A recent spate of articles have lambasted Hollywood projects from The Social Network to The Town for propagating the slut v. prude dichotomy. One type of girl wears too much make up, has sex in bathrooms, gets crazy jealous, and applies minimal (if any) standards to her choice of partners. The other wears conservative clothes, only sleeps with men who “care” about her (missionary only, obvi), in a bedroom with sufficiently hazy lighting so that you might not actually notice the boning going on.
Hollywood obviously has a difficult time with the hump (ha, pun intented) of the bell curve, that seemingly elusive space between Slutville and Prudeland. Think about all the women you know (men too, but let’s talk about the ladies), most of them probably land somewhere in the middle of that hump, right? So where are my sexually-sane models of what a healthy adult sex life can look like? Kate and I did some brainstorming, and below is a summary of how our conversation went:
Emily: what about X… no, wait
Kate: yeah…no, what about… no, never mind
Emily: Oooh, how about, um… you know, nah… she’s crazy
Much like there is no one way to get to the center of a tootsie pop, there is no one way to portray a healthy, sexually fulfilled character. All I’m after is a character that a) confounds the extremes of slutdom and nunnery, b) depicts sex as a varied, pleasurable activity between consenting adult partners, c) includes presentations of female pleasure and participation. We came up with a few:
Deb Morgan (Dexter) – Bad ass Miami Metro detective. Uses sex for… pleasure (hey! that sounds about right!) Has some one night stands, some relationships, some FWB situations (like what actual people do!) Asks for what she wants, usually gets it.
Nancy Botwin (Weeds) – Pot-dealing suburban mom on the run. Maybe because it’s written by a woman (Jenji Kohan), Weeds has always had a pretty pro-female view of sex. Women masturbate too! Oral sex for girls, hey, that’s a real thing! On the kinkier side of TV sex, folks on Weeds happily (and graphically) let freak flags fly.
Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother) – On other levels, NYC’s favorite crack-of-dawn anchor might not make any of my favorites lists, but it’s hard to argue with her sex life. She’s uber-confident, refreshingly forward and doesn’t feel the need to justify every time she gets laid. In fact, sometimes she high-fives.
The fact that the three we came up with are all TV characters is probably not accidental. An arc of 13 or 22 episodes is a lot more time to work with than a mere 120 minutes. That’s not to say that TV is in the clear (Glee’s Brittany/Rachel, for example) or that there aren’t quality examples on the big screen (Hm…), only that TV is perhaps a more character-development friendly medium.
How great would it be if big and small screen alike could find a little room for complexity in adult sexuality? Let’s look at the slut-prude bell curve, ignore the outliers and spend some time riding the hump! Pun definitely intended.