Freeform’s latest summer series, The Bold Type, has a lot of characters viewers can instantly feel invested in. There’s the uber-confident Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), the deeply conflicted Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy), and show’s resident Yoda-with-a-fashionable-twist, Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin). Bold also really wants us to care about Scarlet writer Jane Sloan’s (Katie Stevens) love interest, male-mag Pinstripe's sex columnist Ryan Decker (Dan Jeannotte), despite the fact he’s what you would get if one of those rebooted Ken dolls received the Life-Size treatment. In an effort to make Walking 5 O’Clock Shadow interesting, last night’s episode, "The Woman Behind The Clothes," manufactured some tension by having Ryan write a reaction piece inspired by Jane’s very personal essay about never having an orgasm. The wonderful title of his article? "Why Girls Sometimes Fake It, And Do We Even Care?" Although my eyes have now rolled so far back into my head I need to go to an optometrist immediately, the storyline does bring up a good point: there’s a huge difference between women and men in sex writing.
In last week’s instalment, "O Hell No," Jane’s essay on being a woman who has never had an orgasm — yes, even with herself — was an emotional window into who she is as a person. The journalist is consistently so anxious and tense, she finds it impossible to let go in a way that will allow her to hit the big O. As a way to maybe, just maybe, experience one of life’s greatest pleasures, she has to jump through a series of hoops, including checking with her doctor, visiting a sexologist, and sticking a Gwyneth Paltrow-approved egg in her vagina. Since this is TV, the egg gets stuck inside of her, because, hijinks. By the end of the episode, the writer still hasn’t orgasmed, but her best friend has been forced to pull a yoni egg out of Jane’s yoni. Since Jane sees her big admission as possibly embarrassing, she originally asks to publish the story anonymously. By the end of "O Hell," she changes her mind, adding her name as a way to show orgasm-less women everywhere they’re not alone.
The Bold Type reminds us that making ladies across the world feel a little less isolated about the complicated mores of sex is the major goal of most women’s relationship writing, Yes, women’s sex sections are also about sex toys that will rock your world and your perfect porn site, but all of that really boils down to connection. Straight men have been dominating the conversation around sex, along with sex itself, for millennia, so no one really needs to assure them using a fake plastic vagina is okay. They know that already. That’s why there’s an old Blue Mountain State episode dedicated to an entire football team using the same exact Fleshlight. Many women, on the other hand, need to be coaxed into even confirming they watch porn and aren’t quite sure which dildo is right for them. This makes sense, since we didn’t get our version of a sex-positive magazine until 1965. By writing about sex, women are reminding other ladies they don’t have to be in the dark about their most natural questions, concerns, and desires.
If you take a look at the publications Jane’s Scarlet and Ryan’s Pinstripe are based on — real-life Hearst magazines Cosmopolitan and Esquire, respectively — this fact becomes even more evident. In an Esquire story about better sex positions for men, surprisingly, it doesn’t simply say, "All of them." Instead, tea-bagging is the seventh option. So, the men’s magazine is recommending dunking your scrotum in a lady’s mouth, which some people are understandably into. Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, Cosmo is busy writing stories about why women can’t even enjoy the most basic forms of cunnilingus. If these stories are representative of the sexual zeitgeist, men are apparently ready to literally go balls-out during sex, while women are paranoid about enjoying the most personal form of pleasure because of how they may or may not taste "down there." Women’s sex columns are here to fix the latter problem and empower their readers. Men's sex columns are here to make something guys are already comfortable with even better for them. These are wildly different aims.
At least The Bold Type proves how men’s relationship writing can actually make sex better for all involved, because it’s not only submerged testicles, "Hot Videos From The Women We Love," and tips on hiding your pornography habit. At the end of "Woman Behind The Clothes," Jane reappears at her Anthropomorphized Stubble crush’s doorstep after reading his “Why Girls Sometimes Fake It” story. Despite the dismissive nature of Ryan’s headline, the article is about talking to men about why their women partners feel forced to pretend to have an orgasm when they’re actually drier than the Sahara desert. From Jane's reading of the first few sentences, we learn the post isn’t as stunningly honest and relatable as Jane’s piece, but at least it levels with guys in an important, meaningful way.
Speaking of important and meaningful, the preview for next week's Bold Type episode, "If You Can’t Do It With Feeling" hints Jane will finally orgasm (twice!) during her hookup with Ryan. If we've learned anything today, these two writers are inevitably going to have fiercely different things to say about the experience. Fingers crossed my eyes have rolled back into place by then.