How LGBTQ+ People Really Feel About Sex And The City

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Hbo/Darren Star Prods./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.
When the first episode of Sex And The City debuted on June 6, 1998, viewers got a glimpse into queer life in Manhattan. Although the LGBTQ+ characters never had staring roles on SATC, they were a presence in the main four women's lives. And that's more than you could say for most other shows at the time. The pilot introduced us to Carrie's gay friend Stanford and (very briefly) a couple of drag queens who bring Miranda a birthday cake. Later in the show, Carrie dates a bisexual man and Samantha has a short relationship with a woman.
Advertisement
So no one could argue that SATC didn't help the world see that LGBTQ+ people, you know, exist. But, while LGBTQ+ visibility might have been enough to call a show "groundbreaking" in 1998, LGBTQ+ people now expect more from queer characters. Stanford is a flamboyant and flat stereotype of a gay man, and that doesn't push the envelope for queer people anymore. Carrie's flippant comments about bisexuality (that it's "a layover on the way to gaytown") wouldn't fly in 2018. And even Samantha's relationship with a woman (which was handled mostly well) feels gross and gratuitous next to the queer ladies who grace our TV screens today. Even Sarah Jessica Parker (aka, Carrie Bradshaw herself) recently admitted that SATC wasn't great for LGBTQ+ people (or anyone other than white women, tbh). "There were no women of color, and there was no substantial conversation about the LGBTQ community," she said at at Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival.
So, at the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, SJP's comments bring up a few questions. How harshly should we judge a show that first aired 20 years ago? Was SATC ultimately good or bad for the LGBTQ+ community? And how do queer and trans people today really feel about the show? We reached out LGBTQ+ people to help us explore some of those questions. Read on for their thoughts.
1 of 8

Sex And The City definitely made me feel more comfortable experimenting with women.

"I liked Samantha’s quick trip to lezville, but I wish that there had been real representation of queer women in their dating experiences — especially since there was a lesbian [Cynthia Nixon, who actually identifies as bisexual] cast as a straight woman (why?).

"But, Sex And The City definitely made me feel more comfortable experimenting with women as a baby queer. Samantha is my homegirl, even though the girls' reactions to her dating a woman were cringey. They could have had a great opportunity to normalize and destigmatize, but they didn’t take advantage of it." — Lauren, cisgender bisexual woman
2 of 8

Not every piece of media needs to be groundbreaking and boundary-pushing.

"Not every piece of media needs to be groundbreaking and boundary-pushing. SATC never did anything progressive for LGBTQ+ people, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically regressive. Also, a show about Manhattan in the 90s doesn’t really address the actual circumstances of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers in 2018 — material, social, spiritual, ideological, etc — and that’s okay!" — Quinn, cisgender gay man
Advertisement
3 of 8

SATC helped me to unapologetically own my sexuality.

"Of course there were problematic moments, but I wouldn't characterize them as harmful. It's not that deep! Sex And The City was an amazing, entertaining show! Although there was no regular lesbian character, SATC still helped me to unapologetically own my sexuality. And I still live for Miranda's ridiculous outfits, especially the bucket hat over a hood." — Dayna, cisgender lesbian woman
4 of 8

SATC was positive representation for mostly straight, white women.

"The show was majority about heterosexual relationships, and when I was watching it I was less aware of my queer identity. So, while I don't feel represented as a queer person, SATC was positive representation for mostly straight, white, femme and cisgender women. A future version would benefit from more people of color and queer identities." — Rachel, cisgender queer/pansexual woman
5 of 8

SATC showed it's queer characters as gross stereotypes.

"IT'S LEGIT A SHOW ABOUT CISHET [cisgender and heterosexual] LADIES BEING TOP CISHET. No, but really, SATC showed it's queer characters as gross stereotypes presented as accessories to cishet women. We're more than that and have value on our own. SATC was only helpful to queer people in the very generic 'any visibility reminds people that we exist' capacity. The whole show is all cringe. I can’t relate to the main narrative of the show as a lesbian. At all. Those women are very different from me." — Heather, lesbian woman
6 of 8

Was Sex in the City perfect for queers? Absolutely not.

"If Sex And The City were on TV now, it'd probably be considered harmful for its extremely narrow view of queerness. But this was the '90s when the LGBTQ+ community was just coming out of the AIDS crisis, and there was relatively NO representation of queer lives on TV. Sex And The City pushed the envelope and showed those narratives at least. You were represented as a queer person, even if it was for a tiny amount of time. The show relies heavily on queer stereotype, and the queer representation is only for an episode or two at a time, and always is centered around white storylines (shocker!). It's a taste of queerness in it's most diluted and digestible form.

"I mean, Samantha's whole relationship with Maria is an exercise in cringing uncontrollably as a queer woman. It was basically a parody of lesbian relationships, capitalizing on the 'overemotional' stereotype of two women being together.

"Sex And The City was always a guilty pleasure for me. In terms of queerness, it's more of a cultural artifact now than a current representation. We have to look at it in terms of context, both the fact that it was 20 years ago and that the envelope at the time could only be pushed so far. Was Sex in the City perfect for queers? Absolutely not. Did it do what it could for us at the time? I think so." — Katie, cisgender queer woman
7 of 8

Women loving women on SATC were hyper-sexualized, tokenized, and made to seem exotic.

"Visibility and representation are always a crucial step, but never a be-all-end-all sweep, and women loving women on SATC were hyper-sexualized, tokenized, and made to seem exotic.

"I never particularly enjoyed watching the show, and did not relate to it. It was a means to create small talk with straight, primarily white, peers as a teen. Now, those memes of Sarah Jessica sitting at her computer, typing her thoughts and feelings into the ether? Those 'get' me." — Haley, queer/pansexual woman (she or they pronouns)
8 of 8

It served to help boost visibility of LGBTQ+ people, but did little else.

"SATC had good queer characters, but it could have spent more time looking at their relationships. We never got a satisfying story arc for Stanford and his boyfriend. For the time period the show was on, it served to help boost visibility of LGBTQ+ people, but did little else. And the way they talked about bisexuality was cringeworthy." — Kevin, cisgender gay man.
Advertisement

More from Sex & Relationships

Watch

R29 Original Series