By Isabelle Tilli
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How To Have Sex — a brutally honest film that asks right questions

New film is a unflinching but heartfelt look at growing up, friendship and sex
Issue 2881
How to have sex

Mia McKenna-Bruce plays Tara in How To Have Sex

First time director Molly Manning Walker’s remarkable drama follows Tara and her two school friends, Skye and Em as they go in search of adventure.

GCSEs are over, and the young women are eager to have the “best holiday eva!” in Malia, on the island of Crete. They hype each other up and set a common goal to get completely wasted, party, and have sex.

One of the film’s strengths is its portrayal of teenage women experimenting with playing grown-ups. Manning captures their excitement as they try on their idea of womanhood.

They don flashy Pretty Little Thing outfits, experiment with bold rhinestone makeup, and draw on chunky eyebrows. However, the film also highlights a concerning aspect of teenage sexuality.

In the absence of understanding their own desires and boundaries, the teenagers fall into stereotypical ideas about sex that dominate our society.

As Tara wails at the beginning of the film, “I can’t die a virgin!” And beneath the joyful surface the characters share a fear of being labelled as “different”. That pressure can push teenagers to engage in sexual activities before they are emotionally or mentally ready.

The intricacies of teenage friendships are fully displayed as Tara, the least experienced of the group, is repeatedly pressured by Skye to lose her virginity.

The quest becomes relatively easy once the young women make friends with the next-door northerners. Em falls for Paige (Laura Ambler), excited to embrace her sexuality on the trip.

Tara clicks with the witty, slightly shy Badger and his “hot legend” neck tattoo. Skye follows her own agenda. She pushes Tara to second-guess herself, and redirects her to Paddy.

He is a seemingly “nice guy” who fails to remember what consent is. The film tells its story in an unusual way. It deals openly with heavy themes of consent and alcohol abuse.

And the filmmaker doesn’t judge the main characters, but instead shows their struggle to navigate the complexities of the adult world. Tara eventually has sex but is then thrown into emotional pain.

This film communicates this through quick glimpses of her silently spiralling through her thoughts, rather than through dialogue. It’s an effective way of getting across the film’s primary message—that young women, find it difficult to voice their needs before sex and struggle to name and express trauma.

Fostering a safe environment where girls and women feel empowered to express themselves without fear of judgement or reprisal is crucial.

How to Have Sex is a film that can play an important role in the education of viewers of all ages. It doesn’t point the finger. Instead it whole-heartedly lays out the events and opens up a conversation. Some sex education teaches about consent, respect , and healthy relationships.

It helps in understanding boundaries, communication skills, and the importance of mutual respect in intimate relationships.

It empowers teenagers, men, and women to make informed decisions about their sexual lives and navigate the complexities of intimacy.

Molly Manning Walker crafted a story that will make women all around the world feel seen and less alone. Sex can be weird and complex, especially when it is transformed into a mere commodity.

And, it can be dangerous, especially where there are a million shades of grey to navigate. Talking about it openly is something we need more of.

How To Have Sex is in cinemas now

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