I know that the definition of “good sex” is pretty subjective, but, for the sake of argument, let’s define it as “sex that is not objectively awful.”
And no, I’m not just referring to Lena Dunham‘s upcoming show Girls, although the sex on that – if we are to judge from either Tiny Furniture, or the trailer (“what about all the stuff that gets around the condom?” says one girl waiting for an STD test) – looks like it will be nothing if not regrettable. And it certainly won’t be giddy fun, at least, not if the New York Times interview Lena Dunham gave is anything to go by. She notes that Judd Apatow, an executive producer on the show, asked for one more take of a sex scene, and:
“He said, ‘I just want one more where you look like you’re enjoying it a little more. We’re going to need that.’ I said, ‘I did enjoy it!’ He said, ‘Lena, you look like you’re being murdered’.”
Well, hell, she would have fit in on the last episode of Mad Men. Remember when sex on Mad Men seemed fun? Kind of? I mean, fun in an adulterous, lying to everyone about everything, way? Not anymore. The last episode revolved around the Richard Speck brutal rape and murder of 9 nurses. But don’t worry. They broke away from that to feature Don having a fever dream about strangling one of his former lovers to death, after she seduces him. This is what sex looks like on Mad Men lately:
Now, I think it’s still up for debate whether or not this – this, killing a woman and stuffing her corpse under a bed – is preferable to the sex on Game of Thrones. Because, there, in Westeros, sex is seemingly all incest, all the time. And it’s not happy incest. In the first season, sure a brother and sister were sleeping together, but seemed to have an okay relationship, in which they only sometimes killed children. Now it’s an old guy living in the woods, marrying all his daughters and killing all his sons. That’s so much less cheerful! Oh, and they’ve been going around slaughtering all the bastard babies from the king’s liaisons. Nothing good comes out of sex on this show. Only baby-death.
And it’s not just shows that are trying to make a point about society (and dragons). Sex seems terrifying even on shows that are actively trying to be sexy. I do not entirely know what is happening on The Borgias – because I only lift my head to listen to Jeremy Irons, because otherwise someone is always getting disemboweled. However, from what I gather, there’s more incest (the incest relationship seems like the happiest and most normal one on the show), wife-rape, the Neapolitan disease, and everyone is eating at a table with taxidermied dead bodies? Is that accurate? Am I like Don Draper – is that show a fever dream I am having?
I know this sounds odd, and I don’t want to glorify the having-$50,000-worth-of-shoes-and-no-savings-is-awesome mythology that it built up, but Jesus Christ I miss Sex and the City. Remember when people had sex and it seemed kind of fun? And not awful? Or, when the worst thing that happened related to sex was that Mr. Big married a 25 year old? Happy days. Happy days.
That’s not to say that the Sex and the City mythology holds up, because it doesn’t. If you live in New York, crying 22 year old girls getting their heels caught in the cobblestones in the West Village will remind you of that every single weekend. No one has sex with an endless series of glamorous and attractive men every night forever, unless they live in Heaven. That notion should be poked fun at. When Liz Lemon came onscreen in 30 Rock and expressed little interest in sex it seemed refreshing. When she said that ” I’m sorry I’m a real woman, and not some over-sexed New York nympho like those sluts on Everybody Loves Raymond!” that seemed like reasonable, funny backlash to the sex-every-night attitude exhibited on Sex and the City. Rah, rah, middle ground.
But maybe the pendulum has swung too far over to the “sex is depressing, only incest, all the time,” side of things on television. Because the thing about sex is that, unless you are making consistently terrible decisions, sex is not depressing. Sex is fun. Sex is great, and hopefully emotionally enriching (just wear a condom). The idea that it results only in madness and death and endless dark things is frankly more unrealistic than being a freelance writer with a closet full of Manolos. Sex doesn’t need to be sparkling and delightful 100% of the time – but does it really need to so closely resemble a murder scene?