media darling

a personal record of how different forms of media and their content affect me (a college student)

women as gatekeepers – not the media! October 2, 2008

I recently watched a very old episode of “Felicity” which I believe is from the first season, because she is a freshman in college. It is the episode when Felicity decides that she is ready to have sex for the first time with her current boyfriend, Nole.

Although some parts of the episode were somewhat idealized and unrealistic (and corny), it was a great episode and rare to see on such a popular show because of the blatant effort to advocate consent, safe sex and sexual responsibility. It was similar to the “Friends” condom episode that I mentioned in an earlier post, however the “Felicity” episode definitely sought to educate viewers on safe sex with discussion and visuals.

In terms of gender, however, I feel that this episode would reach out to females much more than to males because Felicity was calling the shots about the sex the entire time. It was her decision to have sex with Nole in the first place, granted she was a virgin (he wasn’t) so it should have been her decision when she was ready, but she decided when and where they would have the sex, she learned about the condoms and protection to use, and basically ran the whole show. This would make males feel pretty useless in my opinion, except when it came to the sexual act itself, which never actually occurred by the end of the episode for a multitude of reasons.

I think this portrayal of a character’s sexual experience is the type of media that causes sexual schemas for real people. I believe the “Felicity” episode is a perfect example of the social norming effect and why there is the stereotype that women are “sexual gatekeepers” and say yes or no to sex when men want it. Felicity didn’t even leave the responsibility of getting condoms for their sex up to Nole – one of the ways men are typically viewed as sexual gatekeepers. Watching Felicity manipulate (more or less) Nole into doing exactly what she wanted in terms of their sex-life, strengthens the stereotype that men always want sex and women decide when they can have it.

It’s a common opinion for people my age to think of guys who have a lot of sex as players (or awesome), but to also think of girls who have a lot of sex as sluts. It’s things like the “Felicity” episode that reinforce this stigma, unfortunately, because it was putting out a great message, but possibly causing other effects, like stereotypes.