The 'Sex And The City' Cultural Effect
Previous generations placed a premium on keeping a woman's number of men dated, and certainly sexual partners, to a minimum. Obviously, this emerged from the idea that a woman's virtue and reputation were one of her most valuable commodities. It was thought that a woman's husband should be "her person" - the only one in the world she should give herself to. Virtue was kept safe and saved for that husband, so that he would know he was getting a good egg of a lady. The societal, non-religious, norm of virginity before marriage seemed to exist primarily for man's benefit. A man picked his partner, and then he became the one for her.
"Sex and the City" changed this sequence of events. The four main characters on the show must have dated nearly hundreds of men (and one woman), between them. All but one - Samantha - was on a quest to find her meant to be, with a few funsy detours along the way. Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte were not looking to be with a variety of men, but rather searching for the one that fit with them best. They pulled way from the previous rules, and engaged in their own vetting processes. Over years, they defined what they did, and maybe more importantly didn't, want in a partner.
For at least Carrie, though, this process was about more than just boiling down criteria - it was about the process, itself. Carrie managed to find Aidan, a wonderful man who she was deeply in love with. Although she accepted his proposal, she could not go through with marriage. Carrie wanted to be with Aidan, but in yet another twist of gender roles, he left her because she couldn't fully commit. It was like Carrie knew she wasn't quite done with the dating process - she needed to be with a few more men to be sure Aidan, or anyone else, was the one for her.
Even Charlotte, who was most eager to believe that every man she dated was the one she would marry, had to go through her own process to find her bashert, or meant to be. This included a failed marriage to a man with whom she abstained from sex before their wedding. Ultimately, his sexual-ahem-issues, shall we say, which would have been discovered by pre-marital sex, contributed to their divorce. (A not-so subtle cue, perhaps, that the old way of dating and abstaining should officially be labeled as ineffective?) Even though Charlotte didn't feel the same itch that Carrie felt, to be truly happy, both of them had to actively find their match, and then commit - not the other way around.
Much like young women began to think twice before ordering the same old vodka-tonic, "Sex and the City" probably caused them to think twice before committing themselves to another person for the long haul. Of course, it's unlikely that anyone thinks to themselves, "but Carrie had to date a lot of men, so I should to," but the show certainly planted a subconscious seed of thought in women's brains. The choice between premature, socially pressured commitment, and distilled, thoughtful, true love and decision-making is obvious. However, in life outside the television screen, this clarity can become muddled. The situation sometimes miraculously arises that a young woman finds herself with a wonderful man, but still feels the need to see what else is out there, a la Carrie. Could this type of action have detrimental effects, by causing people to miss their exit to happiness because they are trying to see who is in the car in the next lane?
Our culture, with so much exposure to the way other people live their lives and the choices they make, through both reality and fictional television, is very example oriented. We see a brand of shoe, body type, diet, or relationship style exemplified in some media form and we are eager to ingest and emulate it. Some independent thought, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships, is essential, though. We need to try to make sure that the choices we make are our own, and based on situational and personal uniquities, and not on following paths set out by popular models. Given the influence, mostly subconscious, that media giants like "Sex and the City" have, it is extra important to be sure that women, however clichéd, pull away and think things out so they follow their own hearts and minds. If this means dating 100 men, so be it, and if it means dating two, maybe that's even better. After all, if the Manolo - or man - fits….
Story by Sarah Levin
Starpulse contributing writer
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