Why I Love Sex in That 70’s Show

I will admit, that only 2 weeks ago, I was sitting down to write the exact opposite of this article, ranting and raving about the dichotomies and false standards that TV and movies perpetuate today about sex.  But I’ve actually found that, somehow, That 70’s Show has a few good things to teach us about sex between teenagers.

For those of you not familiar with the show, the recap is fairly simple: six friends hang out in Eric Forman’s basement in 1970’s po-dunk nowhere, Wisconsin.  They smoke a lot of weed and talk about their lives, which are, for the most part, inconsequential and full of stupid mistakes.  Two of the friends, Eric and Donna, are dating throughout most of the show, and the first two seasons follow their relationship developing into a sexual one.  There’s a lot of ugliness to this progression, which involves Donna tackling the psycho-social “Let’s make this special” complex about losing her virginity, and the show often dichotomizes Donna and Eric into chaste, pure, and virtuous virgin and salivating, uncontrollable horndog.  Thus, why I was originally going to write about how bad this show is.

HOWEVER, things make a 180 degree turn in ethics once Donna and Eric actually start having sex.  The episode where Donna and Eric lose their virginity also includes a great montage of Donna asking adults in her life what their first time was like, and the unanimous answer being that it was terrible…but sex got better with time.

Because when it comes down to it, yes, we do need practice, goshdarnit!  No one is born knowing how to be great in bed.  It’s a skill, and it comes with time, familiarity, and practice.  I’m glad that the show can acknowledge that in a funny, realistic way, while shedding light on the myriad ways that people lose their virginity (to a stranger, immediately after their wedding, with someone unexpected).

The other aspect I really like about the sex ethic in That 70’s Show is how it portrays female sexual desire through Donna.  Before they have sex, Eric is the only one pushing for it, and I had assumed that the same dynamic would persist throughout the show.  Luckily for me, and very true to reality I think, sex completely opened Donna to her own desires.  After Donna and Eric start have sex, there’s equal emphasis on both of their desires for each other, which I find incredibly refreshing.

And again, this makes a lot of sense.  Before I started having sex, I did not think of myself as a sexual person.  I knew that I wanted to have sex, eventually (preferably sooner than later), but my desire wasn’t concrete.  It didn’t have form.  But once I’d lost my virginity, I felt like I understood my body and what it wanted better (obviously this wasn’t really true, because it took almost another year before I realized it kind of preferred girls…lol).

Nonetheless, desire had a direction once it had experience, and thus, a much stronger hold on my body.  I think Donna’s development throughout the season mirrors that exceptionally, and it’s a really good model for how women can be sexually empowered, without feeling like they have to run out and sleep with a new guy every week, become a swinger, or poly, or kinky, or whatever.  Women can take charge of their sexuality within the confines of a very “normal,” comfortable relationship, just by acknowledging that they have needs too.

Now I’m not saying this is a wholesale endorsement of the sex ethic in the show.  The characters in That 70’s Show are obviously just that, characters.  And it is a comedy, which colors their actions in neurotic and unrealistic overtones.  Yet the essence behind Donna and Eric’s relationship is good, and I wish I could see that shown so righteously in other shows being produced today.

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