Magazine article The Christian Century

Unsafe Sex: Still Watching 'Sex and the City'

Magazine article The Christian Century

Unsafe Sex: Still Watching 'Sex and the City'

Article excerpt

MY HUSBAND and I have acquired the somewhat embarrassing habit of settling down on the couch to watch reruns of Sex and the City. Despite having aired its final episode on HBO a few years ago, SATC continues to intrigue Americans, who are buying the series on DVD and watching episodes on cable TV. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the way the show trades deftly on contemporary anxieties about being single, looking perfect and growing older.

The four women who star in the show disdain men who want to date models, yet are themselves obsessed with physical perfection and set their own impossible standard of beauty--not to mention an impossible standard of wealth and fashion. The show is famous for popularizing a shoe called the Manolo, which sells for $700 a pair; its stilettos are so high that wearing them is a form of foot-binding.

The show's treatment of sexuality is often offensively blase. Early on, the women decide to have sex "like men." Partners are treated as accessories, much like those pricey shoes--and if the accessories aren't fashionable enough, they are hidden away. One date is referred to as a "cute little fixer-upper." The women are always looking for someone better.

What makes the series interesting, though, is the way the characters grow over time and lose some of the plastic perfection. We see lives portrayed in a way which just might help us think about God's intentions for sex and for bodies.

Charlotte is a WASP princess, fixed on having the perfect wedding in the perfect dress, marrying a wealthy doctor and acquiring a stunning apartment. But the marriage itself turns out to be a perfect sham. Her second husband, Harry, is bald, sweaty and hairy, and they have a completely imperfect wedding--wine is spilled on the beautiful dress and a series of mishaps leaves Charlotte in tears. But as the couple deal with infertility and open their home to adoption, the relationship is characterized by warmth and kindness--even though Harry strews used teabags about and sits naked on Charlotte's perfect white couch.

Samantha, priding herself on her promiscuity, flees anything that smacks of intimacy or vulnerability. She experiments with lesbianism, but gives it up because the other woman wants an actual relationship. But at the end of the show we find her with a young man who won't let her escape without really knowing him. Samantha wants to role-play fantasies. He insists on the "hottest" fantasy of all: "I'm me, you're you." When Samantha gets cancer, her young lover sticks by her side.

Brittle, ultracompetent Miranda won't let a friend take her home after surgery lest she depend on someone else. …

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