Sex and the City premiered on HBO in 1998 when I was eleven years old. I can’t say the exact year it was that I discovered the show, but I know a few seasons had passed before I stumbled upon a rerun of it one summer afternoon. I remember that it was one of the episodes when the four main characters were visiting the Hampton’s. My initial reaction to the show was excitement because I knew it was something my dad wouldn’t want me to watch. It was grown up and uncensored and featured sex as both an act and something to be discussed, analyzed, and written about. Over the years, I snuck episodes like they were my secret addiction before finally letting on to my mom and my sister that I watched the show. They too became immediately hooked, as did many of my friends throughout high school and college. The show was no long my secret joy, my individual pleasure. It grew into something bigger, a part of my community.
That may be one of the most important things about Sex and the City. It presented audiences with a strong female group of friends who episode after episode, bad date after bad date, returned to each other. Some of the most poignant moments of the show featured the four best friends–Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte–supporting each other through breakups, the deaths of loved ones, and career triumphs. Because of the close and open relationship shared by these friends, I found a dialogue with the women in my life, a way at getting at the subjects that many of us were thinking but not necessarily saying out loud. Suddenly women had an excuse, a reason to talk more openly about their own sexual experiences. You could talk about a lover who was terrible in bed because this show and its characters had already paved the way. I learned new terms (the “rabbit” or “funky spunk”) thanks to SATC. But really, I learned that many of us were having these experiences or thinking these thoughts and that it was okay to share them with our friends.
I bought a “Katie” necklace and a giant flower to pin to my tops because I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. Years later I even attempted to re-create Carrie’s book cover photo shoot for my own author pictures (alas, those didn’t live to see the light of day). But I didn’t start having sex until after that show wrapped its run; I didn’t need to be having sex to appreciate the show. Because SATC wasn’t just about the sex. Sure, that’s what drew us in, that’s what kept me sneaking in episodes, but that wasn’t the reason I stayed. I stayed because I wanted to be Carrie and I wanted Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha to be my friends. I wanted New York and a writing career and to have it all.
Sex and the City is by no means a perfect show. I’ve read plenty of arguments about why Carrie is a bad female icon–she’s whiny, she’s childish. When she needed to buy her apartment after breaking up with her fiancé Aidan, she got mad at her friend Charlotte for not immediately jumping to take care of her. I understand these points. I don’t dispute them. Carrie wasn’t perfect. She should not have spent so much money on shoes. But what would we have really learned from her or had a good laugh at if she were perfect? Without her (failed) relationships, there wouldn’t have been a show.
But, I digress. What I’m thankful for fifteen years later is that I found Sex and the City when I was a young girl. I’m thankful it was my “naughty” little secret. I’m thankful it opened up a dialogue between my mom and me about sex. I’m thankful it gave my friends and me a framework for modern relationships and, more importantly, how to talk about them. Perhaps most of all, I’m thankful that I was presented with a female writer who explored the taboo topics, the uncomfortable topics, the dare I say sexy topics. Hell, if it weren’t for Carrie Bradshaw writing about golden showers, threesomes, and blow jobs, there are a lot of women writers my age who may have never had the courage to start writing about sex, myself included.