We don’t need a reminder from HBO’s Girls that we’ve become fairly open with talking about sex. Except, perhaps, when it’s parent sex. Nobody wants to talk about parents having sex. Not me, not you, not the next person.
Given Girls’ obsession with touching on any and all taboo topics, particularly as they relate to the bedroom, the steamy scene in which Hannah’s parents — who seem to have a very healthy, happy, 30-year-long marriage — fornicate comes as no surprise.
This episode centers around Hannah heading home to her suburban home in Michigan to celebrate her parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. But Hannah bails on their anniversary dinner for a date with the local pharmacist, who she meets while picking up her Mom’s menopause medication. The pharmacist comes out to Hannah’s car as she’s leaving, to offer her some free lube for her Mom, saying she might need it if she wants to have sex while on the medication. Ah, parent sex foreshadowing! Anyway, Hannah has relatively bad sex with the pharmacist, after which he drives her home, where she finds her Mom screaming, and her Dad laying naked on the bathroom floor, having just hit his head during sex in the shower.
Oh dear, do I need to cover my eyes?
But, you see, the jarring thing about the parents’ sex scene wasn’t that it was horrifyingly awkward or old person-ish. It wasn’t even the fact that the Dad collapsed and that we saw his penis. (Yes, it’s “shocking” to see the Dad’s penis because networks like HBO are much more comfortable showing us women’s breasts or ass than penis, but other than that the scene wasn’t so crazy.)
Instead, the jarring thing about the Mom and Dad sex was that it was so much better than any sex Hannah has had. In fact, it was better than any of the sex that anyone has had. Here are two people having what looks to be passionate sex in a shower. So passionate that the Dad fell out of the shower and hit his head! Compare that to Hannah’s rough but emotionless wiggling on a couch, or Jessa’s unfaithful screwing while hanging out of a window. Then there’s Marnie, who had sex so bad in the last episode that it convinced her to break up with her boyfriend of five years.
The sex scene that should be the show’s most awkward turns out to be the least awkward.
When Girls first premiered, I wrote that I wanted my parents to watch the show, because it would “explain the whole whole ‘Millennials’ thing to [them] so we don’t have to.” I wrote the show articulately addressed issues I deal with “in a way they might understand better than I ever could.” My parents did start watching the show. They found it fascinating and eye-opening and a little horrifying. And they did say they sex scenes were a lot to handle. We’ve discussed the show, but it’s been mostly about the broader issues – like the way the characters communicate, and how they poorly navigate their relationships. Even when talking about the show with my friends and peers, we’ve mostly glossed over the intricacies of the sex scenes, accepting them for what they are but not really discussing the specifics.
So, kudos to Lena Dunham and Co., for artfully exploring yet another topic most of us would prefer to not discuss openly. This time, at least, the sex was taboo but it was also promising and hopeful. It seemed to show that loving relationships can mean good sex and happiness, even after decades.
I don’t rescind the suggestion that my parents watching the show, but I may tell them this episode was a sleeper — or sneak to their house and delete it from the DVR. Because, as Hannah puts it, “Of course you’re embarrassed, because this is embarrassing for everyone involved.”
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