Wednesday, November 3

Season Three, Episode Six: Are We Sluts?

The Summary:

All right, let's delve into the Magical World of Slut-Shaming, shall we?

So, Carrie has been dating Aidan for a whole week and a half. I am pleased, because Aidan is actually a very nice man. (For once in our lives, Carrie with a very nice man. Thank you, Universe! Though goodness knows, you owed us this, after all that you have put us/Carrie through, so far--and will put us through, in future...) Carrie, on the other hand... is not so pleased, however, because while she keeps extending the invitation, Aidan has of yet declined to sleep with her. When she asks him about said refusals, he says that he wants to avoid making the mistake of sleeping with ladies too quickly (as he had done in the past), instead saving sex for someone special.

Carrie is rather appalled that this line of reasoning (emotional investment and sex going hand in hand) had not even occurred to her as a possibility, and that she herself had expected to sleep with Aidan pretty much right out of the gate, purely by default. Said appallment (appall-hood? appallification?) leads to her to muse about whether modern ladies have dangerously lost touch with all sense of/value for romance, and become "sluts." Well, let us see, shall we?

In terms of her own self (and Aidan's own self), she continues to fret that the fact that he wants to wait to have sex with her means that he wants to be "just friends." (These anxieties not being eased by Samantha, who tells Carrie that she needs to sleep with Aidan ASAP, since a woman and a man only have a short window of time to get on the Romantic Relationship Track, before getting derailed onto the Purely Platonic Friendship Track. I'd like to see the research on that one. Oh, right, I forgot, there isn't any, because... that's rubbish!) She obsesses over whether or not she and Aidan are doomed to end up as just friends, even though Aidan consistently, openly declares that this is not what he wants from their relationship. Oh, Carrie. Will your neuroses never end?

By the end of the episode, time has passed, and Aidan and Carrie have, indeed, slept together (Carrie: "Aidan and I were going to sleep together, and it was going to mean something. I was no virgin, but this was definitely virgin territory.") Soooo... Aidan gets to stick around for a little longer. Goody. Men who are nice!

And what of the other ladies and their grapplings with Slut-Hood, you ask? Samantha, for one, is getting slut-shamed by all of her neighbors, for having an "excessive" amount of gentlemen callers. Although Sam is usually the first to fiercely defend her sexual choices, this relentless derision and nastiness gets to her... and she decides to move to a different building, to escape their heckling (slut-heckling?) All right, then!

Miranda, meanwhile, has learned that she has chlamydia, which means that she has to contact all of the gents whom she has slept with, to tell them to get tested to see if they, too, have this charmless disease. Having to make a list of "All of the Gentlemen I Have Slept With," and subsequently contacting all of the gentlemen on said list, proves to be a rather dispiriting process, and induces some pretty severe self-slut-shaming on La Hobbes' part. Happily, Steve pulls her out of this (Miranda: "I'm a big, dirty, diseased whore." Steve: "Hey, that's my girlfriend you're talking about.") He could care less about Miranda's sexual past, and keeps telling her to stop beating herself up for having a list which is "too long." Goody. Men who are nice, and who refuse to hop on the Slut-Shaming Express!

If only Charlotte was having such luck with the gentlemen--but alas, she is not. She is dating Alexander, who seems to be a very nice man (we know that can't last, don't we, gentle readers?) Transpires that he has the rather unpleasant habit of calling Charlotte "you fucking bitch, you fucking whore" during their Intimate Moments. Ah. Of course he does. When Charlotte informs him of this practice (of which he had previously been unaware), he is horrified (one), decides that he needs to go to therapy to deal with the issues underlying such declarations (two), and dumps Charlotte (three.) The "Let Us Watch Charlotte Suffer" plotlines continue apace, I see!

The Analysis:

People of Color Watch: Marginal in the extreme. The doctor who tests Steve for chlamydia is Asian-American. A nurse, and the doorman in Sam's building, are African-American (and have no lines), and the elevator operator in Sam's building is Hispanic. (He has about two lines, though he does also roll his eyes and look disapproving at Sam's slutttttiness.)

"Okay, That's What I Wanted, Bye": Being Flabbergasted That A Gent Might Actually Want to Wait to Have Sex with a Lady Watch: When it comes to Aidan's "I've decided I only want to sleep with women whom I have gotten to truly know and care about" affirmation--and how that affirmation gets handled--in this episode:

1) Yay. I like Aidan. He is such a nice gent (as opposed to a Nice Guy, notably)--he tells Carrie what he's thinking and what he wants, and cares and asks about what she's thinking, and what she wants. Give yourself a gold star, Mr. Shaw.

2) I also like the fact that he himself mocks the whole "a man won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free, wait, are we seriously likening women to cows here???" idea, that men are always and only out for sex, and yet do not respect the ladies who are "too easy" when it comes to sexual matters. "Okay, that's what I wanted, bye" is what he says to Carrie after they've slept together--and HE IS KIDDING. A man to break our abstinence-only, "men will only respect women who are stainlessly 'pure' and virginal" friends' hearts, this one.

3) The thing that bothers me about this plotline (and you knew there would be something...) is that Carrie does not believe that Aidan is romantically interested in her (even though he keeps telling her that he is, geez) until they sleep together. Her friends do not help to diffuse these anxieties, assuming that Aidan's refusal to sleep with her right away must mean that he is gay, has "mother issues," or is afflicted with some kind of physical deformity. Because it is inconceivable that he could actually mean what he says, and that he wants to wait to sleep with Carrie until they know each other better...? I suppose that it must be, silly me!

Slut-Shaming, Does This Episode Feed or Diffuse It?: A Debate

Feeds It: Oh, please, like this even needs to be a debate.

Diffuses It: I agree, this episode is MINE. It's not even a contest. It's like being Muhammed Ali, and being asked to box a kitten. Pathetic.

Feeds: Ummm, are you high on crack? I believe this one is MINE, kimosabe. Do you not recall the scene where Sam says to Charlotte (who is obsessing about the fact that Alexander has called her a whore dans la sack), "If you're a whore, what does that make me?", and Carrie and Miranda quickly avert their eyes and look embarrassed, because clearly... that's what Sam is, and said moment is played for laughs? Ha ha, Sam is slutty, and said sluttiness is ripe for mockery! [Prepares brow to accept the laurels of victory.]

Diffuses: Okay, sure, I'll grant that that is an unpleasant moment. But I think that it's an isolated, unpleasant moment in an episode which is otherwise quite a thoughtful, nuanced examination of our slut-shame-y culture.

Feeds: [bored, dismissive, examining its cuticles]: Oh, really?

Diffuses: [stung]: Yes, really! Let us not forget that the whole Miranda-Steve plotline is all about how unnecessarily hurtful Miranda's self-slut-shaming is. And about how Steve, with his "Your sexual past isn't the measure of who you are as a person, I don't care who you were with in the past, you're with me now, and I love you, no matter what, stop being mean to yourself" attitude, is presented as the voice of reason here. [Prepares to snatch the laurels of victory for itself.]

Feeds: [less bored now, actually starting to feel a little afraid]: Well... maybe.

Diffuses: Oh, and I'm not done, sparky. As we have already discussed, Aidan, too, explicitly rejects slut-shaming, "women's value to men is purely sexual, yet women deserve to be shamed for being sexual" ideas, as well. And since Aidan and Steve are two of the most sympathetic male characters in the whole darned series, having them mock slut-shaming and try to keep their ladies from engaging in it... pretty nice.

Feeds: [galvanized into life by unease about losing its grip on the victory laurels]: Not so fast, my overly optimistic friend. What about Sam leaving her apartment building because her neighbors' judgment about her sexual decisions makes her feel so terrible about herself?

Diffuses [defensively, and with more than a little false bravado]: Heck, that was a victory for Sam! She leaves because she wants to live in a place free from sexual judgment--she refuses to change her behavior just to appease her neighbors, so she goes to live somewhere else, where she can be herself without shame or judgment!

Feeds: [skeptically]: Ummmm-hmmmm. And it's not like the episode doesn't play Sam's sluttiness for laughs, through its endless montage of the gents she has slept with over the years, for example, and suggest that her neighbors are onto something, when they suggest her sexual behavior is inappropriate and excessive?

Diffuses: [Mumbles something inaudible.]

Feeds: [with artificial sweetness]: I'm sorry, what was that?

Diffuses: All right, I think that we can call the Sam plotline a draw, Slut-Shaming Wise.

Feeds: Fair enough.

Diffuses: But when it comes to the rest of the episode... point to me, I think. I wear high heels, you wear sneakers, I'm cheer captain and you're on the bleachers, and so on and so forth.

Feeds: [Murmurs something inaudible, and likely obscene.]

Diffuses: [Adjusts laurels on its brow, beyond caring about any discontented, obscene murmuring which may be happening in its vicinity.]

"No One Wants to Marry a Whore": Dismissing A Lady's Dislike of Being Called a Whore as Foolish Prissiness Watch: Although I do think that, on the whole, the episode does do a good job of dealing with the whole "our society has some truly bizarre, contradictory, and unpleasant ideas about female sexuality" thing, there is a moment in the "Charlotte tells the ladies that her gent is calling her a whore" discussion which I quite dislike: when Charlotte expresses horror that Alexander has called her a fucking bitch and a fucking whore during sex, her friends quite literally laugh said horror off, regarding Charlotte's objections as rather silly and prissy. (Charlotte: "Why would he say that?" Sam: "Maybe because... you were fucking him?" Carrie: "That's true, sweetie, he didn't say it to you at the dry cleaners, he said it when he was in you.")

Ahhhh, that's right, I had forgotten the "gents have the right to use derogatory terms used to disparage women to ladies during sex, even if said ladies find those terms offensive" rule. Foolish of me! Charlotte clearly finds said terminology, not a naughty turn-on, but rather offensive, off-putting, and hurtful... and surely, she has the right to feel this way, without being mocked? It seems not! My mistake!

Next Up...?: Return to me anon, and we shall reflect on "Drama Queens," a episode which is full of, well, drama. (Though sadly, not quite so full of queens. Come on, SATC writers, time-traveling episode, you so could have made it happen! Charlotte exchanging tales of romantic woe with Guinevere! Sam exchanging jokes with Anne Boleyn! Miranda sharing some Quality Redhead Time with Elizabeth! Carrie going shoe-shopping with Marie Antoinette! Amazing.)

The actual episode we shall be discussing, sadly, features none of these things, but rather the return of Big. [Curls up in the fetal position, craving a safety and security not available in this cold, cruel world.]

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