If you are a woman and have graced society with your presence lately, you probably know Sex and the City 2 is playing in theatres. The foursome jet out to Abu Dhabi to escape the city and get some girl-time – the ever-healing balm to life’s challenges for these soul mates. The setup is pretty standard for the gals – private jets and cars, lavish suites, expensive clothes, lots of cocktails, and eye-candy wait staff. The girly, fun stuff of familiarity brings the Sex and the City audience back to the theater. There is a big gay wedding, a pant-less performance by Liza Minnelli, and an endearing scene between Miranda and Charlotte (they ARE friends!). But audiences also get more of the same: Samantha’s tireless quest to stay young and sexed-up, adventures in Carrie’s yo-yo love life, complications in Miranda’s balance of work and family, and stresses in Charlotte’s comparatively ‘traditional’ stay-at-home mom-dom.
I won’t rehash all of the critics’ reviews of the new movie (which, with good reason, only received a 17% positive review rate on Rotten Tomatoes). Instead, I’d like start a series of that examines how the entire Sex and the City franchise portrays women and how each character can highlight certain issues that matter to all women. Each character has been 'typed'. Miranda is the career woman. Charlotte is the traditional sweetheart. Samantha is the Slut. And Carrie, according to Aiden and Big, is “not like other women”. She’s Carrie, people!
Obviously no sane, normal woman fits seamlessly into any one of these roles and the lives of the characters are hyped and glamorized into absurdity. But many times we share the same frustrations. For example, couples struggling to conceive can identify with Mr. and Mrs. Trey MacDougal. Couples reconciling over an indiscretion can look to Miranda and Steve. And, unfortunately, young women caught in the college hook-up culture can look to Samantha Jones.
Samantha finds freedom in "dating like a guy". She feels empowered by her sexual encounters and she brags that she never lets a man stay around longer than "an hour after she climaxes". Samantha's only rule is no attachment. And every 'serious' relationship she has ends because Samantha cannot compromise her single lifestyle. She tells Richard, "I love you, but I love me more".
Like our favorite PR exec, many young ladies hook-up with guys before they date them. And chances are high that women will hook up, no strings attached, at least once while in college or shortly after. With advancements in technology (morning-after-pill, the pill, and abortions) and decreased regulation of contraceptives (Griswold v. Connecticut, where the Court first established the "right to privacy" that was later used in Roe v. Wade), we can finally direct every part of our lives - even our sex lives. A girl, like a guy, can sleep around without the potential baby bump. And if the negative consequences can be avoided- STDS, messy emotions - why not?
But studies have found the negative consequences cannot be avoided.
Very few college-age girls share Samantha's ambivalence toward their sexual partners or her complete satisfaction in meaningless sex. An article in The Week (Love in the time of hooking up) notes that many experts have found that, "sexual revolution or no, most women do not share men’s capacity for meaningless sexual encounters."
That finding is supported by a recent study (featured in a Science Daily article) by Professor Anne Campbell at Durham University which, after surveying 1743 men and women, found that men and women have significantly different reactions after engaging in casual sex:
"Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women."
Also, most women do not share Samantha’s desire to be single forever. From The Week article cited above:
"...Women are more likely to view hookups as an avenue to finding relationships, and that when two partners hook up repeatedly; it usually means the woman wants a relationship, while the man may not."
Samantha Jones is the most controversial character in Sex and the City because the life she represents is the most farcical. There is no true-life Samantha. She is a mirage dreamed up by sexual-revolution feminists. By nature women are relationship builders, not command-and-conquer-ers. We are unhappy with physical intimacy when it is not preceded by emotional intimacy.
Are super-available contraceptives like the morning-after-pill and condoms good for the sex lives of women? Have the technologies that have helped make women independent of the consequences of sex enabled us to "date like men"? Or has routine casual sex reduced the emotional maturity of men and women and allowed men to date like boys?