I'm An NYC-Based Sex Writer & Here's How Carrie Bradshaw Continues To Fail Women When It Comes To Sex

Photo: HBO Max
carrie bradshaw

Like many of us, I have a love/hate relationship with Sex and the City. If you asked me what I loved, I couldn’t really tell you. If you asked me what I hated, well, I probably couldn’t really tell you that either.

But no matter the reason for this love/hate relationship of mine, it spilled over into “And Just Like That…” when the SATC revival was first announced last January. I couldn’t help but wonder" Are you kidding me? But I knew, even then, as I rolled my eyes and talked smack about Carrie and company that I would, without a doubt, be watching “And Just Like That…”

As soon as it was streamable on HBOMax, I settled on the couch prepared for either a disaster or a masterpiece — although, honestly, I was leaning toward the former.

Without giving away any spoilers, since the rest of the Internet can do that for you, there was a scene in the first episode that struck me as awkward AF. Being that it’s 2021, Carrie Bradshaw has a podcast or rather is part of a podcast that, from what I gathered during this first episode covers lots of things including sex.

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At one point the topic of masturbation came up and the podcast host, Che, played by badass Sara Ramirez, asked Carrie if she ever masturbated. Not only did she fumble over the question, but she responded with, “I’d like to buy a vowel, please,” then fumbled some more.

Although she did eventually say she hadn’t masturbated in public since Barney’s closed (RIP), which we know she didn’t, but then she went home and asked Mr. Big if he masturbated. Keep in mind, these two have been married since 2008. I’m no mathematician, but that’s 13 years, right? She then asked him to masturbate for her, which it looks like he’s going to do, — but doesn’t, of course.

As both a sex writer and someone with a pulse, I was shocked by the masturbation narrative in this first episode. Even my friends, who don’t write about sex, agreed that this, while awkward for the character Carrie Bradshaw, was primarily awkward for the audience.

For those of us who work in the sexual education industry, normalizing masturbation — especially female masturbation — has been something we’ve covered again and again. For far too long, women’s magazines had articles titled, “How to Please Your Man,” which, without actually saying it, put female pleasure second to men’s pleasure.

I can’t even tell you how many articles I’ve written about masturbation. I’ve written about it generally, I’ve written about ways people with vulvas can pleasure themselves, and even shared my own techniques.

We’ve even reached a point where there are educational series for women like Climax, that teach women about their body, and how and where to stimulate! Yet, here’s Carrie squirming at masturbation. What does that say to women who struggle with shame when it comes to masturbating? It gives that shame validation.

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Fun fact: a 2018 study by sex toy company Tenga found that 84% of Americans masturbate.

Although men do it more often, at 92%, women aren’t too far behind at 76%. The same study found that while 55% of respondents never talk about masturbation, 47% really wish people would discuss sex and sexuality more.

Only 20 minutes into the first episode of “And Just Like That…” Carrie failed us. Again.

Of course, this is hardly the first time. When she dated a bisexual man in episode four of season three, Carrie is at a party where Spin the Bottle is played. When she spins and it lands on the woman, she actually says, “Whoops! It’s a girl! Try again!”

It takes the woman it landed on (played by Alanis Morrissette) to tell her it’s OK, to which Carrie quips in her head, “Of course it was OK. I was in Alice’s confused sexual orientation land.” She then actually considers getting up and leaving like an “old fart” or stay and “fall down the rabbit hole — and so I fell, and it wasn’t bad. Kinda like chicken,” says Carrie's inner monologue.

I’ve never kissed Alanis Morrissette, but I imagine it’s a lot better than chicken.

And who can forget when she dated the ridiculously hot city politician Bill Kelley (played by John Slattery) who was into watersports (read: being peed on), and she couldn’t even communicate to him that it wasn’t her thing until after several dates.

She actually goes to dinner with him and doesn’t drink even water the whole time, so she won’t have to pee — what?! She then mocks him in her column after he tells her he can’t see her anymore because of his political ambitions.

As much as I’d love to spend the day, or rather the week, recapping every single time fictional sex writer Carrie Bradshaw failed her fictional audience, as well as us at home, I simply don’t have the time.

Unlike Carrie, I have to write an article about — gasp! — anal sex, a topic that while talked about amongst the group, with Samantha leading the conversation, is something Carrie would have never written about during the Sex and the City era, nor would she write about now.

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I don’t like to use the word prude, especially when it comes to sex, because we all have our boundaries, and those boundaries are to be respected. But I do think that as a sex writer, it’s your job to educate the people who read your column about sex and sexuality.

You shouldn’t be shaming kinks, you shouldn’t be running away from the topic of masturbation, and you shouldn’t be calling a room full of gay and bi people “Alice’s confused sexual orientation land.”

I know it’s just television and we’re dealing with fictional situations, but too many people take what they see on TV to heart and that’s where things get problematic.

Admittedly, I am curious to see how the rest of the series plays out.

Maybe Carrie will join 2021 and finally have a different take on topics that she should, well, have a different take on. But, in the meantime, I’m going to go masturbate, then write my article about anal sex.

Amanda Chatel is a writer who divides her time between NYC and Paris. She's a regular contributor to Bustle and Glamour, with bylines at Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, Livingly, Mic, The Bolde, Huffington Post, and others. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook for more.