The sexually explicit scenes in Sex and the City – now into its last series on Channel 4 – make me feel like Maurice Chevalier: I’m so glad that I’m not young any more. It is not that I feel, as my husband Richard West does, that it is all quite ‘filthy’ and ‘disgusting’ (he recalls with fondness the Old Aussie saying ‘There’s nothing worse than toilet talk from sheilas’): goodness me, I’m no prude.
It is just that some of the sexual gymnastics, particularly as demonstrated by Samantha and the young men she picks up, seem somehow both humiliating and competitive. I mean, you look at Olympic swimming and marvel at what the human body can accomplish, but you do not imagine that you are supposed to do likewise in the municipal pool the next day. But you look at the amazing positions which Samantha and her lovers demonstrate, and it might worry you dreadfully if you could not emulate these Olympics successfully.
Samantha is the sassy one of the quartet of New York ‘liberated’ women, the unashamed man-hunter who goes after men in rather the way that men, long ago – say, in the stories of Ethel M. Dell – once went after women. She is the Sheikh: she takes ’em rough and bends them to her will. But Samantha’s penchant for pretty boys with cute little butts rather confirms the legend well established among Sex and the City viewers: although conceived by a woman, Candace Bushnell, the script is an agenda for gay men. Samantha’s desirable guys are exactly the type you might see in a gay man’s magazine – fabulous pecs, adorable derri’res, and exquisitely vacuous. It doesn’t seem to me to match female psychology at all; but then you have to have a character like Samantha so as to disguise, somewhat, the emerging evidence that in its last series Sex and the City is moving towards a gratifyingly conservative conclusion.