How 3 New TV Shows Get F*cking Right

By Frida Oskarsdottir

 

According to everyone writing about it, we are in the Golden Age of Television™. TV has gotten smarter, more diverse, andbest of all for us slutty monogamists who are forced to sleep around through otherssexier. Networks like HBO have always been able to spice it up a little more than cable, but in the last few years there has been a unanimous push to portray sex as it really ismessy, dimpled, and quite often un-sexy. We also see much more of sex and intimacy from women’s points of view, and not just women searching for lovesometimes it’s just women searching for the D.

These forays come as a welcome corrective to the good ol’ “women with completely symmetrical breasts and very few speaking lines orgasming in 45 seconds despite being in extremely uncomfortable positions” trope (“Sopranos,” I love you endlessly but I’m looking at you). There will always be the soft lens, sensual lovemaking followed by both parties’ private bits strategically covered with clean linen sheets. There will always be the overly ecstatic gasps despite what appears to be minimal clitoral stimulation. But there will also be honest-to-god cellulite, repositioning, and sweat that isn’t dewy. Variety is good.

In thinking about my favorite TV shows of the past year, I realized how uniquely and creatively sex was used as a plot device and sometimes even a secondary character. I put some of these recent binges (sorry not sorry that they’re all female-led) through the sex-machine to explore the role f*cking plays in each through a few select moments.

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“Insecure” (HBO): There’s a lot to love about Issa’s world. The men are smoking hot, the women are flawed and complex, and the music is always on point. Issa is so often in her mind that much of the show’s portrayal of sexuality is through her fantasies. This might be why when she does finally hook up with the one-that-got-away-with-his-8-pack it is essentially a real life wet dream, complete with slow thrusts and an almost unbelievably toned butt (CGI?). The scene itself is a more traditional Hollywood-version of sex, but in the context of the show it works just right as a way of portraying her temptation. The penultimate scene of Season 1 parallels this, when Lawrence finally gives into his demons with a flirty bank teller in retaliation against Issa. The sex itself is basically porn — all tennis grunts and “daddy’s” — but the viewer can’t help but feel his pain while watching it.

Another stand-out scene follows Issa’s best friend, Molly, as she decides she just can’t stick with nice-guy Jared despite their obvious chemistry. Her discomfort with his previous sexual experiences with men comes to a head (wink, wink) while he’s going down on her. The camera angle and his bobbing allow Molly to see exactly what a man might see when receiving fellatio, and it’s all a bit too much. It’s also riotously funny and somehow a little melancholy at the same time, better known as great TV.

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“Fleabag” (Amazon Original): In “Fleabag,” the eponymous protagonist has an active sex life, which could skew young and carefree. Fleabag may be young, but her cares pile up as high as someone who has lived through a lot of tragedies, which we learn she has. Suddenly, boning a guy you just met up against the counter in a restaurant isn’t so spontaneous and quirky; the more you watch, the more sadness imbues her actions until you end up ugly-crying into your mug of wine. Like most of her behavior, her sex is impulsive and occasionally fraught with regret even as it’s happening.

Lika Issa in “Insecure,” Fleabag also has a lively inner monologue which the viewer experiences as spoken aloud even in conversations with others, and even mid-coitus. We learn firsthand exactly what she’s thinking before, during, and after sex because she tells us, or sometimes, asks us, “Do I have a massive arsehole?”

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“Chewing Gum” (Channel 4; Netflix): Tracey, the 24-year-old cashier and enthusiast of basically everything, is one of my favorite TV characters from the last 5 years. She’s so RAW. Given that the media’s portrayal of older virgins is often as pathetic, neutered puritans, Tracey’s horniness for life is as refreshing as it is hysterical. Her manic curiosity about sexuality is unleashed in Episode 1, when she is mercifully dumped by her gay Christian boyfriend. She takes control of her own destiny with the cute guy down the way with the help of a more experienced friend and, of course, Beyoncé. Following her friend’s advice to “sit on his face,” Tracey forgets to first take off her pants and underwear. This could be a metaphor for the rest of the season. Oh, Tracey, never change.

Virginity continues to play a role throughout the series in anything but typical fashion. While Tracey is eager to jump over what she sees as a hurdle to sexual liberation, she plays by her own rules, seeking reciprocal pleasure rather than simply penetration. One of the better — although admittedly hard to watch — scenes includes her, cutie Connor, and a “Unicorn” called Sasha, plucked from a threesome app in an attempt to help Connor see Tracey as a sexual being ready to bloom. What ensues with Sasha isn’t what they had in mind, but it does lead to an important moment between Tracey and Connor that allows Tracey to put herself and her desires at the forefront of their intimacy, traditional sex roles be damned.

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