A Glee Sextet (Are you there, Joss Whedon? It’s me, Trixie)

Warning: If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of Glee, your day is about to be spoilered to hell. You’ve been warned.

This week’s Glee was All Madonna, using her powerful-woman-icon status as a way to raise some issues around feminism and sexism that you don’t see too often (if ever) in prime-time network TV. Things like in this world it’s easier to be a guy than girl (What It Feels Like for a Girl) and that communication is a powerful tool of respect (Express Yourself) and that Jane Lynch is indeed the funniest woman on TV (Vogue, like you’ve never seen it). They even talked about pay equity! You can read more at the Women & Hollywood blog, because that’s not what I want to talk about here.

It won’t surprise you that I’d like to rant a bit about their virginity storyline: The dramatic possible first-time sexual experiences of Rachel, Finn and Guidance Counselor Emma–and some of the same old same old about men and women and sex.

It centers around a pretty awesome version of ‘Like A Virgin’, above, which cross-cuts between three couples, three beds and three purple peignoirs. You can watch it at this link as well. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

It’s a really fun and sexy sextet which seems to capture all the nervous, ecstatic, hesitant, wild, revelatory, mixed emotions of having sex for the first time. Except, we eventually find out it’s all a fantasy. Well, mostly.

Finn, the guy, does have sex (and props for his thoughtful post-sex denouement) and that’s the end of that. But neither Rachel nor Emma go through with it, and the show really telegraphs that it would have been such a big deal if they had. So now the drama of their sexual status can be dragged on for however many more episodes.

We’re initially led to believe that Rachel had sex and didn’t think it was really that big of a deal. This rang so true to me that I was actually angry when it was revealed that she was lying and hadn’t done it after all.*

The three women are totally stereotyped: Virgin Rachel, Prude Emma, and Whore Santana [Who, as someone just pointed out to me, is also the Latina cheerleader. Oy]. The guys, on the other hand, don’t seem to be categorized by their sex lives at all. Is it too much to ask to see a sexual female student on the show that’s not fulfilling some kind of ‘role’ but just has sex as part of her normal whole life? It makes me nostalgic for the women of American Pie.

And while I’m happy that they portrayed an adult virgin – and loved that she instigated the date with Mr Schuester for The Sex – her later freak-out makes me wish she would just see a good therapist and stop being such an uptight embarrassing caricature. How did they miss giving her glasses she could remove when she finally gets sexed up? In her defense, has anyone else noticed that Mr. S is really kind of creepy looking?

As far as what the three couples actually did or planned to do, the implication is that it’s all about the penises in the vaginas, like nothing worth mentioning would or could happen between the kissing and the screwing. And maybe, just maybe, could we have heard one syllable about how the gay students define virginity?

I’ve never warmed up to this show, and I have serious issues with the over-processed belted-out musical horrors it creates (this from a die-hard fan of musicals). My outrageous fantasy is It’s been confirmed that one day Joss Whedon will direct an episode of Glee. Given that my favorite television virginity loss is Buffy and Angel, it would have been amazing to see him take this one on as well.

*OK, maybe I’m just telegraphing my own painful crush on her boyfriend Jesse, played by the totally dreamy Jonathan Groff, because I’m sure I made it through high school a virgin only because I wasn’t dating him.

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    I think Joss Whedon has directed an episode…not sure when it will air, but I'm pretty sure he did direct.

  2. littlereview
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Buffy and Angel? Really? If you lose your virginity your boyfriend may become a soulless whore?

    I think Joss Whedon can be as outrageously sexist as anyone working in television (don't get me started on Firefly let alone Dollhouse), and that episode ain't improving my opinion.

  3. Trixie
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Buffy and Angel finally having sex was an inspired storyline. I loved how he played with that fear that if you sleep with your boyfriend he'll start treating you differently.
    And I just re-watched Dr. Horrible, so I'm still glowing with love for JW.

  4. Trixie
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Anon. I hope he can write the music as well. And cast Neil Patrick Harris.

  5. Annie
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with a lot of this analysis, but I want to make one point in particular, small though it may be: Emma did tell Schue that "foreplay begins at 7:30," thus showing that something between kissing and screwing exists and is expected.

  6. Trixie
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Hi Annie -
    You're right – she did explicitly schedule the foreplay and the sex.

    What I'm referring to was what actually happened. The actions of both Emma and Rachel seemed to imply they since weren't ready for sex, they weren't going to to anything else either.

    Couples who don't feel ready for intercourse do all sorts of other other intimate things together. Why not talk about that?

  7. Anonymous
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I think another thing that's interesting is that they are actually sort of defining virginity here. It's not like anyone says it out loud, but there is a big implication that sex = vaginal intercourse.

    Alas, the poor gay boy can't have anything else to do but hair and makeup for the lesbian-like gym teacher. *sigh*

  8. tya
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Before reading this post I haven't watched a full episode of Glee, only seen bits and pieces here and there. My curiosity led to a visit to Hulu.com…and here I am again 45 minutes later. :)

    >>The three women are totally stereotyped: Virgin Rachel, Prude Emma, and Whore Santana [Who, as someone just pointed out to me, is also the Latina cheerleader. Oy]. The guys, on the other hand, don't seem to be categorized by their sex lives at all. Is it too much to ask to see a sexual female student on the show that's not fulfilling some kind of 'role' but just has sex as part of her normal whole life?<<

    The fact that they fell neatly into stereotypes didn't go unnoticed. But one thing that stood out for me was the way in which Emma was depicted as an adult virgin. I haven't watched the series before so I don't have much of a background to go on about her character — but the older virgin = psychological problems reinforced yet AGAIN was truly annoying. I believe Schuester even gave her a card to see a good therapist. Argh! Again, I don't know the history behind this character… but I'm just getting tired of seeing this negative portrayal in the media of late virgins just because of their age.

  9. Trixie
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your comment, Tya. This blog spends a lot of time talking about what I call 'virgin shaming' and the negative portrayals of older virigns in the media. So I share your concern about how Emma is portrayed.

    In Glee's defense, she does suffer from OCD so I'll give them the benfit of the doubt on this and assume that's what he wants her to get some conselling for.

    However, it would be nice to see a portrayal of an emotionally healthy adult who has not yet become sexually active, just as it would be nice to see a sexually active teenage girl not defined entirely by what she does in bed.

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