Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sex and the Single Girl

It may be hard to believe, but some girls don't want anonymous sex with lots of guys. While this life may make Candace Bushnell, like Erica Jong of days of yore, deliriously happy, there are girls who find promiscuity rather tricky. Considering the glamour of genital warts and unexpected pregnancy, one can see the pitfalls. I've found three movies that show an alternative to our Sex in the City world of meaningless sex that has no consequences.

The Best of Everything is a luxurious look at late 1950's New York. The three young women in this film are drawn to New York for the same reason Carrie, Samantha, and Miranda are: adventure. The girls from The Best discover that sex without commitment leads them to...sex without commitment. While expecting to be cherished by their lovers, all three are disappointed by their men. While some viewers may think insanity is not a typical reaction to being dumped, I think today's sexually disappointed girls suffer from a panoply of problems, mental instability among them. How else do can you explain cutting?

In People Will Talk, superstar Cary Grant finds himself caught up in a young woman's unplanned pregnancy. Grant plays a gynecologist and famed healer in this 1951 film. He remarks about his female patients being pregnant and unhappy, or desiring pregnancy and being unable to achieve it. Then as now, fertility was an issue fraught with joy and heartbreak. Abortion is alluded to when Grant and a young woman discuss "peace of mind." An abortion may bring her peace of mind, but at the cost of his, the doctor's. Deborah Crain plays this unmarried mother. Crain is lovely, but not a great actress. The romance between these two is only part of the story. The most riveting part of the plot centers around accusations about Grant's past and his friend, Mr. Shunderson. This forgotten classic should be rediscovered. Along with thoughtful discussion, it's full of playful wit and plot twists.

In Come September, Rock Hudson visits his Italian sex kitten, played by Gina Lollabrigida, each September. Who would ever expect Gina Lollabrigida, international bombshell, to be jealous of virginal Sandra Dee? That's the sweet surprise of this film, where Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee first met (they eloped two weeks after the film wrapped). Sandra Dee and her girlfriends, traveling abroad for the summer, end up in the care of Rock Hudson. He takes his responsibility as chaperon very seriously; after all, he knows quite well how lecherous men can be. So when Bobby Darin and his pals show up, Hudson spends all his time protecting Sandra Dee's virtue and making sure she knows what boys are after. Gina, who has happily been Hudson's mistress, rediscovers her own value. Why hasn't Hudson protected her virtue? Isn't she worth marrying?

All three of these films resonate with the real experiences girls have, that we are just now admitting, namely that casual sex can be ruinous to a young woman's health, physical and otherwise. What's so crazy is that when these movies were made, everyone already knew that. A woman's natural reticence to unmarried sex protected her from unplanned pregnancy, disease, and, most importantly, from being used by men. What protects girls now?

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