Monday, October 22, 2012

What If I Had Grown Up Without Sex and the City?

What if? Oh, the horror. I know we're supposed to turn to role models, like our parents, movie stars, political figures ect... to model our lives upon. My Mom went out of her way to make sure that I was never over-exposed to the corruption that HBO TV shows could provide, and that I had strong parental role-models for a loving marriage.

But she missed something. Something I think that a lot of mothers miss. It's gross to think about your parents having sex, same sign for most politicians. And often the only message available is that sex is a bad thing. Porn is bad. Sex before marriage is bad. Sex in general is bad.

So then, we have no model for sex. No model for good sex, no model for bad sex, no model for abusive sex, no model for deviant sex, and even more importantly than all that, no model for saying no to sex. No model at all. Models are important. We use models to learn math, and we use models to learn fashion. We use them to learn how to prepare a chicken, to build a house, to assess patent claims and to write papers. Models are IMPORTANT.

If, in the ideal situation, our parents are modeling an ideal for marriage and thus sex, there is a tremendous disconnect in how we view sex. No one wants to have the talk, and it's challenging, in the context of most parental relationships, to translate just how amazing/important/empowering/joyful sex can be. We get hung up on "the right person at the right time" and forget to mention that the act itself should be nice. I'm not suggesting that parents shouldn't talk to their kids about sex. They should, early and often. If they're brave, they'll even discuss how a healthy sex life (or lack thereof) impacts their marriage. However, there's just no way the fundamental and accessible model for a healthy sex life can come from our parents. This issue is especially challenging for women. Where it's expected that men be interested in porn, and sex, it's considered taboo and "dirty" for a woman to be interested in the same things. Also, the porn model problem creates all kinds of confusion about acceptable sexual behavior and etiquette for men, which young women then have to find a way to deal with when their high school boyfriends think they should be up for totally unspeakable acts in the backseat of the car. "You want to put that WHERE? You sick SHIT!".

Enter: Sex and the City. I know I'm not the first person to cheer the brilliant strides this show took - taking chick lit that would have been otherwise unavailable to those of us mired in Jane Austen and preparing it for witty consumption by women the world over. But I really can't imagine where I'd be without it. The idea that there is no "wrong" sexual relationship, so long as you feel comfortable, safe and empowered was one that had never occurred to me. Which is a good thing, because knowing it's okay to want sex is the best way to feel like you can take control of your body and the situation.

Thanks Ladies.
Photo: HBO
Not only did the show offer models of empowered women having sex safely (both emotionally and physically) but it also showed them making (and dealing with) mistakes, something that would be hard for even the most humble and enlightened parent to model. It modeled marriage, both failed and flawed but successful, it modeled the impact of low self-esteem, lesbian experimentation, power roles - you name it. And suddenly, being a confused, young woman started to feel a lot more normal.

My hearty thanks to Candace Bushnell, Michael Patrick King, Darren Star, and the talented cast of six un-paralleled seasons, for finally giving me a model for sex that allowed me to be confused, make mistakes, find answers and take control of my body. I owe you a great deal.

Maybe my Mom, like many other moms, was worried that at the impressionable age of 14 or 15, I would start saving for Manolo Blahniks and giving blow jobs in the girls room during lunch. Maybe she was right to save the show for when I was in college, on my own. However, I think that many parents don't give their kids enough credit. I think a high school girl can watch Carrie and co. cavorting around NYC and understand that they're looking at 30+ year-old women who have a completely different life from them. Like any other model, what they learn from the slow is only useful when applied situationally. In the world of many teenage girls, I think this would mean more respect for the power of their bodies, less embarrassment at the discovery of the pleasure of masturbation, less focus on marriage as the ultimate goal of their young womanhood (hello, midwest!) and a much lower tolerance for the porn-infused sexual fantasies of boys their age.

Because, you know, knowledge is power. And given the current political climate, I think that young women everywhere really deserve a chance to know what's at stake and form their own opinions, before all of their choices are gone. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I agree!! I Also always liked that they almost NEVER have drunk sex on the show. And the one episode that really centered around intentionally drunk sex (Carrie/Berger, season 5? 6?), it was a disaster!