13 Reasons Why Season 3 Has One Good Sex Scene — This Is It

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
13 Reasons Why is a show marked by either sexual violence or bad sex. Besides Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and Zach Dempsey’s (Ross Butler) summer tryst, it’s difficult to remember the last time Liberty High students actually enjoyed sex in the way that their Riverdale brethren always do and their Euphoria counterparts sometimes do. But, 13 Reasons season 3 gives us one small ray of hope that Netflix’s saddest teens aren’t doomed to a lifetime of traumatizing sexual encounters.
Yes, we’re about “The Good Person is Indistinguishable From the Bad,” where Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) and Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn) get it on all over town. However, that’s not the greatest sex hiding in 13 Reasons Why 2019. Instead, it’s Jessica's solo sex session at the midpoint of the installment that deserves all the attention.
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For a show that often tells viewers it’s empowering, this is one scene that actually proves it.
The lead-up to Jessica’s big moment is some of the most honest teen show dialogue we’ve seen when it comes to sex toys. In series like Euphoria and fellow Netflix series Trinkets, young people have absolutely no awkward qualms about tossing on fetish gear or shopping for vibrators together. It may be a suburban teen right of passage to giggle about dildos in a Spencer’s Gifts, but how many of those high schoolers then have honest conversations about using those dildos on themselves for their own pleasure?
In my experience, not very many.
That is how Jessica approaches her sex toy conversation with Ani Achola (Grace Saif). When Jessica says she is having “awful sex” with boyfriend Alex Standall (Miles Heizer), Ani asks if she has tried figuring out her body on her own. Jessica is mortified at the word “masturbate” just like any teen girl who has been convinced self-pleasure is a dirty thing. In fact, Jessica admits, she has never even tried masturbating. So Ani whisks her new friend to a sex shop to buy every toy in the book. Jessica calls one bright pink dildo covered it ridges “really scary” and panics about how to even use her new products.
For young viewers who feel similarly lost about sex toys, it’s an important singal they’re not lagging behind their peers. If Jessica Davis, who’s out here trying kinky sex with Justin, is nervous about a big pink dildo, they can be do too.
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While Jessica and Ani’s conversation helps assure viewers at home, it also gives us some important insight into the former’s mind as she recovers from Bryce Walker’s (Justin Prentice) season 1 rape. “Every time I look at my body, it’s still like I’m seeing it through his eyes,” she admits. “Like it’s not even mine”
Jessica’s time with her vibrator is her first attempt to truly take back what is hers. It’s important to see her look at her entire body and recognize it doesn’t belong to Bryce — it’s 100% Jessica’s. Watching her tears turn to a small smile as she stares at her nude form in the mirror suggests she is getting to that point. Then, she hops into bed with her new toy to drive that point home (it’s noticeably small and sleek). You can see how shocked Jessica is to see she can truly have great orgasms if she focuses on what turns her on. It’s not only a powerful statement on its own, but a reminder sexual assault survivors everywhere don’t stop being sexual beings.
13 Reasons manages to give us a short scene that packs a wallop. Especially when you compare it to the murky waters of Bryce and Ani’s hookup history or Alex’s time with a sex worker in season 3. For Alex to reclaim his sexual power as a man, he has to yell, “Bitch! Fucking bitch!,” at a very kind and encouraging woman. It's bleak.
However, as with all things 13 Reasons Why, there is room for improvement in this special part of Jessica’s arc. From the moment Jessica turns her vibrator on to the moment she finishes, about 40 seconds zoom by. For even the horniest woman, that seems quick. The point of this storyline is for 13 Reasons to highlight Jessica’s honest struggles to enjoy her body after the violence of Bryce. Suggesting less than a minute with a vibrator can fix all of that trauma seems faulty. It’s impossible not to consider that viewers going through a similar journey may unnecessarily wonder if something is wrong with them if they don’t reach sexual satisfaction quite so fast.
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Imagine how much more powerful Jessica’s masturbatory adventure could have been if she needed to switch up sex toys to find what worked for her. Or how it would feel if we watched Jessica go through a montage of different sexual forays until the big O hit.
But, 13 Reasons Why will never be perfect. At least it’s trying — and stumbling towards the rare empathetic sex scene along the way.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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