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Lets Talk About Sex (and the City)

STDs on TV

By

Updated February 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Some people may want to model their lives on the television show "Sex and the City" (SATC), but is that such a great idea? If you can afford $400 shoes, it doesn't hurt anyone if you buy them, but what about the more controversial aspects of the show? The show is alternately praised and panned for its sexually adventurous women, but what did "Sex in the City" say about the consequences of such sexual freedom? What, if anything, was its coverage of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the other consequences of unprotected sex?

The show didn't say much about the possible negative consequences of having a lot of sex, but what it did say was generally accurate. Every woman on the show, except for Carrie, had an STD scare at least once, and even Carrie spoke of how she had had an unintended pregnancy and subsequent abortion. Miranda actually had a child from an unintended pregnancy during the course of the show, and I'm surprised there weren't more pregnancies given how rarely condom use was discussed. You certainly didn't get the impression that the ladies were regularly practicing safer sex. Maybe they thought they didn't need to....

Still, experience (not to mention the script writers) proved these ladies wrong by having three episodes that dealt specifically with STDs. How? Find out below.

Episode 29 - "Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women"

I'm pretty sure that this was the first episode of "SATC" to deal with the subject of STDs. Although not the primary theme of the episode, when Charlotte misleads a much younger man about her age in order to seduce him, she comes down with a case of crabs.

What the episode got right:

  • Crabs/pubic lice are most common in college age students and others living in close quarters.
  • You can get crabs from infested sheets and towels, but you're more likely to get them from infested bedmates.
  • Pubic lice itch. A lot.

What the episode got wrong:

  • Would even a woman such as Samantha really be callous enough to fix up someone she didn't like with a person she knew to have a highly contagious STD?

Episode 36 - "Are we Sluts?"

In this episode, Miranda is diagnosed with chlamydia. She is told to contact all her recent sexual partners and has a great conversation with Steve, her partner, about why he needs to be tested, even though he doesn't have any symptoms.

What the episode got right:

  • Most cases of chlamydia never have any symptoms.
  • Lots of people don't bother with partner notification. Miranda was responsible enough to notify her partner, but obviously, the man who probably gave her the infection was not.
  • Many people believe that no symptoms means no problems; therefore, like Steve, they'd rather not bother going to the doctor for screening and treatment. Most people don't realize that, left untreated, STDs can lead to infertility and other problems.

What the episode got wrong:

Episode 41- "Running with Scissors"

When I first saw this episode, it made me really happy: A man refuses to sleep with Samantha unless she gets tested for HIV -- something she acknowledges never having done. All the other women chastise her for it, and she admits that she's never been tested because she's afraid of what the results might be, which is sadly a very common reason for avoiding the ordeal. She goes for a test, discovers she's negative and realizes that she's very lucky indeed.

What the episode got right:

  • Very few people get tested for HIV the recommended number of times.
  • Counseling is, in most states, a necessary part of HIV testing.
  • Waiting for HIV test results can be very scary, even if you know you're not at a high risk of infection.

What the episode got wrong:

  • With Samantha's sexual history, the counselor should have recommended that she get screened for other STDs.
  • Although the lack of a discussion of anonymous vs. confidential testing was realistic, it would have been nice if they had included it.

Sources:

Sex and the City Episode Guide

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