"Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" Gets the Sex Talk Totally Right

In this op-ed, Ali Drucker explains what “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” gets right when it comes to preparing to have sex for the first time.

Orgy festivals. Satan worship. Unreasonably attractive teens training to be witches and warlocks. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would portray sex in a healthy or realistic way. There’s no universe in which an average high-schooler should expect a bevy of sex-positive, chiseled gods to usher them ceremoniously into adulthood. But move past some of the melodramatics of the show— and the orgiastic aspects — and you’ll find some nuance that was probably missing from your high school sex ed class, particularly when it comes to first-time sex.

In CAOS, Part 2, episode 3, “Lupercalia,” Sabrina finds herself torn over how to participate in an orgiastic witch festival that falls alongside Valentine’s Day. Her almost-boyfriend, warlock, and very dreamy person, Nick Scratch, is her partner for the festival, and sex is encouraged but not required. Chatting with her aunts on the subject, Sabrina gets two important perspectives. Always-frank Zelda urges everyone to be more comfortable talking about sex without euphemism, and calls it a “symphony of sensation and pleasure, not shame and regret,” while Hilda cautions her that it’s still OK if she’s not ready. The lesson? Sex feels good, but there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to do it yet. This is a fairly well-rounded view, considering we have plenty of data that proves abstinence-only sex ed, which often paints premarital sex as sinful and those who’ve done it as damaged, doesn’t work.

“Am I ready to have sex?” is one of the most complicated questions you might ask yourself in your teenage years and beyond, and CAOS treats it as such. While Sabrina’s aunts are an excellent resource for Sabrina, she doesn’t stop there; she turns to friends, too. To me, this is crucial, since not everyone has a family they can talk to about sex. In a powerful conversation with BFF Rosalind, we see that some of the best advice can come from our chosen family, a lovely reminder to those who come from restrictive, sex-shaming backgrounds.

Ros provides one of the best checklists I’ve seen on TV to address the above question. First, she shares her own story of how nervous she was when she had sex for the first time while at Bible camp, and confessed that she didn’t know what she was doing. But she recalls the experience tenderly and without regret, solidifying the message to viewers that you don’t need to be an expert in order to listen to your body and heed its cues. Then she asks Sabrina three questions: Do you like him? Do you trust him? Is he pressuring you?

Seeing the focus of first-time sex shifted away from love to trust and respect instead has value beyond measure. I think back to the first few times I told someone I loved them, and while it’s true I had strong affection, I know now it wasn’t love. Your understanding of love shifts with age and experience; simply put, it’s not the best prerequisite for sex. But trust, the feeling of being vulnerable while knowing you’re still safe, and respect, that your boundaries will be honored, are metrics on which you can rely. Of course, this is different for everyone, and it’s true that someone you trust can still screw you over, but this is as good a place as any to start. Sabrina ends the episode still uncertain of what to do, but she asks the right questions, and in doing so gives a bit of a master class on self-reflection.

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