vampire slaying could handle such a delicately complex ordeal like rape. But BTVS did; and did it well, too.

Willow and Tara. (Source: Mutant Enemy Productions.)

BTVS didn't restrict its sexual education to the heterosexual audience, either. One of the main characters, Willow, was initially presented as heterosexual before she and the audience learned of her later bisexuality.

Not only did Willow have to deal with her newly discovered sexuality, but so did the other characters. Some played the role of the accepting-but-shocked friends; others the role of the outraged.


For many young gays - myself included - Willow became a beacon of positive representation when homosexuals were all but absent from mainstream television.

BTVS taught me homosexuality was okay long before my schooling did.

Later shows that catered to the teen audience, like The O.C, may have included similar amounts of sex and some homosexuality, but they lacked the heart and complexity of BTVS.

Hannah Hovath in Girls. (Source: HBO.)

More modern shows like Girls give young audiences an insight into the complexity of sex and sexuality but remain stunted in their offerings.

The latest season of Girls dealt with the issue of consent in a way that was clever, nuanced and most importantly, speckled with ambiguity. But even this triumph failed to address consent as well as BTVS did. For although Girls' lead character, Hannah Horvath, experienced and theorised about the issue of consent, we were limited to her perspective. There was no true insight into the male understanding other than almost sociopathic denial.

BTVS allowed for the character who performed the attempted rape to spiral into the deepest pits of depression before trying to seek retribution. Even then, it was arguably insufficient. Better yes, but not good enough.

Let us all hope a future show will emerge that deals with sex and sexuality in a way that doesn't shy away from its dirtiest and darkest sides.

Or, you know, a program in schools that goes beyond placing penile protection on fruit.

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