Girls: Post-Sex and the City
As I have stated before in one of my previous articles, I love TV. I was raised by it and continue my relationship with it to this day. Spending more time searching for great new shows than with my actual friends or trying to find a boyfriend.
One show that I started following is HBO’s new and controversial series, Girls. Created by Lena Dunham (director, writer and star of indie dramedy Tiny Furniture), the show follows four twenty-something girls living in New York City, attempting to attain the dream set up for them by Sex and the City. The main character, Hannah (played by Dunham), is a struggling writer who, after two years of support from her parents, has been cut off and now has to deal with the very real struggle of finding a job and paying the bills in one of the most expensive cities in America. Not to mention she also has to deal with an unaffectionate boyfriend, sexual harassment in the workplace, an STD, writing her book, and the general woes that come with going through a pre-life crisis.
One of the more noted aspects of the show is the incredibly uncomfortable sex scenes Dunham sets up for her characters. Jessa hooks up with a stranger in a bathroom stall only to have the guy discover she is on her period. Shoshanna, still a virgin, gets eaten out for the first time, the camera focusing on her tightly wound face. The most awkward one by far is the opening scene in episode two, titled “Vagina Problems.” Hannah is in bed with her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver), humping away and role-playing. Watching these two have sex is weird enough considering how uncoordinated Hannah is and the fact that Adam can’t keep their scenarios straight, and doesn’t seem to care about it either. During their role-play, first they meet at a party, then out on the street, until Hannah is inexplicably an eleven-year-old junkie prostitute.
Again, the show gets a lot of comparisons to Sex and the City. Like SatC, Girls centers around the friendship of its four female characters: Hannah, Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet). They confide in each other, offer advice despite their lack of life expertise, share beds, showers, bathroom time, and offer general support no matter the circumstances. Also like SatC, Girls has frank discussions about sex.
What was so radical about Sex and the City when it first aired was the fact that these women—independent and successful—were speaking so openly and, at times, graphically, about their sex lives. The show made it okay for women to talk about sex without being chastised for it or for being referred to as “whorish” for admitting to enjoying sex. It was the Golden Girls for the 90s/early 2000s where the women were stylish, powerful, and sexually in charge.
Obviously, my issues with Sex and the City are not so different from most critics of the show—the characters were too concerned with finding a man and fulfilled too many female stereotypes. But my main issue with it is more personal. Admittedly, having watched a handful of episodes growing up, the show did make me more comfortable discussing sex, but it also added the pressure of having to be good at it. The women of SatC are thin, beautiful, and sexually confident women who know how to please a man. I feel this does not reflect who I am.
At the risk of offering too much information, I am not good at sex. I shy away from men’s attention towards me. I tense up at the slightest gesture towards any private area on my body. I don’t know how to give a proper hand-job. The first time I tried to give a blow-job, I kept accidentally biting the poor guy. I am far from being any kind of sex goddess.
Back when I was with my boyfriend, he asked me once to pose nude for him for his illustration project. The poster he was drawing called for a sexy female figure–poised and happy. Though we had already slept together, I still wasn’t ready to stand confidently naked in front of him, and knowing that his classmates were going to see this too didn’t help. Still, I agreed to do it out of my affection towards him, and with a compromise that I could keep on my jeans since they were form fitting, and that I could keep on my bra. He sat on his bed sketching away while I stood in the middle of his room trying to suck in as much of my stomach as I could and angeling my thighs to give him their skinniest profile. He tried to ease my discomfort, every now and then coming up from his sketchbook and telling me how beautiful and sexy I was, but all I could do was try to eye his paper to see how big he had made my waist. Even afterwards when we made love, I could only believe that he was doing it out of pity because there was no way the girl standing before him, stiff and bloated, was a woman that was able to turn him on.
This is why watching the sex scenes on Girls are such a relief to me. As painful as it is to watch Dunham’s character attempt to text her boyfriend a gawky topless photo of herself, she is a character I can sympathize with. Just like Hannah–and the majority of girls for that matter–I do have the desire to be desirable, but when I do end up in the bedroom, I feel myself coming up short. As much as I attempt to be that sexually adventurous woman, in the end, I feel like a little girl trying to wear her mother’s shoes. Every moan, every dirty word that comes out of my mouth is forced out, disappointing myself for being so disingenuous. The best I can be is loving and affectionate, but not sexy. Whether it is right or wrong for me to forge this aspect of myself, I am grateful that there is a show out there that communicates my experience so honestly that it is painful and embarrassing to watch.