Wednesday, February 2

Season Four, Episode Four: What's Sex Got To Do With It?

The Summary:

Ah, sex of various sorts and descriptions! Let us contemplate it.

So Carrie has commenced dating Ray, the charming musician whom you may recall from our last episode--wearer of vintage hats, possessor of laconic charm. I like Ray. Sigh. I suppose that was my first mistake.

So the good part is, whilst with Ray (in the biblical sense of being "with" him), Carrie experiences the most intense orgasm of her life. Mazel tov! This happy pattern is repeated in their subsequent encounters, and Carrie is quite dazzled by the intensity of their physical connection. Do you see the dark shadow of a problem lurking over there in the corner of this pleasant scenario? You should, because I assure you that it's there! How could it not be?

Alas, it turns out that this physical connection is the only kind which Carrie can have with Ray--he's entertaining to be around (and not purely in the carnal sense--clean up your filthy mind!), but she can't actually manage to have a real conversation with him--after weeks of dating him, she still doesn't know anything about him--and seems unlikely to ever learn anything, since he seems to have ADD of the most virulent type and description, hopping from idea to idea, and from task to task, in a way which Carrie finds quite dizzying and unsettling. (At one point he ends up playing the banjo on the floor of his apartment nude, when he'd ostensibly headed off to get a glass of water. I see.) And so, despite the Lady-Chatterley-with-Mellors nature of their physical relationship, she breaks it off. Bummer. Buh-bye, Ray! Buh-bye, vintage hats! I'll miss you!

Meanwhile, Miranda is enmeshed in yet another unpleasant storyline. (Are we shocked?) She has decided to go on a "sex strike"--consciously abstaining from sex primarily since there are no attractive prospects currently on the horizon. In the midst of this "strike," she becomes addicted to cakes of various kinds and descriptions (an addiction which I suspect is suffered by many, whether they be celibate or no)--said addiction spiraling to the point where she actually eats cake out of the garbage. Oh, how Cynthia Nixon must have looked forward to playing someone like Eleanor Roosevelt, after being entrapped in such plot machinations by the writers! Sheeeeeesh.

In the end, Miranda decides that maybe instead of binging on sugar (not that I would be understood to malign sugar binges, myself--sugar would never forgive me, and I do not wish to anger it), she might address her current sexual frustration... by masturbating? And we didn't consider this before because...?

ANYWAY. In the Land of Charlotte, we are still creeping down the Path of Marriage Repair. So--first, she and Trey managed to create a sex life for themselves which actually... involved sex. (Good!) Then, Charlotte managed to convince Trey that perhaps they might actually have said sex in their own home sometimes, as opposed to in every public space with a locking door in the city. (Also good!) Having managed all of that, Charlotte is ready to think about moving back in with Trey, and giving things another shot, Full-On Marriage Wise.

Trey, however, is still thinking purely about the sex end of things, seeming content with their current "Charlotte comes over to their old home for trysts, and then leaves" arrangement. Terrified that if she even brings up the possibility of their moving back in together, Trey will lose his new-found sexual initiative, Charlotte delays doing so for a bit... until she reaches her breaking point (said breaking point being reached after Trey asks her to measure his "John Thomas" in the wake of one of their encounters... seriously?) and yells at him about how tired she is "of being married to your penis." This seems to snap Trey (and his penis as well, presumably) out of it a bit, and he asks Charlotte to move back in with him, and be his wife, in all ways (not just the carnal) again. Charlotte happily accepts. All right-y then!

And in the world of Samantha... Sam has started dating Maria, and is actually really happy with her. Excellent! In most un-Samantha like fashion, she has held off on sleeping with Maria right out of the gate, since she wants their first time to be "special"... after a sufficient interlude, however, sleep with Maria Sam does, receiving an education in the process about both female anatomy, and the differences between casual sex with someone she expects (and hopes) never to see again, and sex with someone she actually cares about.

In their initial encounter, Maria is put off by Sam's mechanical, detached approach to physical intimacy, and asks her to think about sex as an emotional, as well as a physical, experience. Sam is initially flummoxed by this concept, but comes around in the end--and learns some fun facts about the vagina in the process. Well, we are always glad to learn more fun vagina facts!

Sam's happiness with Maria is matched only by her friends' consternation with such happiness. They are incredulous that Sam is dating a lady, and express a range of negative sentiments about it (ranging from Charlotte's shock at the very idea, and disgust at the details about lesbian sex which Sam shares with the ladies, to Carrie's decision to treat the whole thing as an amusing joke.) Charming. Oh, wait, sorry, I meant not charming! My mistake!

The Analysis:

LGBT Folks Watch
: Once again, we have Maria, who continues to be represented quite positively [blogger to self, ominously, under breath: "for now, anyway..."]--one or two stereotypical flourishes here and there (which we shall discuss anon, never fear!), but on the whole, we have before us a three-dimensional, interesting, complicated character, who is also a lesbian. Shall wonders never cease?

The One Thing About The Absurd Miranda Plotline That I Actually Like Watch: In the otherwise ludicrous and distasteful Miranda plotline in this episode, I do find one thing to enjoy--that being that Carrie informs us that Miranda's idea of an ideal evening is to sit down with some eclairs to watch The Daily Show. Amen to that, sister! But beware of claiming Jon Stewart as your imaginary boyfriend, because he already has his hands full being my imaginary boyfriend. Capiche?

Mild Slut Shaming Watch
: After Carrie and Ray have first started dating (and sleeping together), Charlotte reproaches Carrie for said "just started dating, but already sleeping with" combination. Ah, how I have missed Charlotte suggesting that a lady sets herself on a course for inevitable relationship disaster by dispensing her maidenly (or, I guess, not so maidenly) favors too precipitously! Good to see that she's back on form. Happily, the episode does not indicate that things didn't work out with Ray because Carrie was so sluttttty, but rather because Ray is more than a little looooony. (Sorry, Ray--I still like you, if it's any consolation--what's a little untreated ADD in the face of a wry sense of humor and an extensive fedora collection, after all?)

The Ladies and Their Lady Feelings, Let Us Discuss, Watch: So I am a wee bit ambivalent about the way in which Maria and Samantha's sex life is handled here--specifically about the discussion about ladies, sex, and feelings. Is it a bad thing that Maria suggests to Sam that she actually think about sex as the opportunity to connect on an emotional, as well as on a physical, level with another person? Nope. Am I displeased to see Sam sleeping with someone she actually cares about? Nope.

But (because you knew there would be one) I do feel a prickle of unease in the ways that Sam and Maria talk about sex--when Maria calls Sam on her whole "detaching herself with emotionally, while being very present physically" trick, Sam says that none of her male partners have ever had any complaints about said practice, to which Maria replies, "Ah--men!", and proceeds to tell Sam that since she's not a man, such emotion-free canoodling will not work for her.

My unease-prickles stem, I think, from two things about this 1) the notion that of course men would not be as concerned with introducing emotion into their canoodling. Ah, men. As we all know, they have less truck with ooey-gooey feeelings than the ladies!, and 2) the notion that the lesbian Maria naturally is only interested in sex crammed full with ooey-gooey feelings. This seems to sail pretty darned close to the "men=primarily interested in sex, women=primarily interested in love" binary... a binary for which I do not care. Is it possible that things might be a smidge more complex than said stereotype allows for...? It seems not, my mistake!

"Yes, Ladies--I'm a Lesbian": Headache-Making Musings on Sexual Orientation Watch: So when Sam tells her friends that she's dating Maria, she does, indeed, say, "Yes, ladies--I'm a lesbian." At which point, your humble blogger's head hit her humble desk with not entirely humble force. Ummm... don't think you are, actually, Samantha J.! You are dating a woman, yes, but you will be shocked to learn... that's not quite the same thing! Blurrrg, so annoying to see the writers once again rejecting the idea of any sexual fluidity whatsoever being possible--when Samantha was sleeping with men, she was straight--now that she's sleeping with a woman, she's gay. I guess it can't be that she's a straight woman dating a lady? Or that she's bisexual? Or that she's just not interested in labels, altogether? It seems not, my mistake!

Doubly irritating that Samantha chooses to buy into this "If I am with a lady, ipso facto, I must be a lesbian, even though I am still attracted to men" malarkey, since otherwise, she's actually doing some good work here in calling her friends on the simplistic, adolescent nonsense that they heap on her (about which... more anon) regarding her dating a woman. Talking to a giggly Carrie about Maria, Sam says "This isn't about being gay or straight... lesbian is just a label, like Gucci or Versace..." (to which of course, Carrie replies, "Or Birkenstock." Go sit in the corner, Miss Bradshaw, I will deal with you later.) Sam tries to tell Carrie about how great Maria is, and how much she enjoys being with her ("She's got passion, talent...") to which, of course, Carrie replies, "A vagina...?" (What did I say about going to the corner, Carrie B.? Don't make me tell you again!) Sam: trying to talk about how she is drawn to this person, and how that attraction and connection transcends tidy labels. Carrie: insistently focusing exclusively on the sexual, and falling back onto tired stereotypes about lesbian ladies and their unglamorous choice of footwear. Le sigh.

So--one solid point given to Samantha for pushing her friends to see her relationship in a way that's a smidge more complicated than their "tee-hee, you're a lesbian now, lesbians are dowdy" style nonsense, and one solid point taken from Samantha for herself falling into the "I am with a woman, therefore I am necessarily a lesbian" gay/straight binary. Which leaves us, of course, with... precisely zero. But that's better than the other ladies are doing... [she typed ominously....]

"Lesbian Du Jour": Charmless Discussions of Ladies Dating Other Ladies, On the Part of Other Ladies Watch: As you may have gathered from my discussion above... my primary problem here is with the way that Charlotte, Carrie, and Miranda react to Sam's news that she's dating Maria. Carrie (in addition to the Birkenstock crack above--so original!) takes to calling Maria's house "Casa de Lesbo" (charming--I was not aware that Carrie was a homophobic seventh-grade boy, but it seems that she is!) and calling Sam the "lesbian du jour." Because that doesn't in any way trivialize Sam's feelings for Maria, or her decision to date her. Nope, not. At. All.

Charlotte, meanwhile, thinks that Sam is dating Maria, 1) because she simply ran out of men to sleep with, and 2) "to bug us." Indeed, that seems very plausible, on both fronts. [Blogger sighs deeply and mournfully.] Miranda, meanwhile, responds to Charlotte's supposition that Sam has turned to women because she's gone through all of Manhattan's men by saying that, if such an eventuality occurs in the life of a straight lady, "you go on strike, you don't eat pussy!" No. She. Did. N't. Ah... but she did. Keep it classy, Hobbes!

So in sum, Sam's friends react to her dating of Maria by 1) suggesting that she's dating a woman simply because she can't find a fella, 2) suggesting that she's dating a woman purely because she wants to annoy her friends, 3) suggesting that she's dating a woman as a kind of passing fancy which will soon, well, pass. Delightful stuff! [Blogger reaches for her (sadly fictional) smelling salts, to revive herself.]

Next Up...?:
An episode entitled "Ghost Town" which involves various kinds of hauntings and misfortunes, of both the quasi-supernatural and the quotidian variety... Just when you thought you were safe from the specter of Carrie's ex-boyfriends... Aidan returns! (Plus side--he is not Big.) And just when you thought you were safe from yet more silly Miranda plotlines... she becomes convinced that she has an actual ghost living in her house! (Perhaps the cake she's been placing in the garbage disappeared through supernatural means, rather than through her eating it?) Also, Disaster in the Land of Samantha and Maria (sigh), and mother-in-law troubles for Charlotte (alas.) Good times all 'round!

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