I began watching “FBoy Island” on HBO Max after reading an article about how absurd it was. I had never in my life watched a reality dating show. They just don’t appeal to me. But the particulars of this one — men self-identifying as “fboys” or “nice guys,” a host who summoned participants by blowing into a massive conch shell, eliminated dudes being banished to a place called “Limbro” — called to me.

I mean, what the actual F!?

I sat down to watch the first episode and, suddenly, I was three episodes in. Far from being a hate watch, this silly, self-aware show filled me with delight. I knew the premise was ridiculous. They knew the premise was ridiculous. But even as I LOL’d my way through each episode, I was also deeply invested.

So much of the sex we see on TV is soft-lit, intense and/or tender, and totally earnest. There are steamy scenes. There are beautiful people with undeniable chemistry. There are, of course, simultaneous orgasms.

But real sex can be messy. Real sex can be awkward. Real sex can be funny as hell.

So as an antidote to all the aspirational sex scenes we’re presented with in pop culture, here’s a list of nine sexy shows that don’t take themselves too seriously.

“FBoy Island”

I already mentioned this one, but let’s go a bit deeper. On this reality dating show, three gorgeous women are brought to a tropical island paradise to find love. The catch? Half the contenders are self-described “nice guys” (and we’ll ignore, for the moment, the problematic nature of the “nice guy” label). The other half came to the island as “fboys,” here solely for the prize money.

Can these ladies figure out which is which? Are nice guys boring? Can an fboy be reformed? And do we even care? Or do we just want to see the men flex their muscles as they frolic about in the surf while wearing revealing swimwear?

The longer you watch comedian Nikki Glaser, the host, drop hilarious and highly perceptive jokes, and the longer you watch the handsome competitors ham it up for the cameras, the more you realize that everyone is in on the joke.

“Big Mouth”

Okay. So, this one’s an animated (but adult) coming-of-age Netflix show about preteens approaching puberty. But bear with me because I feel like it’s the show I wish I had as a high schooler. Though it’s probably a bit too raunchy for that.

The show centers on a group of suburban teens who are horny as all get-out. As they enter puberty, they’re guided by literal hormone monsters who talk them through things like masturbation, sexual arousal, fantasy, first kisses, and more. Hijinks, of course ensue.

What I especially love about the show is the frankness with which it approaches sex and the human body. If only folks had been so open with us when we were growing up, sex might not be so wrapped up in guilt and shame and uncertainty.

Maybe we all need our own hormone monsters?


When I think of the Amazon Prime show “Fleabag,” my mind immediately goes to Andrew Scott’s “hot priest,” a “holy hotty” (disclaimer: video contains curse words) who brings out our protagonist’s most self-destructive tendencies. But that doesn’t come until the second season.

In the beginning, this show’s focus is on a woman played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge who is struggling with the death of her best friend. She also has a difficult relationship with her father, stepmother, and sister. In the midst of this emotional time in her life, the titular Fleabag is looking for love… or maybe just some really good sex.

Fierce and witty, Fleabag often breaks the fourth wall in order to acknowledge what we’re already thinking: about that guy’s arms… about that other guy’s teeth… about the obstacles that come with being a single woman who always seems to screw things up.

The only complaint I have about this show is that it only ran for two seasons.


This Netflix Original Series is another limited series I wished could go on forever. Alas, it ended after just two seasons, leaving me broken-hearted (though Ryan O’Connell, author of the memoir the show was based upon, wrapped things up nicely).

The show is a semi-autobiographical account of a twenty-something gay man with cerebral palsy who’s seeking self-sufficiency. His journey includes a new job, a new apartment, new friends… and the loss of his virginity.

The dialogue in “Special” is quick and clever and the sex scenes are approached with a directness and attendant tenderness I can’t help but appreciate. Based as it is upon a memoir, I shouldn’t be so surprised by how real it feels. But real it is, and the show is the better for it.

“Never Have I Ever”

This dramedy — which you can stream on Netflix — comes from the brilliant comedic mind of Mindy Kaling. And as with most things created by Kaling, it doesn’t disappoint.

About an Indian American high school student dealing with the death of her father, this show manages to ably balance serious life issues with the absurdity of teen life. And this teen is single-minded in purpose: She is determined to find a boyfriend, lose her virginity, and finally be cool. Unfortunately, many of the choices our protagonist makes in pursuit of these things tend to be… misguided.

I love how this show manages to be silly about sex while also acknowledging that the decision to have it can be a weighty one. I guarantee you’ll be charmed, too.

“How to Build a Sex Room”

Honestly, I’m surprised by how quickly I fell in love with this Netflix show. Though considering the fact that it combines two of my favorite things — sex content and home design — finding this show was probably destiny.

On this reality/home design show, which brings everything you love about HGTV and spices it up, interior designer Melanie Rose makes various couples’ sex toy room dreams come true.

I love how matter-of-fact Rose is about people’s sexual desires, and I really love how she and her general contractor yuk it up as they plan out each room? (Can I hire them?)

But the best part of all is that, between all the laughs, this show is full of heart in the way it gives folks the space to explore their sexual selves in a way that is nurturing and non-judgmental.

“Sex Education”

You’ve likely heard about this one already. In this British dramedy that was created for Netflix, a student in secondary school follows in his mother’s footsteps by providing his fellow students with sex therapy. Much has already been made about the show’s frank and fun approach to sex, and with the way it explores everything from sexuality to disability to pubic hair. Well, all the buzz is warranted. Parents are using the show to instigate open conversations about sex with their teens, but there’s a lot in the show to open adults’ minds, too.


I’ve only recently gotten into this Hulu show that ran from 2015-2018, but I’m already hooked. Another dramedy, it follows a newly divorced single woman who, along with her teenage daughter, has moved in with her brother. Each of them is, to some extent, playing around with how casual sex might fit into their lives. And the outcomes of their experimentation in this area are more often than not laugh-out-loud funny.

In the first few episodes alone, there has been an intended one-night stand who refuses to fade into the ether… a puppy whose adoption helps facilitate the brother’s pickup attempts… fantasies about forbidden love… and much, much more. The deadpan humor only adds to the hilarity, and I’m so, so glad that there are three more seasons to enjoy after this first one.

“Chewing Gum”

Finally, we have this British sitcom that you can now stream on HBO Max. It follows Tracey, a 24-year-old virgin raised by a highly religious mother. And though her bestie is a bit of a party animal, she herself is still a bit sheltered. At the start of this show, Tracey is desperate to finally have sex. But losing her virginity is not as easy as she thinks.

The over-the-top atmosphere makes watching this show feel like a sort of fever dream. But its quirkiness only adds to its charm.

Sexual repression, desire, and curiosity are all rolled up into one messy little ball. All you can do is hang on for your life as Tracy navigates it all.

Pick one or watch them all! These shows will be sure to have your laughing, crying, and enjoying the awkwardness and intimacy

Stephanie Auteri

Stephanie Auteri

Journalist, author, & sex educator
Steph Auteri has written about sexuality for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and other publications, and has collaborated with folks at the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), the Center for Sex Education, and Good in Bed. She is the author of A Dirty Word, a reported memoir about how female sexuality is so often treated like a dirty word.