Sex and The City. You gotta love it, I certainly do. On a base level, it really is all about gawping at the clothes, the shoes, the things that we’d like to wear if we lived in New York City and spent impractical amounts of time eating breakfast with our girlfriends. Working upwards from that base level, there are several other reasons to love SATC.
It gives me an immense amount of pleasure to know that one of the most successful TV shows of all time features four women who are over the age of thirty-five – and counting. Believe me, when you hit forty, this shit matters. Society usually likes to shoves women into a metaphorical closet at around about this age. No more. Forty is the new thirty and all that.
And for another, this show doesn’t skirt around the issues that concern me. Sex in The City speaks my language, which usually goes something like this: should I quit spending so much time blogging and researching books and perhaps spend more time casting around for a suitable husband? When I find said husband, will I love him so much that perhaps I won’t want to share him with a small wrinkly screaming person, (a baby) and instead, we might like to travel the world together, hanging out on beaches and writing more books? Or, should I take a leap of faith and hope that if my reproductive system cares to join the party that I won’t mind forfeiting this wonderful and rather unexpected writing career for motherhood, which does, after all, last for like, forever? Or could I, in fact, have it ALL?
The babies, the books and the husband?
These and similar questions float through my shoe-addled mind on a semi-regular basis, well, at least when I’ve got the time they do. None of which matters because I actually bring up Sex and The City today for a different reason. Twenty-one year old Sophie* makes an interesting point about it in her story.
‘I am just a minutiae example of the young men and women who learnt everything about sex from the Internet and HBO. We learn that fucking is fabulous and that it makes you one of those fun, hot and attractive types.’
Does it? And is this a good thing? One of the many good things about age is that you get things into perspective. You know that when you have sex with someone, that you will probably make some emotional investment in the situation. So you take this account. Usually. And occasionally you don’t. But at least in theory, you do have some age and experience on your side should it all go horribly wrong.
And it’s for this reason that it pains me to think what sort of message SATC conveys to younger women, that sex is something we can blithely ‘do’, often with very little emotional consequence or connection and that that is something we should aspire to? Hello? Genetics! Men and women are different for a reason and as such, we women are genetically pre-disposed to form a bond with the person that we have sex with. I don’t think this is something to be dissed. Of course, I am a practical person. We all need the physical and emotional release that we can only get from hot, sweaty ‘relations’ with someone of the opposite sex (or even the same sex!)…..and as long as we are aware of the consequences, then this is totally fine. But I’m not sure I would have understood this when I was a teenager, and teenagers do watch this show.
We had the sweetest intern at a place I worked in recently. She was like an excited puppy, full of fresh ideas and enthusiasm and she clearly came from money because she had a wardrobe that could rival Carrie Bradshaw’s on any day of the week. Lets just say that I was not the owner of a Prada handbag at her age. (She did at least allow me pretend it was mine for two glorious minutes).
‘I love Sex and The City’, she announced one day, ‘it’s my favourite show’. Reader, she looked about twelve – and she was actually sixteen. I know. Everyone looks younger when you’re older but I wondered what else she might forfeit in order to be like the women she loves. Perhaps I am underestimating the intellectual capacity of a teenage girl to differentiate between what she sees on the screen and real life. And in the end, I have to eat my words because I am a champion of the fact that people have to live and learn. You can’t wrap people up in cotton wool. You have to allow them to f**k up. You’ve got to get out there and have some pointless sex that you thought was meaningful at the time and, as it turns out, it wasn’t. It happens to the best of us and don’t forget to return the favour when the occasion arises.
I asked Sophie what her take was on all this.
‘I suppose a lot of girls do look at SATC as entertainment but on a subconscious level believe that they can live out some sort of fantasy by sleeping around and legitimising it as pop-feminism or choice. Perhaps they disregard the hurt feelings, disappointment and sex-regret in the morning only to pass around their sexual endeavours as gossip and a testament to popularity. Or perhaps it is a self-fulfilment thing: lack of confidence.'
So perhaps, yes, Sophie hits it on the head. Inevitably, we do develop a more sturdy sense of confidence in ourselves and maybe the only way to do this is to learn the ropes the hard way. Eventually, we learn to do what we like, when we feel like doing it, and not because anyone, or anything else, thinks it’s a great idea. Which is also, conversely, why virginity pledges are such an astonishingly crap idea but don’t even get me started on that.
Ok, so we’re agreed, I won’t be sending the SATC police around to the homes of any female teenagers that I know... just yet. Just as long as y’all take care out there. One step at a time and all that….
Sophie, Age: 19 Sydney, Australia.
‘This is my anecdote.
Your project is an amazing compilation, an incredible inspiration. A lot of the stories made all those awkward feelings rush back and I felt this amazing anonymous empathy. It is difficult to know where to begin.
Grappling with sexuality has always been immensely personal and impersonal at the same time. I am just a minutiae example of the young men and women who learnt everything about sex from the Internet and HBO. We learn that fucking is fabulous and that it makes you one of those fun, hot and attractive types. For me, it has been a grease ball of peer pressure and self-doubt about my oriental ethnicity that has staled sexual encounters and left this odd confusion and a denial for a need of intimacy.
I lost my virginity a little over a week ago. Long after people's assumptions that I'd been opening my legs since I was fifteen or younger. I lost it to this tan popular guy who I stumbled into drunkenly on a night out. He'd seen my face around campus. We kissed badly amongst the sweaty dancing bodies while friends took photos. My friends went home, but they didn't know that I went home with him.
Losing it to him was so detached and anti-climatic that it made me feel empty afterward and I couldn't sleep in this stranger's bed. There was an offbeat humour to it since I had wanted to have sex for so long and he was so bad at it. Like when you look forward to something, see it through and it was... alright. It did not exceed expectations or anything. He was too drunk to climax and I too nervous. Talking and foreplay was rushed; it was your generic one night stand.
Thinking about it now, losing it was a big deal but it has opened me up sexually to new and ultimately better things. I refuse to look at this through the archaic notion that I am stained or damaged in any way. Quite the contrary.
I look at the glamorised versions of sex now and find it funny. Sex or virginity should never define someone's worth as a person and furthermore sex is not glamorous or fabulous. It is awkward, primal and confusing (at first). There is something human about realising that and it is a good feeling.
I am no less different than who I was before, if not more sure of myself and what I want.
Not the end.’
*All names changed to protect identity.