One Sunday morning last month, the day after my 30th birthday party, I curled up in front of the TV with some of my best friends, hungover and still in my PJs.
We ended up watching Sex and the City, as we usually do when the TV is just on as background distraction. After all, there’s always an episode showing on a Sky channel somewhere.
I’m not anti-SATC, or not anti the TV series at least. The films are a different matter. I came to them later than everyone else, as I usually do with anything that’s fashionable – the series ended in 2004 and I watched the entirety of all 6 seasons in bed in the early hours of the morning in May 2007, when I was revising for my finals. It was light, easy, fun – the exact opposite of studying for uni exams.
Earlier this year, I was approached by the Metro, who wanted to trial me to write sex-themed content for their website. They sent me a sample post title, to see if I could write to house style. My entire career has been focused around writing to house style, but I stalled and stalled until eventually I told them I couldn’t do it.
The title of the post they wanted? ’15 ways SATC improved our sex lives.’
I started brainstorming it. I got as far as ‘Introduced us to the Hitachi Magic Wand,’ and a couple of other points that I can no longer remember and seem to have deleted from my phone, and then I got stuck. I asked friends who are way bigger fans than me. I got a couple more suggestions, but nowhere near the required 15. When I thought about it the show was negative about anal, penis size and friends with benefits, amongst other things.
And then I rewatched an episode. Season 5, Episode 70, to be precise. I was still thinking about those 15 things.
One friend said ‘I don’t like Samantha. It’s offputting how she’s so obsessed with sex.’ Briefly, the sex blogger in me was riled. And then I realised she has a point. The best character in Sex and the City is Miranda: she’s intelligent, interesting and pretty well-rounded. Samantha is ‘the one who likes sex,’ and that allows the writers to be lazy. She’s rarely more complex than that.
Anyway, back to the episode. This is the one in which Miranda joins some kind of slimming club and meets a guy there and Samantha blows the UPS guy. I can’t remember what Carrie or Charlotte’s plot lines are (I rarely can). Carrie walks in on Samantha and the mailman and walks straight back out, horrified. That’s fair enough, I guess: if I walked in on a friend of mine blowing a stranger I’d probably be a little taken aback too. But the fall out, and the judgemental attitude she takes towards Samantha last until the end credits roll.
And then there’s Miranda. Who, having just had a baby, needs to lose weight. Obviously. (This put me in mind of the bit in the film where they have a go at her publicly for not waxing, and made me crosser still.) She meets a nice guy, who goes down on her, super enthusiastically. She comes. And … wait for it … he dares to try and kiss her afterwards without wiping his mouth first.
I’m sure that does squick some people. That’s fine. But wouldn’t a more balanced, a more *sex-positive* approach be to have Miranda discuss this with the girls and to have them give a variety of opinions rather than an overwhelming ‘Urgh. Keep some tissues by the bed!’ and the frankly *hilarious* line: ‘Miranda went out with an overeater and he overate her.’ Oh do fuck off, Carrie, you judgemental bitch.’
Interestingly, when I looked up SATC on Wikipedia, everything in the ‘Awards & Recognition’ section was to do with ‘the wonderful wardrobe from Sex and the City, which taught us that no flower is too big, no skirt too short and no shoe too expensive.’
The sex, meanwhile, comes under fire: ‘Sex and the City [was] specifically recognised for glamori[zing] sex while hardly mentioning its downsides, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.’
Those wouldn’t be the areas I’d choose to pick up on – it’s light entertainment, FFS – but does Carrie Bradshaw know good sex?
Well, if she does she’s having it offscreen.