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And yes, the malfunctions and humiliations on “Girls” are often closer to the truth for a lot of women. But all the time? Really? Because the only people having any pleasure on this show are men. The women look either uncomfortable, horrified or, in the case of Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams) — after she has sex with a downtown artist who makes her stare, the entire time, at a plastic doll stuck on his bedpost — on the verge of laughter.
Is this what the sacrifices of past generations of women have wrought? I lived in New York when I was in my 20s; I was broke, artistic and made bad fashion choices, but I don’t remember having that much bad sex. One’s 20s are a time when sex is about the only thing that seems to work (nobody’s taking Viagra or worried about the baby in the next room). Dunham has purposefully written girls that never ask for much from their boys: They crave experience more than they do intimacy or pleasure. They don’t seem to know their own bodies, and when they do ask — as is the case with Adam’s new girlfriend this season, who requests that he not call her a whore while they do it — their requests go ignored.
Maybe it’s a process. Maybe you have to pass through the humiliation of those 20s to get to the confidence of the 30s, 40s and 50s. In their personal lives, the women of “The Good Wife” [ask for what they want from their partners. That doesn’t mean the interactions are trouble free, but personal empowerment is built into a show about a disillusioned political wife who gets her second act in American life.
Should a bunch of overworked, middle-aged lawyers be having a more erotic time of things than half-dressed, underemployed 20-somethings in Brooklyn? In an essay she wrote for The New York Review of Books, Elaine Blair says “Girls” is showing us the full range of possibility: That there’s more to a romantic life than just a numbers game and animal pleasure on the one hand, or a long search for a spouse on the other — and we can justify our freedom only by giving full attention to the human relationships formed by sex, even when those relationships are brief and strange. Okay, but somewhere along the way, a girl needs to get more out of her sex life than just humiliation and another story to tell her friends. At some point she needs to grow up and speak up about her own desires.
Maybe what those girls really need is a good lawyer.
Sharon Pomerantz, author of “Rich Boy,” is at work on her second novel.