Relationships

On Sex and ‘Girls’

On Sex and HBO'S Girls

Do you watch Girls? It’s such a fun show (especially the Tokyo scenes), and I love the clever wardrobes and talking alarm clocks and that lanky, slow-talking Adam Driver. But there’s one thing that drives me completely bats…

If I have to watch one more scene where someone has unprotected sex — even with a complete stranger, even in a graveyard — without blinking an eye, my head is going to explode into 1,000 tiny pieces. They don’t even feel stressed later, or freak out and get tested, or have any sort of awareness of it at all. It just happens, it’s a non-event.

And here’s the thing: If TV and movie characters move seamlessly from kissing to sex, without stopping to get protection, then people may hesitate to use condoms in real life. Because then it may feel awkward and prudish to bring it up, go find one, take off the wrapper…

And I know Girls is just a show, but you end up absorbing and normalizing things around you; it’s human nature.

Years ago, I read an article called Why James Bond Needs to Use Condoms. The author wrote:

People don’t know how to talk about condoms in the heat of the moment… Hollywood could help us solve this problem, by normalizing condoms, even by making them cool. If James Bond starts talking about condoms, maybe other guys will follow suit… If Megan Fox cuts off a guy until he agrees to wear a condom, the language she uses, the confidence she displays, could give other women an idea of how they can pull of the same feat… If condoms were shown to be a normal part of a successful love life, people exploring their first sexual experiences wouldn’t be as prey to the myth that condoms kill romance.

Wear condoms! Have protected sex! It’s not awkward! It takes like two seconds! Just do it!

On a lighter note: These 15 questions about the most recent episode made me laugh out loud (#10!), and here’s a great interview with Allison Williams on why people love to hate Marnie.

On Sex and HBO'S Girls

P.S. A new way to get engaged, and 9 questions for the costume designer of Girls. And update: This awesome video!!!

  1. I understand your point, but don’t see the need to politicize everything that sets out to entertain us. When I’m watching these sex scenes I’m not even thinking about protection/stds/pregnancy, I’m assuming that the participants are aware of this and have made there decisions. Enjoy the show, that’s why it exists. Now I get the hard part – educating my kids, but this is my job, not the medias.

    • (sorry – “their decisions” not “there decisions”) **shudder**

  2. Lindsey says...

    I think that since they don’t show the whole scene for many of these, that maybe protection is just assumed, as it was definitely discussed in the “things that get around the side of condoms” episode. I also wonder if Marnie having sex with her ex who is know an IVDU will come back as a plot in a later episode or season (I haven’t finished yet). But, what really makes me cringe? Hannah’s bush! It has shown up so much this season that it should be a character on the show. I mean, when she showed her principal?? I was crying laughing and my partner was covering his eyes. So good. Hehe.

  3. Audrey Pettifor says...

    so funny! I totally agree. Especially after Marnie had unprotected sex with her ex who was an injection drug user- she didn’t once freak out about HIV or STDs…really?! I would have totally freaked. Maybe that shows my age.

  4. Katie says...

    Completely agree! And scarily enough I unfortunately know WAY too many people who “don’t like condoms” and generally have unprotected sex with anyone. Blows my mind.

  5. bethany says...

    I don’t know how I missed this when you wrote it a couple weeks ago, but damn I’m so glad you did. I’m married and my husband and I aren’t ready to have kids yet, so birth control/protection are so routine for us. But I have a friend that recently started dating, and while I absolutely affirm her having casual sex, she feels awkward about asking the guy to wear a condom and I
    worry about her being safe. Sometimes I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation in 2016!

  6. This is my favorite post you have ever written

  7. J says...

    All I can think of now is this quote from an earlier episode of Girls: “But what about the stuff that gets up on the SIDES of condoms??”

  8. Just a thought says...

    How about not having sex with anyone, anytime in general (even protected)? Why is that so normal? Why do movies have to push women into thinking having sex right when they meet someone is how it goes? Maybe movies “normalized” this instead of just taking it slow, and having sex with someone you are committed to. Just a thought…

    • BDubs says...

      I agree with you, personally. But I think this is like the sex-ed-in-schools debacle about how ideally it should be saved but there are always going to be people who want the sex regardless of admonishing them otherwise, and those people need to demand protected sex from their partners.

  9. shopgirl says...

    Agree so very much!

  10. I feel the same way about the lack of awareness regarding unprotected sex. That is the first thing that comes to my mind and I always think that it’s so unrealistic when a show doesn’t address the very terrifying elephant in the room. Thanks for pointing it out!

    Tanya
    http://www.laptopsandheels.com

  11. thank god, you brought this up! finally someone who’s willing to speak up about this. IT REALLY BOTHERS ME TOO! What kind of a message does this send to our teenagers? Unprotected sex is NOT okay.

  12. I do think that Girls has covered the safe sex topic, but Marnie and Charlie quiet clearly did not use a condom, and that’s pretty distressing given Marnie’s revelations the next morning that Charlie is, uh…diabetic. (Ha.)

    I am completely anal (bad choice of word, perhaps) about safe sex. Ladies and gentlemen, if you want your children to be similarly fastidious about condom use, get them to work at a sexual health clinic at 18 years old, like I did. Better yet, get them in there earlier.

  13. Eteachy says...

    After their sex scenes, I ALWAYS wonder how the characters aren’t totally freaking out about their unprotected sex!

  14. Sam says...

    I’m really glad you pointed this out. I know so many young people who don’t care about wearing condoms or not. I’ve been in the situation where I’m telling the guy nothing’s gonna happen unless he wears a condom many times, and have only had condom-less sex with my now bf of 2+ years (I’m on the pill now).

    I had to see one of my best friends get pregnant and go through an abortion because her bf didn’t like condoms and she wouldn’t tell him to wear them. And I advised her so much, I told her that she had to be tough with him and not have sex unless he would wear them, but she never listened. Pregnant at 19, while they were both in med school. Abortion was the only option for them.

    And by the way, we’re not American. Abortion is illegal where we live, so she didn’t have the safe procedure you guys have access to in the US. Not every doctor will help you with an abortion because they go to jail if they have any type of involvement. The ones that do help you, tell you to get this medicine (I don’t remember the name) that’s used for ulcers but as a side effect causes abortions. You drink two and insert two in your vagina. It causes the product to detach from the uterus, and when you start bleeding you go to the doctor like you’re having an involuntary abortion and they’ll do the curettage.

    IT’S A REAL ISSUE, so THANK you Joanna for bringing this up.
    Young people!! wear condoms!!

    • Agnes says...

      So awful. And sad.

  15. Linda says...

    I try and avoid movies and TV with sex scenes or fast forward past them. I honestly don’t think it’s any of my business to watch while people have sex, or even pretend to have sex. I can’t rely on Hollywood to teach me, my husband or kids about sex or healthy relationships. More often than not, they portray unhealthy relationships for dramatic or comedic value. I want to learn about intimacy and relationships by asking for wisdom from people who have lasting, loving, healthy relationships. Sex is never safe, it is a very vulnerable act meant to bond two people together. I think our culture has forgotten that and exploited it for entertainment purposes.

    • Gita says...

      Such a refreshing opinion, thank you! I agree that sex scenes are way overdone in our culture.

    • Agnes says...

      Yes. To everything you said.

    • Roxana says...

      Hear! Hear!

  16. Paula Campos says...

    YAASSSSSSSSS!!! LOVE THIS POST!

  17. Jenny says...

    I very much agree. And your writing in this post really portrays how fired up you are about this topic. Love the passion!

    I read this article a few years ago called “Un-Memorizing the ‘Silence is Sexy’ Date Script.” I think it’s such an important topic that applies to all things sex and relationships, including protection and consent. We’re often taught that saying something will ruin the moment. But in fact, not communicating is a much greater risk.

    Definitely worth a read!
    https://queerguesscode.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/un-memorizing-the-silence-is-sexy-date-script/

  18. Tracey says...

    The whole time I watched TrainWreck I thought exactly the same thing! My 16-yo daughter even noticed it (when she watched at her dad’s house — grrrrr). good freakin’ grief!!

  19. Kate says...

    Thank you so much for writing this, it is so important!
    Sex ed occurs in pop culture more so than in school or anywhere, and I agree that it is discouraging to see a lack of condoms in these women’s lives…it very much needs to be normalized!

  20. I might be the odd one out here but I have actually noticed a lot of tv shows addressing this topic. Broad City had an episode where Abbi forgot to use a condom and Ilana is mortified and really upset by that. Friends had a TON of condom references (Rachel and Monica fighting for the last one, Ross and Rachel getting pregnant because “it only works like 97% of the time”). Sex And The City had an episode where a man pointed out to Samantha that she should be getting tested regularly because of the amount of sex she enjoys. Gilmore Girls addressed this when Rory lost her virginity (“and we were safe, you know, I guess all those trojan jokes really paid off”). And like someone else pointed out Girls did address this topic as well. But it also address our humanity and our ability to make absolutely horrible decisions. And perhaps the episode with Marni was really to highlight a portion of that; she had a bit of a wakeup call when she realized she had just slept with someone who had become an addict and in turn realized she made another mistake in marrying someone she didn’t really love or respect and who didn’t love and respect her. In my opinion the characters we watch and read about in books and tv and movies shouldn’t be our moral compasses. They are characters; they can show us a lot about life and the human condition (good and bad, safe and unsafe) but they cannot be our saviors or the grounds on which we base our real life expectations.

  21. Sarah says...

    There is SO much about the sex scenes on this show that bother me that, to be honest, I had never noticed the condom thing! OK–I’m in my late forties and I’ve had plenty of bad sex and good sex in my life and I’d call 90% of the sex on that show bad, bad, bad. Joyless, awkward (not fun, cute, youthful awkward but horrible, uncomfortable awkward!), totally focused on the pleasure of the guy and not the girl, untender, unpassionate. Unfun. I really worry sometimes about young people watching this show, that their expectations are being hopelessly lowered. :(

    • I so agree! Lena Dunham is such a feminist, I’d think she’d be on to this. Altho sometimes I think she wants it raw, realistic, as if that’s all a girl can expect or demand.

    • Elizabeth Johnson says...

      I see where you are coming from but I disagree at times. A lot of those male driven somewhat aggressive sex scenes are due to a troubling time the female character is going through. This is an entirely untouched realm. I can think of times when my sex life was less then desirable and it was in direct correlation with how I was dealing with a certain period of time. The positive thing is that light is shed on the bad. Sometimes sex is bad, sometimes we women compromise ourselves, sleep with the wrong guy, have a pregnancy scare. What we can focus on if how these women are dealing with it. By writing or maybe relying on their friends. Don’t want to drag on but I see it as a female positive topic.

  22. YES. This would make my job (pediatrician- yes we talk to teens about safe sex too!) a WHOLE LOT easier. and of all the sex in the media, I feel like this show is most realistic. They have no good reasons NOT to do it. thanks for addressing this important topic, Joanna.

  23. Mary says...

    I just want to comment on all the freakin sex scenes that has become so routine in TV these days. I just wish it would stop. And another thing, have you ever noticed how some of it is very very rough, the man is very aggressive and sometimes the woman is reluctant and even might try to stop him and then she really gets into it? Bloody hell, what kind of message is that sending????

    • YES!! and every woman comes right with the guy or let’s him do whatever he wants just cause he wants.