At some point in the past year, my two teenaged granddaughters were chortling about an HBO special called “Sex and The City”, every episode of which they had watched with great relish. Their parents thought the show was pretty funny, too. Since from the beginning of my career as a writer, I’ve written about women and sex—the mysteries, the confusion, the consequences—and the possibility of sexual happiness for women which feminism seems to promise, I bought this series and watched about twenty minutes of the first episode.
It was all I could bear to look at.
I hope someone will now object that many different aspects of these women’s lives are shown, later on, and that their obsessive chatter about men is replaced by something else, although God knows what that could be, since there is such a deep division between their day life of work and their night life of chasing men, and all the energy flies to the night side. But maybe there’s a mother or a niece in the offing, some shopping, cooking, a weekend at home, even a book?
To my surprise, nothing said or shown so far is at all shocking because the shocking truths we stumbled on in Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and D.H. Lawrence are entirely missing. There is none of the deep erotic terror, the darkness of self-surrender, in which lies the potency of sexual attraction. Without that, it’s only shopping.
Shopping, without credit card or receipt. And since shopping is about exerting a tiny form of power, chasing these men is also about a tiny form of power: with the right moves, the right words, these guys can be for an hour or so brought under control.
These guys know about that, and they see it as a base motive, which it is. To own, for a few minutes in bed, a man’s ability to ejaculate as well as his ability to make a great deal more money and to be treated with more respect than his female bed mate leaves one of these women glowing.
We never even need to know whether she had an orgasm. Thirty percent of women rarely or never achieve orgasm, one of the great unacknowledged facts of our lives. Doctors dismiss female orgasm since it doesn’t promote conception; women in hook-ups endure second-rate sex without the hope of coming; men remain largely ignorance of what women need, because we refuse to teach them and they refuse to learn.
The glamour that “Sex and the City” exuded, at least for a while, for my granddaughters and millions of others, not all of them teenagers, is the glamour exuded by power: the power to shop, the power to consume, even the power to consume men—a snack, not a meal, a crumb of cheese on a stale cracker.