PIV-centric sexuality in popular culture

We live together, love each other and sleep together, but we definitely aren’t lesbians

The GOLDEN GIRLS  (1985-1992).  because the golden girls are women who live together, love each other and sleep together (well just that one time) in S7E15 they are featured on a talkshow about lesbians by mistake.  oops!  because unfortunately, “golden girls” was as much about men and PIV-centric sex as it was about anything else (and it pains me to say it, as i love them so!)

blanche was supposed to be the “slut” but the gruesome serial dating of all the “girls” and constant onslaught of PIV-references throughout the show made it brutally clear that this wasnt a show about spinsters or lesbians, it was a show about sexually PIV-active straight women who live together, love each other, and sleep together (but only when the heater goes out).

the series ended when dorothy got married and went to live with her new husband, leaving the girls and her mother behind.  (they spun-off into the awful and short-lived “the golden palace”.)  and this never seemed strange to me before, but damn does that seem strange to me now, and i frankly dont buy it: why the HELL would any woman who was getting on in years, who had so many failed relationships was so educated in the subject of men and their universally dastardly ways, who had agreed to be an insurance policy for the others including her 2 best friends and her own mother if any of them ever got sick or needed help…choose to be with another fucking man, in the end?  i wouldnt.  no fucking way.  the entire thing is bizarre and wrong, and i dont buy it.

of course, the “sexuality” of the women on the golden girls was completely PIV-centric, and the discussions of “sex” (as a euphemism for PIV) are endless, including one episode where rose reveals that she had been having “sex” with her husband for several years before she “knew what made your eyes roll back in your head.”  and who could forget the episode where the girls are going on a cruise with their gentleman friends and they decide to pack condoms just in case?


goal is to “land a man”yes.  male-pleasing behavior, including grooming and dress; competing and vying for male attention, including the girls repeatedly trying to date the same man; sophia and dorothy both marry men, although sophia (dorothys mother) decides that she would rather just be “friends with benefits” and he moves back to new york and she stays in miami the the girls.  in the series finale we see dorothy leaving the girls behind to go with her new husband.  upon landing her man, dorothy apparently doesnt want to take care of sophia anymore (or doesnt insist on it) and sophia stays behind and goes with blanche and rose to start a hotel in “the golden palace.”  even though they had all made a pact years before to always take care of each other, no matter what, this promise apparently cannot be relied on, no matter how sincerely it was meant at the time (ie. its not a “commitment.”)

normalizing reproductive stress and painyes.  dorothy had an unwanted pregnancy as a teenager and was forced to marry stan; blanche’s daughter has in vitro fertility treatments; one of the girls neices has an unwanted pregnancy and her father kicks her out of the house.  the girls buy condoms for a weekend cruise and are humiliated by the clerk.

pathologizing menstruation.  [none that i can recall?]

pathologizing older women and menopause/fetishizing female youthyes.  the show is called the golden GIRLS, and they constantly refer to each other as girls, and are referred to by others as girls.  dorothy says she feels old, and that “50 seems young to me now.”  sophia says “you’re only as old as you feel” which isnt exactly true is it?  as if theres a way to stave off aging?  sheesh.

normalizing simulated/exaggerated female pleasure from PIV and PIV-centric sexyes.  blanche is crazy for PIV and reports having “urges” that could only be satisfied through PIV from a very young age.  there is never any discussion of vaginal atrophy, loss of vaginal lubrication, or any of the vaginal changes associated with aging that can affect womens ability to have PIV; this is assumed not to have occurred, even for sophia who is well into her 80s.

rape and rape culture.  yes.  restrictive female clothing including high heels (and high-heeled mules with stockings–hello!  broken ankle alert)  sophia reports that her late husband used to “have sex” with her when she was asleep.  blanche frames “rape” in terms of consent only when she refers to her own sexual escapades as being “consensual” and contrasts this with rose’s experience of being assaulted while under anesthesia at the dentist.  rose is unsure what happened to her was wrong, and wonders if she imagined the whole thing.  one of blanches boyfriends is verbally abusive to her and she has to placate him; the same man grabs and hurts dorothy when she confronts him.

rating: 5/6

heres the “condom skit,” as well as the final scene of the series finale, and then the first part of the pilot for “the golden palace”:


6 responses

  1. Jodie

    I watch the Golden Girls all the time; it is seriously my favorite show, but I’ve been been aware of what’s “wrong” with it, from a feminist POV, since I was about 13. :/ Although you’ve reminded me of some stuff!

    pathologizing menstruation. [none that i can recall?]

    ^ When Blanche goes through menopause, the girls all talk about “The Curse”.

    On the topic of menopause, there’s that time when Rose says something, and then Sophia and Blanche say she “puffy” (reference to menopause). Sophia watches porn once, Dorothy is constantly shamed for not dating, being a “prude”… The others consider it unnatural that the only man that Rose ever slept with/saw her naked was Charlie… And after Blanche has her heart surgery, she doesn’t want to have sex which makes her at-the-time boyfriend impatient but once she does have it again she can’t stop. Aaaand Blanche is always considered “a freak”.

    I’m sure as I watch more episodes I’ll be able to remember more!

    August 5, 2011 at 12:02 am

  2. FCM

    ah yes, the curse! thank you! so GG gets 6/6 then. just like married with children. 😦 oh well.

    August 5, 2011 at 12:13 am

  3. Jodie

    Hey, I know you said you weren’t going to add any new articles… but have you seen Hot in Cleveland? Betty White who played Rose in GG now plays a Sophia-like character in it… The sitcom actually seems to be somewhat based off of the original GG, so I guess doing an analysis of it would be somewhat pointless, because it’d have the same rating… And this is just sitcoms, can you imagine if you did “reality” TV on here? I shudder to ever think about it. (Bridezillas, The Bachelor, Bridalplasty, Big Easy Brides.. oh dear) :/

    August 5, 2011 at 12:47 am

  4. FCM

    hi jodie

    no i havent seen that one. i actually very rarely watch new sitcoms, my pop culture references kinda of stop in the 1990s somewhere for the most part. and you are right that most shows would end up with the same rating as all the other shows: thats kind of the whole point actually. the PIV-centric narrative is all around us. my hope is that people take the criteria, and use it to critique their favorite shows, or that they can come up with criteria that are even better than mine. the most recent show i am familiar enough to critique was “what i like about you” which nigel got me watching actually. he thought it was charming, and so did i. i still do.

    August 5, 2011 at 12:56 am

  5. There’s a trope that is so common in comedies that I think most people don’t even notice how odd it is. I know that Maude (Bea Arthur’s previous character) made jokes about it and I bet Dorothy did, too. It’s the trope about how all men are “three-grunts-and-done” or “30-second Charlies” or the dozens of other clever phrases, analogies, and metaphors used to portray men as getting themselves off with PIV then falling into a coma-like sleep. It’s an incredibly common joke in both tv and movies. And it’s hugely striking to me that even male writers, directors, etc. don’t seem to be bothered by depicting men this way and having female characters joke about it all the time. Must be because the real joke is on women and men get that. It’s funny how my perspective is that men are assholes for that, but the men who depict men that way don’t seem to be bothered at all. Maybe they’re proud of themselves for getting away with it.

    August 8, 2011 at 10:39 pm

  6. FCM

    YES! thats absolutely common isnt it? and yes, it must benefit men and PIV-centrism too, or it would never see the light of day in the MSM. we may as well just start our analysis there, i mean really. it would save time if we just assumed it. jokes on us indeed.

    August 11, 2011 at 10:41 am