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What Sex and the City got wrong about love

Was the “cheerful hedonism” misplaced?

No TV show has been more influential in the past 30 years than Sex and the City, says René Pfister in Der Spiegel. Its “cheerful hedonism” perfectly encapsulated a popular strain of feminism in the 1990s: that women could have sex like men, free from all “constraints and norms”. The characters discussed everything from blowjobs to “woefully small” penises with complete frivolity; sex was something to be done “whether in a relationship or not, with one or more men”. Anyone who disagreed with this idea of sex as an emotionless exchange was written off as having a “tight-lipped hostility to pleasure”.

Today, we’re slowly realising that this “sexual revolution” has been atrocious for women. Any kind of “ruthless behaviour” can be justified on the basis that sex is nothing but a meaningless exchange. Sure, Carrie and Samantha’s love lives seemed fun when we were in our twenties. But what happens when we grow up and want a family, or aren’t “attractive enough to keep up with the merciless dating scene”? The truth is most women over 40 I know desperately want a “nuclear family” – the only thing missing is the men. And however “attractive, financially independent and cosmopolitan” my female friends are, they find themselves cast aside in a world where dating apps like Tinder offer men “a better deal with the next swipe”. Perhaps that’s why the reboot of Sex and The City packs less punch: women have realised that “emotional disconnection” isn’t always preferable to the “tenderness” of traditional relationships.