Film Forward

5 Reasons Why Women Claiming Their Sexuality Is Making For Good TV

The double standards of sex on screen are starting to change.

The male-driven depiction of a woman's sexuality on television and in films of the past has been played out. In Jade Budowski's recent Decider essay, she discusses the concept of the male gaze having reigned over women's sexuality on TV shows for years. Depicting women as eye candy has lost its appeal. In its place, women are being heralded as the empowered heroine of her own sexuality. Recent TV shows characterizing women taking charge of their sexuality are the new trend within all television series genres, especially as more women get behind the camera

Here are five reasons why women claiming their sexuality is making for good television, some of which are mentioned in Budowski's essay:

1. An Accurate Representation of Women in Real Life

Hannah (Lena Dunham), the main character on the HBO show Girls, is far from "perfect" with her "average" body type and love handles, but guess what? Plain, average, and pleasantly plump women can own their sexuality, too! As a character, Hannah is a representation of a real-life woman awkwardly trudging her way through sexual exploration. Whether she is having a fling, or trying to build a relationship, she embraces her mistakes and embarrassments every step of the way, which makes her that much more relatable as a character — she's perfectly imperfect (a befitting oxymoron). One might argue that this is Dunham's homage to Sex and the City — four women of different backgrounds exploring sex on their own terms while trying to make sense of it all.

2. Because There is No Right or Wrong Way to “Do It”

Photo Credit: The CW Television Network / YouTube
Photo Credit: The CW Television Network / YouTube

With a show like Jane the Virgin, we are shown a different side of sex, dating, and relationships that hasn't been represented on television before. In the past, society has conditioned women to be reserved sexually. However, those aren't the times we live in now, and society shouldn't dictate how a woman conducts herself when it comes to her own body. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) having a baby before she's even had sex for the first time — hence the show's title — symbolizes the sexual stereotypes women face based on their situations. It sheds light on the fact that even when the proverbial cart is put before the horse, there is no right or wrong way for a woman to approach her sex life.

3. Sexual Exploration and Self-Discovery

There is no escaping the fact that a TV series set in a women's prison is bound to represent diverse matters of female sexuality. Although Piper (Taylor Schilling) is the main character in Orange is the New Black, each character on the show has a different journey into sexual exploration and self-discovery. We see aspects of race relations, gender identities, power struggles, love, and much more. The incorporation of issues that transgender women of color face within society, in general, as portrayed by the character Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox), lends a powerful effect to the show. Perhaps something that comes across to most viewers is the idea of women having control over their sexuality, despite the setback of incarceration.

4. Female Strength and Power

PhotoCredit: Netflix / YouTube
PhotoCredit: Netflix / YouTube

The Netflix show Jessica Jones, based off the Marvel comic book character, has an overall survivor theme, where the main character proves that sex and intimacy after having experienced sexual assault are powerful choices. Producer and screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg, conveyed this concept well. Rather than making the rape scenes the focal point, which can come off as objectifying and victimizing women, she leaves these scenes out altogether. Instead, she alludes to the rape with perfectly placed flashbacks of dialogue. Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) personifies female strength and power coupled with sexuality.

5. Women Love Casual Sex

The double standard of sex has always been that if a man sleeps around with multiple women he's a "stud," but if a woman sleeps with multiple men, she's a "slut." Not anymore! Women have sexual needs, too. As depicted on the show Shameless, it is no longer shameful for a woman to play the field. One of the main characters, Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum), sees two men simultaneously in season 6, then discovers the drama-free benefits of hooking up and having sex with random guys on Tinder in season 7. Bottom line here: women love casual sex, too, and they're free to have it — as long as everyone involved plays it safe.

Although television has come a long way in representing a woman's perspective of sex and owning her sexuality, it will be interesting to see how diverse these portrayals get as this trend gains momentum and, hopefully, more women take on behind-the-scenes roles on TV

(H/T: Decider)

Cover image: The CW Television Network / YouTube

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

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