Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha -- my go-to girlfriends from Sex and the City answered basically every relationship question out there. From June, 1998 - February, 2004, these cherished heroines were at once approachable, smart, hilarious, insightful, brutally honest and self-effacing. Sure, the Prada bags and Jimmy Choos are fun to see, but the fashion was merely an appealing aesthetic serving as a delivery platform for ground-breaking discussions about sex, commitment, friendship and love.
True confession: I was a hipper psychotherapist when they were around. Why? Week after week, their fresh new material on everything from masturbation to marriage was relevant to the very issues my therapy clients face. Since I specialize in relationships and intimacy, the show became an ideal co-therapist that I brought into the therapy session whenever appropriate.
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I recently began re-watching season one and was struck by how much the dating world has changed. Forget about ipads and iphones; only a couple of random season one characters even have cell phones, and the few they have look oversized and embarrassing. No blackberries, no internet references, no Facebook, noTwitter. At the same time, it is surprising how much remains the same. So much has evolved technologically, and yet the very first episode asks the current, ever-relevant question, "Can Women Have Sex Like Men?"
This appealing and psychologically interesting question is as relevant today as it was when the first SATC episode aired.
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Samantha insists that with so many "toxic bachelors" in New York City, the answer to being happily single in the City is to do it like a guy: frequently, with multiple partners, and no strings attached. Charlotte completely disagrees and insists that if a woman approaches sex like a man, she will compromise her virtue and her desirability. Miranda and Carrie fall somewhere in the middle and spend the episode flirting with the concept. Carrie has "cheap and easy" sex and feels incredibly "free" and "potent" until she notices her sex buddy out in a night club kissing another woman.
Female clients in psychotherapy struggle with this question in earnest. I worked years ago with a Samantha-esque women who truly could have sex with multiple partners, enjoy it, and feel consistently satisfied with this approach. She began therapy when one of her sexual partners said he was falling in love with her. Intellectually, she wanted to give a committed relationship a shot, but in her heart she felt terrified. She had difficulty picturing herself in a monogamous relationship and explained that it felt like speaking a foreign language. And yet, she decided it was a foreign language she wanted to learn. Today, she and her former sex buddy are happily married. Her life was quite full when she ended therapy, and she expressed no regret whatsoever about the many years she enjoyed sex without commitment.