PIV-centric sexuality in popular culture

PIV in NYC

SEX AND THE CITY (1998-2004).  out of all the shows ive included *and* the ones i didnt, this show probably skeeves me out the most: its entire premise is repulsive to me now, now that ive become a PIV-critical radical feminist.  just, ew.  4 single women serially dating in manhattan — the extreme fuckability mandates alone are enough to send me into spasms of revulsion and despair.

on that note, the episode that sticks out to me the most out of all of them (although i dont think ive seen them all, at least not intentionally) is S4E16, where carrie realizes that she cant afford the downpayment on her apartment, and in fact has been utterly unable to save any money at all over time, because shes spent $40,000 on shoes.  and thats just the shoes.

heres what wiki has to say about that episode:

Carrie is forced to buy her apartment back from Aidan. Charlotte doesn’t know what to do with her engagement ring. Miranda has to refurbish her wardrobe due to her gaining baby weight. Samantha tries to trick Richard into saying he loves her.

nothing about the fact that the main (THE! MAIN!) character of this super-sexxxay “feminist” show literally faced homelessness in this episode, and she herself makes the connection out loud, in front of witnesses, that its because she has spent too much money on shoes.  shes says it outloud, after miranda corrects her: initially carrie blew it off, because she screwed up the math, which frankly is very easy to screw up, and by design, what with the numerous (literally countless) small-to-moderate sized purchases, over time.  aka. wardrobing.  carrie knew she had “about 100” pairs of her favorite designer’s shoes, at $400.00 each, but she thinks “oh well, thats just $4,000.”  no.  its not.  when she realizes her mistake, she is shocked — it takes her breath away even.  she says she will “literally be the old woman who lives in her shoes.”  and thats the straight-up truth of it isnt it?

and it doesnt even get an honorable mention in the plot-summary on wiki.  typical.

analysis.

goal is to “land a man”yes.  OMG yes.  the serial dating; the extreme EXTREME male-pleasing; the fuckability mandates, up to and including facing literal homelessness due to all the money spent on sexualizing attire; the constant availability for PIV.  charlotte marries twice (the first was a mistake; the second was “the one”).  interestingly, carrie once tries on wedding dresses and has a panic attack and breaks out in some kind of rash (i think?) and samantha is a maneater who doesnt end up wanting to commit to the man who treated her the best out of all of them (although that particular bar is set pretty low) but all of this belies what appears to be the truth, which is that fuckability mandates and heteronormativity (and marriage) all fall under the same umbrella of trying to land a man.  dont they?  i mean really.  at the very least its extreme male-pleasing, and samantha stops short of actually getting married or partnering off with one man instead of all men, but for fucks sake, the male-pleasing.  did i say it was extreme?  ugh.

normalizing reproductive stress and painyes.  theres at least one pregnancy scare that im aware of: miranda finds herself pregnant and actually goes to have an abortion, and decides to keep the baby instead.  carrie and berger have “bad sex” and this is treated as an anomaly, instead of addressing the truth of PIV-centric sex generally.

pathologizing menstruation.  [none that i can recall?]

pathologizing older women and menopause/fetishizing female youth. yes.  the fuckability and grooming practices obviously fetishize youth, and meanwhile the oldest one gets breast cancer: statistically i guess one of them had to get it, and the writers chose her.  why?

normalizing simulated/exaggerated female pleasure from PIV and PIV-centric sexyes.  YES.  YES!!!!1!!!!1!2!3!4  this is literally what i hear in my mind, when i think about this show.  thanks kim cattrall!

rape and rape cultureyes. restrictive female clothing and high heeled shoes; drugs and alcohol; mens PIV-entitlement; runaway bride.

rating: 5/6

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21 responses

  1. I don’t know if this is exactly relevant to exaggerations of female pleasure via PIV sex, but I remember Samantha trying to “spice up” her sex life with Jared via role-playing and costumes and shit. Cause, you know, being yourself isn’t sexxxxy enough! There’s one scene where the 2 meet in a bar and pretend to be strangers. Jared wants to ask Samantha about her real LIFE, like what she does for work, and she gets all huffy about this intrusion into her sexxay-time. It’s a foreign point of view to me b/c my sexuality is so dependent on emotional intimacy and intellectual connection. But, then again, I’m a lesbian, so…there! HA! 😉

    August 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

  2. Samantha got breast cancer as a divine retribution for all the sex she’d been up to, and for her general disinterest in marriage.

    I do remember the pathologizing of older women in one episode when Samantha believed she was going through menopause, and as a result, felt obliged to have sex with the ugly grey-haired dude in the nearby appartment because “who else would want her now”.
    In the throes of passion she came on– blood all over the bed– which thrilled her because it meant she still had some time left to shag who she wanted, before she finally had to give in and have PIV with any old minger* who expressed an interest

    *Brit slang for an unsexy, unattractive man/woman

    August 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm

  3. FCM

    omg really? i think i saw part of that episode but i watched them all in syndication (not on cable) and they were edited heavily. which i am kind of glad about because who needs those images in their heads forever, amiright? kinda like porn. i wish i could forget.

    and its interesting, isnt it, that samantha (or whoever was writing her) seems to have instinctively known that men only want to have PIV with women they can impregnate against their wills. even if its just a couple of months too late, its the impregnability (and literally nothing else) thats the draw. nice.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm

  4. My first paragraph was “taking the piss” BTW 🙂

    August 3, 2011 at 1:03 pm

  5. FCM

    haha yes i got that, although its a nice subliminal message isnt it? not only is she the oldest, shes the “sluttiest” (i guess?) and she gets the big C. damn the gods! luckily it was the sexxxay breast cancer, and not anal cancer or something unappealing (like farrah fawcett got IRL). because that wouldve definitely been a downer.

    August 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm

  6. lol!

    August 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

  7. There was an episode where Samantha took a lesbian lover who turned out to be CRAZEEEE. What a surprise!! I think the sex was OK, though…? And the lesbian was also kind of a hippie, if I recall correctly. I may not be,

    Also, remember Charlotte’s first husband? The one who’s mother was an over-bearing control freak? He had some kind of penis issues, impotence or premature ejaculation, I can’t remember. But it was a PROBLEM. Cause PIV is awesome! Must have!!11!1!!

    August 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm

  8. FCM

    oh i didnt see that one UP. ok sex with a crayzee hippie lesbian, you say?

    and i DEFINITELY remember the issues with charlottes first husband — they went to counseling for it because trey never wanted to “do it.” the counselor had them name their genitals (treys dick was “schooner” and charlotte’s vag was “rebecca”) and charlotte said “rebecca and schooner are supposed to beeee together!” the thing is that i had a very similar issue with nigel for the first like 8 years of our relationship. i wanted to do it all the time, and he wanted to do it….oh just enough for me to be constantly worried about being pregnant, but not enough so that it was pleasurable for me at all, because it takes awhile to get the hang of it again after not doing it for a long time, ya know? and i always had the feeling he wasnt being honest about the reasons he didnt want it (or only wanted to do it in the exact way that it was the most stressful and the least pleasurable for ME i should say)…he still hasnt told me, or been able to articulate any actual reason, although he did almost leave me when i said i no longer wanted to do it at all. and PIV was “sex” to him, and his motivation to do “other stuff” (and mine too for that matter, after enough time passed) disappeared completely.

    basically PIV is a crock, with numerous unspoken agendas and motivations, but one thats central to the relationship whether or not anyone particularly likes it, particularly whether or not the WOMAN particularly likes it, including the frequency of it and how that relates to payout versus risk. so over that shit!

    August 3, 2011 at 5:20 pm

  9. Oh, your LEAST favorite position? That’s what he wanted? WTF. I’d be upset about that too. Sexual interaction with a partner is an EXCHANGE, not a unilateral expereince. Goddess. So OVER that shit!

    Here is a link to some very funfem analysis of lesbianism on Sex & the City.

    August 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  10. FCM

    No, not position, frequency. Just often enough that I was at risk for pregnancy every single month, but it was over really quickly bc we hadn’t done it in so long, and or uncomfortable. Just not fun. 😦 I always thought doing it all the time would make more sense, from my perspective: if I was going to have to worry about pregnancy all the time anyway, why not do it a bunch of times to really make it worth it yannow? But no.

    Thanks for the link…I think! 🙂

    August 3, 2011 at 7:46 pm

  11. FCM

    ok, regarding the link. HOW THE HELL can anyone perform a “feminist” analysis of SATC without examining the context of extreme male-pleasing (and PIV-centrism) that was the entire premise of the show? i put “male pleasing” under the category of “goal is to land a man.” if it really belongs there, this context of extreme male-pleasing would seem to preclude a feminist context OR a lesbian context, would it not? in my analysis, the first category is also synonymous with/inclusive of heteronormativity and competing with other women for male attention. i do believe that reviewer was just talking out of her ass: i like the show, or parts of it, or whatever, therefore it has some redeeming qualities. even though it doesnt.

    August 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  12. Exactly. If a reviewer LIKES something, then she cannot be TOO critical of it. Because that wouldn’t make any “sense” and she’d be a HYPOCRITE. Whatever. Welcome to patriarchy, land of cognitive dissonance and reversals!

    Sorry for misinterpreting position versus frequency! I definitely agree about practice! It makes perfect. 😉

    August 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  13. FCM

    oh thats ok UP! we are just talking here. :p regarding practicing though, i was willing for all those years to “practice to get perfect” within a context of extreme risk, to myself, of unwanted pregnancy…but the entire notion is quite bothersome to me now. now, its so clear that there *is* no corresponding payout in terms of female pleasure: there is always some degree of risk there thats not shared by men at all, and that not only takes away from the pleasure bc you cant concentrate for the stress, but *also* the pleasure is canceled out to whatever degree (whatever pleasure there might be, and for some women theres little to none) when its weighed against the risk. this is “sex” for het women, and its fucking hideous. it really is.

    but you go on with your practicing. seriously! im so glad that an authentic female sexuality exists SOMEWHERE. good on you.

    August 3, 2011 at 8:49 pm

  14. UP, those are the exact same episodes I remember from SATC.. the most infuriating part about it is that there are SO many opportunities, almost intentionally it would seem, for one of them to be like “wow, this sucks emotionally for me, let’s explore why the fuck I’m actually doing it!” like they bring you to that point over and over and over, exhaustively, without any of the women having a real aha feminist moment, or saying fuck you to any man, concretely, or walking off anything or refusing to do anything. at a certain point I realized, this is what nonfeminist women’s lives are like. they go in these fucking circles, and even when they meet a nice, loving hippie lesbian they just can’t say FUCK IT enough to improve their lives.

    I like your site, FCM. Femonade has always been good, but you’ve come so far in your analysis. It’s really impressive.

    August 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm

  15. FCM

    hi sonia! thanks! and i agree that there were so many opportunities to have a radical awakening, and of course it never happened. not ONLY because its television (although this will never happen on TV ever) but i think this really is what womens lives are like, as you say. with age and experience, the bloom comes off the rose for many women, but by then its often too late to do anything about it, particularly if they are in a relationship (esp a dependant relationship) with a man and the man requires PIV, or there is fear there that if the PIV ends, the relationship will too. and this is not an unfounded fear, not by a long shot. the fear alone is a coercive force that keeps women doing it long after they would otherwise JUST. STOP.

    THE moment for me, where the characters in SATC (and the audience) couldve had a radical awakening is the episode i described above, where the tangible harms of this male-pleasing PIV-centric lifestyle were revealed: carrie spend $40,000 on shoes. SHOES! i have never forgotten that moment, and it was a serious moment and probably the ONLY HONEST moment in the whole series. but did they learn anything from it? no. no, they didnt.

    August 3, 2011 at 10:14 pm

  16. On the “pathologizing older women and menopause/fetishizing female youth” topic, there’s an episode where Samantha gets a grey hair “down there” and dyes her bush an accidental bright red color in order to hide it.

    Ick. I don’t know how I watched this show, but I did. Great analysis, FCM.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm

  17. FCM

    bahaha! YES i remember that one too smash. LOL thanks!

    August 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm

  18. INteresting to read about your PIV experience with your current Nigel, FCM. It echoes mine in some ways… Ugh, I don’t think I can analyze it too much. BUt this is the basic gist of it:

    age 14-16, had FANTASTIC non-PIV experiences with delicious-looking and respectful boys who were GRATEFUl to land a girl. Boys who had not yet been convinced that porn was a truthful representation of female sexuality

    16-18 . Good year relationship with nicey-guy S. The fIrst year ROCKED as it was completely PIV-free but loads of fun. Small !break! and I lost my virginity to an ex (it was a shit and scary experience, even though I knew him well,and don’t see how it could’ve been better..) Went back to S and we both thought we’d better get on with with, seeing as I was approaching 17 (legal age is 16) and it all went downihll after that.

    BUT… the point I’m getting at is the man I married appears to have the same type of “witholding” personality as your current Nigel FCM. It’s going to sound weird, but I’d rather be fucked on a regular basis than put up with this shite. I can’t even work out what exactly is going on… but I know it’s not. good. And it’s about control. ANd about me getting the LEAST pleasure possible out of a het relationship. Don’T think I’ve even articulate these thoughts before.

    I think it was Dworkin who said that women’s sexuality is chopped up and cut down to the size that heterosexuality demands of it. Well, fuck me if that isn’t what appears to be happening her, except my sexuality is much MUCH vaster and more expansive than the “now and again PIV”. I think all the feminists were right when they said authentic female sexuality–women getting back in touch with their innate sexuality–is what will drive this revolution forward. THat seems to be the dynamics taking place for me, anyway.

    August 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm

  19. Got my sights set on separatism, in case anyone’s wondering

    August 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm

  20. Slightly better feminist review here of SATC at the Guardian. I love the line “it’s like being lobotomized with a pink teaspoon” 🙂

    http://www.alternet.org/sex/147013/%22sex_and_the_city_2%22%3A_materialistic,_misogynistic,_borderline_racist/?page=1

    August 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm

  21. FCM

    cherry, i know what you are saying. yes. and having NO PIV, absolutely none, is way better than having it only once in awhile because the stress related to pregnancy scares (and control) is reduced to ZERO and the pleasure isnt reduced by much (cause whats infrequent PIV worth really? not alot). i highly recommend.

    August 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm