Not-So-Gleeful

(note: this entire post was written with Madonna music blasting through my headphones)

This post contains information about the recent episode of Glee! If you haven’t watched it yet, come back later. If you have no intention of watching it, or you’ve already seen it, awesome.

Madonna – the queen of female empowerment. Or so Glee tries to tell us, anyway. I have my own opinions on how well Madonna actually fills a “female empowerment” “void” in music – irrelevant, for now.

I was as disappointed with last night’s episode, though, as I sometimes am with Madonna’s music. I thought an episode about female empowerment would do more than stereotype high school girls. But I learned a few important things from Glee last night! Click “more” so that I don’t ruin it for people who are waiting for Hulu.

The first thing I learned is that boys are almost always going to want you to have sex with them, and we, as girls, should immediately be uncomfortable. Will wants to sleep with Emma (they’re teachers at the high school), Jesse wants to sleep with Rachel (students from rival schools). Emma and Will’s relationship is undefined, but they obviously really care about each other. Rachel is actually dating Jesse and is obviously completely enamored with him. Obviously, neither of these situations requires that sex be involved at all. But when it becomes obvious that that’s where Will and Emma’s physicality is going, Will can’t rein it in, and Emma can’t quite get comfortable. Jesse asks Rachel to sleep with him and she immediately is like “oh my god sex that would be betraying my team because apparently sleeping with you is betraying my team while being madly in love with you is not.”

My understanding of this is that for the women who were highlighted, sex was a big deal. It was something you didn’t do without serious consideration. And I think that’s totally fine. Rachel and Emma obviously don’t want physicality until they have an emotional connection – great, cool.

UNLESS YOU’RE A SLUT.

No, seriously. That’s the second thing I learned from Glee last night – women should always be uncomfortable with emotionless sex – and if we are not, we’re sluts! The only woman to actively seek out sex was a cheerleader, one who we’re supposed to envision as “slutty.” She was the only one who actually got any last night, and she was using it as a power play (she’s trying to become head cheerleader and apparently this will help somehow). Suddenly, for not conforming to her gender role of not wanting sex, she’s the bad guy, while poor Finn, the rare good guy who made the decision to have sex before he was ready (literally just to make Rachel jealous – what a “good” guy), doesn’t have any idea why he slept with her in the first place.

In the end of the episode, Finn has slept with the slutty cheerleader and not at all enjoyed it, while Rachel and Emma make the decision that their simply not ready. What else does this teach us? Men are insatiable and will always ultimately want sex, even if they regret it afterwards? That sex needs to accompany an emotional connection to be enjoyable?

And let’s not forget the other great things Glee has taught us about sex! My favorite is the lesson that “it’s okay to make light of date rape.” For the second straight episode, we are reminded of the fact that Sue Sylvester slipped something into the high school principal’s drink during a night out – after which, he woke up naked in bed with her while she held a camera over him and said “smile!” HEY FOX: THAT’S DATE RAPE, THAT’S ILLEGAL, AND THAT’S TRAUMATIZING. I was really uncomfortable when I saw that, and I’m horrified that there hasn’t been any sort of apology from Fox, the writers, etc. – or even any response at all (that I’ve seen) from the community that watches the show.

So Madonna is great. Really. “La Isla Bonita” is playing through my headphones right now, and I’m seriously enjoying it. But this episode did the opposite of empower women to make their own decisions. Instead, it was a full hour of slut-shaming and sex construction for a generation of pre-teens and teenagers who are going to take these gender role messages with them. Don’t forget, girls: it’s okay if you’re not ready to have sex. But if you are ready, you might be a slut.

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