There Is A Reason ‘Sex And The City’ Made Sense For The 1990s


When I was growing up, my mother used to watch Sex And The City, which meant it was time for me to go to bed. The 1990s HBO series was groundbreaking, raw, and unfiltered, which has solidified it in sitcom history 21 years after it first aired.

Sex And The City follows the lives of four friends in their 30s & 40s, namely Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbs, Samantha Jones, & Charlotte York. All of them were different in one way or another, granted almost to the point of being stereotypical, but that was television back in the 90s. Having four women star in a sitcom is nothing new, but having them be candid about their sexual escapades and love lives was a shock to the world.

In 2019, four women talking about their sex lives is nothing new. In fact, sex is as common a subject as discussing the weather forecast for the week. Since I was so young during the height of the show, I began watching the series on Showmax.

It’s been nostalgic seeing how TV looked back in the day. From the random boom mic making it into the frame to the set of one of the most recognizable sets in TV-history, the experience has been interesting.

According to Sex And The City, women date with the hopes of one day finding “the one,” excluding Samantha’s storyline. More so, women almost never make the first move. Additionally, once they’ve secured the relationship there’s another game to play, that of keeping one’s self secret to save from embarrassment. Finally, never letting go of previous relationships seemed to be a common theme throughout the first three seasons.

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At the same time, one of the select merits I took from the show is that dates are to attended with purpose. From actually showing up, to the way you present yourself to a suitor, you have to participate. If there’s one lesson my generation could take from the series, this would be it.

As mentioned before, most of what I learned about women according to Sex And The City has nothing to do with Samantha Jones’ storyline. Her’s is one of extreme liberation, the right to choose one’s destiny and sexual partners. The right to remain a single girl, even in the face of marriage oriented society.

Nevertheless, even her storyline made sex and the intricacies things that come with dating seem…off, for lack of a better word. For instance, when met with a man who had, “the strangest tasting spunk,” instead of never performing an oral sexual act for him, she bartered with him, and ended up having to perform anyway. Granted, while she left him, as should be expected of her character anyway, she tried to change him as an excuse to stay with him. Why?

One common theme in the first three seasons was a willingness to remain in less than ideal situations with men. If these four women met four women dating in 2019, they’d get the shock of their lives, I believe.

As a young person dating in South Africa, I can definitively say that I can’t relate to the women of Sex And The City. I may understand Carrie’s (near) obsession with Mr Big, or Miranda’s reluctance to commit to Steve, and Samantha’s sexual liberation, none of their characters resonate fully. Dating for them placed ‘having a boyfriend’ above their happiness. What for? Disappointment, maybe.

In 2019, if you like someone, you can ask them out first, without it necessarily being taboo. While you may not have all of the confidence to pull it off flawlessly, there’s still a chance you’ll go on a date. Today, intimacy doesn’t follow any rules that you don’t set for yourself. Much more than that, if there are qualities you don’t enjoy about a potential partner, you reserve the right to move on without feeling like you’ll never meet someone.

In my best Carrie Bradshaw opening line, I’ll ask the following question, could it be that Sex And The City was such a hit because sex and dating were undergoing a massive cultural shift at the time of its prime?

P.S. The video posted to Twitter above was produced a mer couple of weeks before ol’ boy and I broke up. I didn’t want to deal with his inconsistencies, so I made my exit stage right!


  • Reply
    Khensani Mohlatlole
    June 29, 2019 at 6:56 PM

    I’ve always been obsessed with SATC and shows like Girlfriends and all the romantic comedies of the late 90s, early 00s primarily because of what a jarring difference it was to the dating world I entered as a teenage in the early 2010s. And you make a good point that there was the laser focus on dating rules and finding the one and what made some girls worth committing to and the Tyler Perry β€œhe’s a /good/ man” like. I wonder, though, if the cultural shift in dating was what impacted the end of these movies and shows or if the shit was a direct result of the sense of exasperation and fairytale ending fatigue that prompted the shift? Obviously this is more in reference to heterosexual relationships and dating since anything queer was barely ever covered.

    Unless you wanna count the one-three episode arc when Samantha was dating that Latino artist and the girls went β€œ???” To Sam exploring her sexuality.

  • Reply
    July 4, 2019 at 12:01 PM

    I really enjoyed this Misa! Without being overly critical, I don’t identify with Sex and The City as a black woman. People that look like me, even in the 1900s, did not navigate dating like these friends do. Though we can see similarities in the importance of a man for women around this time; the dynamics were completely different.

    I’d like to see your take on movies like “Waiting To Exhale” and series like ”Girlfriends”. Mainly how similar the characters in these black series/movies are to that of Sex and The City but the culture ( at that time and now) saw them differently!

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