‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 4 Is the One Show Portraying a Realistic First Time

The season opens with the aftermath of Devi's first sexual encounter with her frenemy-turned-lover, and it's as charmingly weird as you'd expect.

‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 4 Is the One Show Portraying a Realistic First Time
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi Vishwakumar and Jaren Lewison as Ben Gross in Season 4 of Never Have I Ever. Photo:Netflix

Adolescent sexuality has, historically, rarely been treated with care on big or small screens. But in more recent years popular teen shows, ranging from the rebooted Gossip Girl to Riverdale, are increasingly depicting sex as an empowering experience for young women and teen girls. And while it’s a step up from the rape-y drudgery and persistent moralizing about virginity that I remember consuming growing up, early sexual forays (especially your first time)—as many women and frankly all people can attest to—are hardly ever a satisfying let alone empowering experience.

Or maybe they are! But empowering or not, this rite of passage is frequently accompanied by a whole lot of awkwardness that we rarely see on-screen. Enter: Never Have I Ever Season 4’s very first scene, which drops us right in the immediate moments after Devi Vishwakumar and her frenemy-turned-maybe-lover Ben Gross both have sex for the first time. Neither knows what to say; Ben inadvertently kicks Devi out by offering to buy her an Uber home; and a nervous Devi flashes finger guns on the way out of his bedroom.

In other words, it’s really fucking weird.

A part of that weirdness stems from the fact that, after three seasons of Devi delightfully ping-ponging between Ben and Paxton Hall-Yoshida in one of the great love triangles of the YA genre, she and Ben consummate their sexual tension-brimming rivalry-slash-romance with an undefined relationship. They’re friends who clearly like each other but, for the sake of that sweet, sweet YA chaos, don’t know it.

The aftermath of the encounter is also wonderfully awkward because neither Ben nor Devi seems to have really enjoyed it all that much—and I, for one, am thankful for this representation. NHIE’s portrayal of Devi’s first sexual experience offers a much more realistic, candid depiction of losing your virginity as a teen than the hot-and-heavy, meticulously choreographed deflowerings we’ve seen on teen shows like, say, Pretty Little Liars. The ceremonial ~first time~ for female protagonists on YA shows is all too often overly glamourized and romanticized, which is what makes NHIE’s approach so refreshing. There’s no such thing as a universal first sexual experience, but some permutation of confusion, awkwardness, insecurity, misunderstanding, miscommunication, and hurt feelings are almost inevitable—and the media that young people consume for cues about what to expect is rarely all that insightful.

What’s endeared me to this show throughout its four-season run is that unlike, say, Euphoria, or other shows that claim to depict high school experiences, Never Have I Ever actually does. Like Ben and Devi—as they struggle to gauge each other’s reactions to their intercourse, how much enthusiasm or affection they should or shouldn’t show, what to do next without offending or seeming overly eager—in real life, many teens (and many adults, too!) don’t really know how to communicate, which is a pillar of comfortable, decent sex, and essential to navigating what comes after it.

Teens (again, like many adults) are brimming with all the insecurity that’s innate to inhabiting a human body, all the insecurity that inevitably comes with showing your body to someone for the first time, to crossing a monumental threshold with someone you care about while being unsure how they feel about you. And finally, finally, we got to see that play out on screen with NHIE.

Even before Devi and Ben’s hook-up, I’ve always loved how the show portrays Devi as simultaneously wildly horny and deeply unnerved by sex and her body—experiences that can go hand-in-hand but are often portrayed as mutually exclusive. The rest of Season 4 sees Devi achieve sexual gratification eventually, with a stereotypical bad boy lover amid a whirlwind romance. Their sexual chemistry makes sense—he has more experience than Ben, and because they’re in a relationship, Devi’s inhibitions are lowered. It’s a reminder that teens can have a range of sexual experiences, and that feeling comfortable and supported makes all the difference.

Still, the aftermath of Devi’s first sexual encounter—literally the first scene of the fourth season—is, for me, one of the most memorable aspects of this final chapter of the show, and maybe even the show itself. It’s emblematic of how NHIE has stayed earnest and relatable from start to finish.

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