When Sex and the City first hit our television screens in 1998, The Times newspaper declared: ‘It should be banned immediately.’ Now, after 94 episodes across six seasons and two movies, it’s clear that the producers were doing something right. So what impact did Sex and the City, arguably one of the most influential television series’ of our time, have on women?
Friendship and Feminism
Although opinions vary drastically on what type of effect Sex and the City has had, there is no doubting that it has raised a lot of questions about feminism. While some feminists say the show empowered women, others believe quite the opposite.
The fact that the show was almost entirely based around four women talking about men has some women claiming it had a negative effect on feminism.
“I was of the opinion that feminism was this wonderful thing that permitted us women folk to stop having to need men and become free to want them instead,’ said Chiara Milford (Feminspire.com).
However, others feel that it was an important turning point in modern day feminism, as it gave women the confidence to speak openly about their sexual preferences and desires, which had previously been largely reserved for men.
Film studies lecturer, Kim Akass, suggested that Sex and the City had made conversations between females more credible; that lunch dates entailed more than just idle ‘gossip’. She said she also believed that it put more importance on female friendships and made taboo subjects such as breastfeeding in public more approachable. (The Guardian)
Vibrator sales increased
When Sex and the City first aired, it certainly had that ‘shock factor’. No mainstream show before it had spoken so frankly and openly about sex — particularly from a female perspective. Prior to the show, vibrators and adult toys were very much hush-hush, but sales, particularly of the rabbit vibrator, saw a massive increase.
The fact that it was Charlotte, the sexually reserved member of the group, who found herself cooped up in her apartment after her first experience with her vibrator, was particularly liberating for women. It showed that it wasn’t just the Samantha-types that could own a sex toy. Today, it is estimated that over half of American women own a sex toy (Psychology Today).
Just like the rabbit vibrator, Sex and the City didn’t invent the Cosmopolitan, but it did catapult them into the mainstream.
There were few episodes where you wouldn’t see one of the cast members with a colourful cocktail in their well-manicured hands. Even to this day, people associate Cosmopolitan cocktails with the iconic show and it no doubt contributed to the increase in sales of the drink.
The Cosmopolitan was Carrie’s drink of choice, but many other cocktails appeared on the show. No longer were cocktails reserved for socialites and the rich and famous — they became a must have for the everyday girl on a night out. Some have even said that Sex and the City started off the ‘Cocktail Culture’. (source)
It is difficult to really gauge what impact Sex and the City had on women, as it’s clear that it meant something different to every person who watched it. For many women it gave them the confidence to be open about their sex lives, while for others it was seen as anti-feminist.
As with all forms of entertainment, it is open for interpretation and discussion — that’s what makes it entertaining.