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Sex and the City

Kristen Cordova | Monday, February 23, 2004

I didn’t know about the hit HBO drama “Sex and the City” until last year. HBO isn’t provided in the dorms, and I had spent my sophomore year abroad in Spain. So by my junior year, I was somewhat out of the loop about the controversial and groundbreaking show that has tried to portray women’s sexuality. Granted, “Sex and the City” does not portray every woman’s sexuality, or every American woman’s sexuality, or every married woman’s sexuality or sexuality for women of every age. It does, however, strive to dispel old stereotypes, such as that women don’t talk about sex or that women don’t want sex as much as men. Inspired by the writings of Candace Bushnell, the show’s stars, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon are fabulous as Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes. They are four single women who live in Manhattan. They are independent thirty-somethings with successful careers. They are women fed up with bad relationships. In the very first episode, Carrie laments with another dumped girlfriend and makes a claim which provides the framework for Sex and the City.”No one had told her about the end of love in Manhattan,” Carrie said. “Welcome to the age of un-innocence.” Women have always been taught and programmed to believe that love is what they want, but now that it has “flown the co-op,” what is left? They can only conclude that what is left is sex. It is left to be seen, however, whether the women of New York will trade in love for the power of sex or turn to despair. This is what “Sex in the City” is all about. What makes the show interesting is the way these women work out their ideas on sex, love and relationships in a society where women like this have never existed. As Samantha said in the first episode, “This is the first time in the history of Manhattan that women have had as much money and power as men. Plus, the equal luxury of treating men like sex objects.” These two facts give women choices and possibilities that women before our time in history have never had. Ideas like this have created the controversy and mystique that surround the show and contribute to its success. Traditionally, women have not always had personal independence, let alone sexual freedom. Many women in the world still don’t, especially in countries where women can be stoned to death or murdered by family members for having sex outside of marriage. But whether or not people agree with sex outside of marriage, they must admit that women should at least have equal rights to sexual freedom as men. Even in the United States, where women are technically equal to their male counterparts, there still remains a huge stigma that stains female sexuality today. This is apparent in the age old double-standard, which tells us to consider a man who has sex with numerous women culturally acceptable and label him a “playboy,” whereas we ostracize women who do the same with words like “slut” and “easy.”Many women love “Sex and the City” because it portrays both women and men as sexual objects and aggressors. It follows the story of these four friends as they navigate the stormy New York dating waters and struggle to position their own attitudes and expectations about relationships within that environment. Despite their often pessimistic musings, I don’t believe the four women ever give up hope on love. The show tries to point out how difficult it is for these women to reconcile their need to be sexual and their desire to find meaningful, loving relationships.”Sex and the City” will be sorely missed now that it is ending. The show allowed people to hear the sexual voice of women. It brought together the neurotic girl-next-door, embodied by Charlotte, and the sex goddess, embodied by Samantha, balanced by the brainy lawyer, Miranda, and the spunky columnist, Carrie. The show allowed them to share their common experiences in relationships and sex. By associating the women with certain “typical” sexual personalities, “Sex in the City” was able to universalize its message and relate to the experiences of women across the board who confront similar issues. The show also allowed women to have fun while confronting those issues. I’m sure anyone who is a fan of the show has favorite episodes and seasons. For me, it’s season three, the first one I watched. Carrie and Mr. Big are still entangled, Charlotte marries Trey, and the girls head to Los Angeles. Not to mention the fabulous clothes they wear throughout the series. In the first season, Carrie wears “the dress,” i.e. the “naked” dress she wears for a promotional picture on the side of a bus. Or season four, when Carrie models a pair of sparkly underwear in a New York fashion show. It’s definitely a show for women, but much more accessible than cheesy Lifetime television. “Sex and the City” has broken through many cultural stereotypes about women’s sexuality by asking the questions no one wanted to ask. In the first episode, Carrie asks herself whether it’s possible for women to have sex like men, “without feeling.” From hindsight, we know that over the next five seasons Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will answer “yes.” They also discover, however, that having sex like men is not satisfying or what they want. What they really want is to have sex “like women,” according to their own standards, not according to standards set by society or men or religion. The words of Mr. Big come back to me: “Oh, I get it. You’ve never been in love.” Carrie’s breath catches in her throat, and she knows it’s the truth. Maybe after sex and the city have both faded away, Love will be the only answer that’s left.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Kristen Cordova at [email protected]