Sex/Life On Netflix Really Pissed Me Off

by Jessica Groff
Originally Published: 

“Sex/Life” starts out like a lot of other shows about women in the midst of a midlife crisis — a flashback, a voiceover, and the revelation that life hasn’t turned out the way she thought it would for her. It was close enough to my own story that it made me sit upright and pay attention. I even texted my friend — “Why is this my life?”

And that’s where the story veers.

Netflix had it. They had their finger on the pulse of a lot of the things that a lot of us out here are thinking. Who am I now that I’m a mother? Where did that other woman go? Is there space in this bed for both of us — me AND her? It was relatable. Until it wasn’t. Which is about 10 minutes into the first episode.

I’m thinking maybe they got into it and realized that they were in over their heads. There can be no other explanation that I can think of.

The main character, Billie, stumbles around life in the present day, in and out of flashbacks of her former life and her old flame from back in the day. This is all despite the fact that she is now happily married (to what appears to be the perfect guy) with the obligatory two kids, living in the suburbs, and bumbling through that stay-at-home mom life. We learn that she was smart and successful in her former professional life, and that she also crash-landed into a love affair with a “dangerous” bad boy record executive in her personal life. She spends time dodging his phone calls in her present-day life, fantasizing about him while she breastfeeds, and ultimately writing about it in an online journal — which her husband ends up finding, reading, and unsuccessfully trying to recreate.

The rest is embarrassing. While the show definitely appears to be attempting to grapple with the confusion and pain of losing yourself completely in motherhood, the creators seem to think that the fix to that is simple — “spice up your sex life.” I can tell them, without a doubt, that this is not the fix.

At first, I was all — “This MUST be produced by a man. It MUST be.” But then I found out that it was not only produced by a woman but it was created by her, as well! All I have to say about that is — Stacy Rukeyser, I expected much, much more from someone who contributed to October Road and One Tree Hill. I looked her up on Wikipedia, and it turns out that she has been married for eleven years and has two children. So, now I’m really confused.

A little bit of further investigation took me to the doorstep of BB Easton, the author of a memoir titled “44 Chapters About 4 Men”. Turns out that the memoir was her way of connecting her former life to her current life, and “Sex/Life” is loosely based on this novel.

But between the gratuitous full-frontal nudity shots and the way that Sarah Shahi bites her lip while thinking about and doing the things she has been thinking about, “Sex/Life” is hard to watch. Painful, if I’m being honest. The thought that this is what Netflix is trying to pawn off onto us as a conversation about the devastation that women feel over the abrupt conclusion of their former lives once they have children is insulting. I mean, really.

The fact of the matter is that many of us undergo a complete transformation when we become mothers. Our lives are no longer ours. I remember thinking to myself, “I am gone. Who I once was is gone. It happened overnight. And I can’t even mourn her because that would be considered selfish in our society. And also, who has time to mourn?! I have asses to wipe, dishes to wash, laundry to fold, schedules to adhere to, homework to assist with, bedtime routines to perform …”

Framing the realization that many of us come to as a mental breakdown or a midlife crisis is just setting us back over a hundred years. Back to the days when a woman’s dissatisfaction with her life meant that she was insane. Because who could POSSIBLY feel dissatisfied with the “perfect” family life! (Insert eyeroll here.)

I’m not done watching the series, but in all honesty, I’m not sure that I will ever finish it. From what I hear *SPOILER ALERT* Billie runs away. Because, again — what other choice does she have, right? She couldn’t possibly do the hard work and figure out her shit. She couldn’t possibly just communicate with her husband. She couldn’t possibly figure out a way to reconcile her past with her present and move forward.

I’ll probably file this one in the unfinished category, along with the horrific “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. I’m so tired of strong women being subjugated in media — and POORLY, at that. Call it mom porn. Call it smut. I don’t care what you call it, but don’t expect anything more from it than a story about sloppy seconds that is explicit enough to make anyone blush.

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