Seven things Glee gets wrong about The First Time

Warning: Brimming with spoilers.

Last year, during Glee’s Madonna episode, Rachel, Finn and Emma (the guidance counselor with OCD) attempted to lose their respective virginities during a sexy montage set to “Like a Virgin.” Only  Finn ended up having sex while the two women decided they couldn’t go through with it. This week’s Very Special Episode, called ‘The First Time’, is the sound of the other shoe dropping.

Here’s the premise: Rachel and Blaine are the leads in West Side Story, and director Artie thinks they’re not emanating enough passion as Tony and Maria*. His reasoning is that because they’re both virgins, they can’t call up those bursting, burning feelings that deflowerment apparently brings. Artie, who is clearly Method, suggests Rachel and Blaine fix this by having sex. Which they do, eventually, although alas not with each other.

In the final 15 seconds or so of the show we see the couples Rachel/Finn and Blaine/Kurt about to do the deed. Or maybe they just did it. The chronology is not clear, especially because they stay dressed the whole time**. Anyway, there’s soaring music and that  pan to that fireplace*** and it’s all really quite sweet.

Leading up to this short and modest payoff however, was this season’s lineup of not-so-sweet tropes about first sex. I’m mostly focusing on the Rachel/Finn storyline here because these tropes seem reside most firmly in the hetero world, which means I’m also assuming by sex they mean penis-in-vagina intercourse.

1. Everything changes after you lose your virginity
[According to the Glee promo above] On Glee, it changed things for Quinn and Puck who ended up having a baby together. So having sex for the first time might change things for the other couples, albeit not as dramatically. Then again, they might feel exactly the same as they did before. Other things that might change them more than having sex: Winning sectionals, getting into college, getting the hell out of Lima.

2. You can’t feel or understand passion until you’ve lost your virginity.
This is the Sleeping Beauty Theory, where Rachel needs Finn to ‘wake her up’ sexually by putting his penis inside her. Only then will Rachel become a sexual person, capable of sexual feelings and sexual musical theater acting. This kind of thinking negates the power of all the many and varied sexual experiences a woman might have that don’t require even the proximity of a penis.

As for Blaine, he’s always oozed sexuality, no matter what Glee wants us to believe in this particular episode (consistency of characters is not their strong suit) In fact, the show last season where he and Rachel had a drunken makeout session was pretty damn hot–hotter than anything I’ve seen her do with Finn.

3. Your first time should be magical and perfect and with someone you love
This trope hits a special nerve because I sat around waiting to have sex with a perfect love, and that’s why I ended up still a virgin at 23. At which point I got tired of waiting and got it over with.

It’s truly lovely to have your first time be with your special someone, and some people will wait for it to happen that way. But what if we don’t have a special someone and want to have sex anyway? Are we doing it wrong? Or what if you do do it with your special someone and it’s less than special? Let’s talk about awkwardness. Or disappointment. Or pain. In the scene where Rachel asked for advice from the girls, it would have been awesome if one of them talked about how they just couldn’t get it in on the first three tries.

Or, as Queerty quipped: “It would’ve been beyond our wildest dreams to imagine the cameras zooming in on a half-gallon bottle of Wet Platinum Premium as Blaine reassures Kurt, “it doesn’t have to hurt babe.”

4. It’s OK to lose your virginity to cheer your boyfriend up
First, Rachel wants to have sex so she can use it to be a more passionate Maria. Then she wants to do it so she won’t have to go to college a virgin. Finn is horrified by this.  [paraphrasing] “What awful reasons for losing your virginity. Get away from me, disturbed girlfriend!” Then, she says she wants to do it to prove to him that he’s special because she’s giving him her special gift. “Oh, awesome! Let me go turn on the fireplace!

5. Women give men their special gift that they can give only once
Rachel tells Finn “I’m going to give you something that no one else is ever going to get.

Honestly. Can we get over the idea that women are gifts for men to receive in little pink boxes containing their unblemished hymens? According to this scenario, what does Rachel have left to give once that’s done? Nothing! So she’d better marry Finn, because they next guy that comes along is going to be all ‘Where’s my gift? What? You gave it away already? Get away from me, slutty girlfriend!

Needless to say, that gift-giving language was totally absent in the boy/boy storyline. The very idea that Kurt or Blaine would talk about a special gift seems ridiculous. Why is that?

6. Straight men have no romantic feelings when it comes to sex
Last year when Finn had sex for the first time (with Santana) do you remember how he thought it was totally disappointing? Remember that Finn realized he wanted to have sex with someone he loved because it would be more meaningful and enjoyable? Glee doesn’t seem to. When it comes to finally having sex with Rachel, he’s allowed an emotional range from bewildered to horny (and depressed about football.)

7. If you’re an adult and have never had sex, there’s something wrong with you
Oy. Emma Pillsbury and Coach Bieste are virgins. Because one has OCD and the other is not feminine enough, they are both objects of pity and/or hilarity. No wonder Rachel thinks heading off to college a virgin would be a sin. (One third of college students consider themselves virgins. Just sayin’) Also, I think Emma should come out as asexual, already.


*Artie seems to think West Side Story is about Tony and Maria’s sexual awakening. Never mind that Maria actually remains a virgin until well into the second act, and experiencing the violence and tragedy around her is what makes her a woman, not the messing around with Tony in the dress shop.

**Ironically, the Parents Television Council claimed it had no issues with a gay couple doing it, it was just generally shocked, shocked that Glee showed ‘children having sex.” I saw some eskimo kisses and comfy socks, but no sign of anything that could be described as overt sex.

***Salon’s Matt Zoller Seitz wondered if Glee was trying to reclaim the purity of this trope after Top Secret took it to it’s absurd climax.

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  1. Posted November 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I know you know it, and know I feel this way already, but risking redundancy: YOU ARE MADE OF AWESOME.

  2. Curious
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Since you are bringing up asexuality I started to wonder.. Does an asexual person not have any sexual feelings/drives or are they just not directed towards others?

    • Therese
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Hi Curious! I hesitate to give you a definitive answer to that, because people who identify as asexual have different experiences around sex.

      You should check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) which describes an asexual as “a person who does not experience sexual attraction” They go on to say “Unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships.” There’s a great new documentary that’s making the rounds of film festivals now called “(A)sexual” all about this.

  3. Kate
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I just watched this episode last night (thank you DVR) and noticed all the cringeworthy moments you listed. There was one awesome moment though, which I feel like should be mentioned.
    In the scene when Rachel asks advice from the girls, Quinn advises her to wait by saying “Look what happened to me.” Tina says “You could have used protection!” I loved that moment!

    • Therese
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Thanks for bringing that up. It was a great line and so worth highlighting! That girl-talk scene could merit it’s own separate analysis for all the different first-time scenarios it brings up. Brittany describes her own first time at ‘Cheerleading Camp’ in a way that made me think it was a totally unwanted advance.

  4. Posted November 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I can’t agree more, especially with #3. Seriously, how could NONE OF THOSE GIRLS talk about how much it hurt?!?!?! That would have been the first thing out of my mouth.

  5. R
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I am shocked that the comment made by Brittany was left out, saying her first time was an alien invasion because someone showed up in her tent…

    • Therese
      Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      I agree, R! I commented on it earlier in this thread. It sounded like a totally unwanted advance, yet it was treated like a throwaway joke instead.

  6. Posted November 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I love your reaction to this episode, and I’ve made a point to tweet about it several times and link it in my blog. The girls’ conversation was my FAVORITE part for highlighting the variety of experiences that come with your first time.

  7. Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    This is excellent. I definitely think there was some merit to the episode for dealing with the issue of teen sexuality at all (and hell, it is television, so we can’t make it too real, or it gets boring, IMHO), but these are really good points about what Glee did wrong. Expect a repost soon.

    • Therese
      Posted December 1, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Bianca. We’d love a repost on Forever The Queerest Kids!

  8. Melody
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I worry about number 3 because I’m a virgin at 22 now.

    I didn’t find that someone while in high school or college.

    I want that. I really do. I’m okay with being a virgin until then.

    I think there is nothing wrong with doing it a different way. Honestly, we aren’t in a disney movie we are in real life.

  9. Therese
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I hear you, Melody! Like I say in the post, I just got tired of waiting and I decided it was the stigma of it that was the problem. So I got rid of the stigma with the next guy who asked and then moved ahead with my life. Not for everyone, but it was the best thing for me. If waiting for the right guy is the most importnat thing for you, then you should do it!

One Trackback

  • […] Seven things Glee gets wrong about The First Time: 2. You can’t feel or understand passion until you’ve lost your virginity. This is the Sleeping Beauty Theory, where Rachel needs Finn to ‘wake her up’ sexually by putting his penis inside her. Only then will Rachel become a sexual person, capable of sexual feelings and sexual musical theater acting. This kind of thinking negates the power of all the many and varied sexual experiences a woman might have that don’t require even the proximity of a penis. […]

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