Issue #6: I got to thinking about the legacy of Sex and the City
Plus, a reflection on the bittersweetness of being alone, from Quiet author Susan Cain.
Like many older millennials, I was (alright, a bit precociously) an OG viewer of Sex and the City. The trademark HBO static sound will forever leave me poised, Pavlovian, for the tinkling theme tune – da-da-da-da! – the New York skyline and a four-way debate about the etiquette of foreplay. As my friends started dating in our late teens and twenties, we’d say things like ‘He’s my Mr Big’ (about the mysterious engineering student in our halls), or ‘I’m Samantha/Charlotte/Carrie/Miranda’ (I always considered myself as a mish-mash of the latter two. Who were you?).
Until recently, I’d deemed SATC a healthy, progressive influence on my generation. Borne from the sex-positive feminism of the early 1980s, the show was a cultural stepping stone away from the age-old ‘Should’ around female sexuality: the expectation that women should be virginal and pure. And there’s no doubt Carrie Bradshaw et. al popularised the notion that women could, if they choose to, enjoy shame-free casual sex ‘like a man’ (to paraphrase Samantha Jones) – and, just as importantly, support each other through talking about it.
As Carrie herself would phrase it, ‘I got to thinking…’, was Sex and the City’s celebration of no-strings-attached sex all that helpful?
And yet, upon turning 31, just a year younger than Carrie is in the first series, I ‘got to thinking’, as she would phrase it: was Sex and the City’s celebration of no-strings-attached sex all that helpful? While the exploits of these ‘older and wiser’ women seemed impossibly glamorous and empowered to me then, I watch it now thinking how dated, even problematic, its portrayal was.
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