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Buffy's Bad Sex Life

There's a very definite trend on BtVS in terms of Buffy's character. The poor girl can't catch a break when it comes to sex.

I love my empowered women. There are so few in the media, and I adore them when they exist. For me, there's three qualifications for such a woman. She must be empowered physically, emotionally, and sexually. The last one is a hot button topic for me, as I get annoyed at the treatment of sex in society and the media.

By the end of BtVS, Buffy hits the first two (And manages to physically empower a whole slew of other girls). She never manages the last one, though, which disappoints me.

Let's start from the beginning with the most obvious case of Buffy's Bad Sex Life (Sounds like a game show, doesn't it?). She has a romance with Angel in Season 2, and she loses her virginity to him. This causes him to lose his soul and go on a massive apocalyptic killing spree. The issue here is pretty self-explanatory with sex being the direct cause of Angel losing his soul.

Becoming Part 2 goes a long way to "fixing" this, though, with Buffy fighting back and killing Angel (In a properly phallic way by running a sword through him and sending him to hell). And I wouldn't have much complaint if things had ended there (Besides the fact that I'd miss the later seasons). However, Angel returns in Season 3 to gear him up for his spin-off show. Suddenly, Buffy is caught in a romance that, by nature, has to remain chaste. Not only that, it's her first love and the generally thought of "love of her life". And no sex allowed. Because sex causes bad things to happen.

Now Angel does leave at the end of Season 3 for many reasons, one of them being the fact that they can't consummate their love again. This leads us into our second case of Buffy's Bad Sex Life: Parker. Nobody likes the guy, but we gotta talk about him. Buffy rushes into sex with him and is then given the emotional brush-off (Because Parker is a sleaze). She spends the next two episodes in a mopey mood because of it. This isn't as clear-cut of a causal relationship between the sex and something bad happening to Buffy, however, it is another example of a negative sexual relationship for Buffy that further forwards the thought that sex isn't the greatest thing in the world.

Buffy was hasty in having sex with Parker while having the expectation of an emotional commitment from him. For his part, he did manipulate her into this and then bail on her after having gotten what he truly wanted. However, Parker does manage to lay the blame for the "misunderstanding" on Buffy, who believes him in her naivete. Yep, we're coming along nicely with the positive sexual message here.

And then we finally get to Riley, who is Buffy's first positive sexual experience. Oh, nobody likes to say it. Fandom doesn't really like Riley very much. But it's hard to deny the fact that Buffy seemed to have a satisfying sex life with him. Costumes are mentioned at one point. Their *ahem* passions ignite a spell for repressed spirits at another. And Buffy is able to have sex freely with him without any consequences. Hate Riley all you want, but he was good for Buffy at the time.

Even the break up had nothing, whatsoever, to do with their sex life. For once, a guy doesn't brush her off or leave her because of sex, but because of...well...other more complicated reasons. And if the show had ended after Season 5, I think it would have ended up showing a positively sexually empowered female lead given that we'd seen a clear progression in Buffy's sexual relationships from Angel through Parker to Riley.

But it didn't end in Season 5, and that's where the problem is (For the sex. I love both Season 6 and 7 on the whole).

In Season 6, Buffy launches into a mutually destructive sexual relationship with Spike. I could go into this more, but I think that their relationship is worthy of an entry of its own (or, you know, ten entries). I think, to summarize greatly, we see a case of Buffy enjoying her sexual freedom too much in Season 6 to the detriment of herself and her partner.

That's not the big problem with the Buffy/Spike sex, though. In Seeing Red Buffy is almost raped by Spike (An act which is also deserving of its own entry). Like Angel, we again have a direct causal relationship here. The near-rape was primarily an act of confusion on Spike's part as he attempted to initiate sex in the manner that they had engaged in it previously. It's the rough sex from earlier in the season that directly led to Buffy almost being raped by her former sexual partner. Which, if you want to get really simplistic, can be boiled down to the idea that having sex can lead to being raped. Again, Buffy suffers a consequence of the sex that she'd had before.

Alright, let's fast-forward to Season 7, which has a largely ambiguous Buffy/Spike relationship. Personally, I see it as a romance, though I recognize that it's written in such a way that you can read into it as you like. At the very least, they share a deep friendship. But, once again, Buffy must be in a chaste relationship because of the near-rape hanging over their head from the previous season.

She's back exactly where she started with Angel. In Season 2, Buffy has a bad sexual experience with Angel. In the following season, she's in a chaste relationship with him. In Season 6, Buffy has a bad sexual experience with Spike. In the follow season, she's in a chaste relationship with him. Where's the progress? Where's the development? Her positive relationship with Riley is rendered null and void because she circles back around to the beginning.

And the most frustrating thing for me is that it is an easy fix: Let Buffy have sex in Season 7. Spike would be the obvious partner, but I'd be happy if they found some way for Angel to have sex with her (And you can tell this isn't a shipper thing, because I am most definitely not a Bangel fan). Somehow, let her have sex without any negative consequences or repercussions. It wouldn't affect the plot any, and it would effectively progress Buffy forward and end with her being in a positive sexual relationship that mirrors the relationship that started the series. Now that would be progress.

Yes, there is the Buffy/Spike "did they? didn't they?" scene in Chosen to which I say "so?" That's an ambiguous scene that doesn't give us any canon indication of what happened. Fanfic writers can insert a sex scene just about anywhere. Joss just underlined where they should put one if they want to with that scene. In order to come full circle, we'd need some on-screen indication of the sex scene, not a scene that hints at the possibility that sex may have happened.

As it is, we're left with a Buffy who never quite manages to break out of the sex=bad mold, which is disappointingly regressive.

And just to add some disclaimers here as I've discussed this issue before elsewhere and have run into some misunderstanding as to my general point. I don't think any of this was intentional on Joss' part. I think he was making good drama, and he didn't consider the ramifications of what kept happening to Buffy. I don't think he's a misogynist or sexist. I don't think this reflects on him, at all. I'm just making an observation as to the work he's presented to us as a feminist text, and I'm coming away dissatisfied with the handling of sex on the show.

Also, yes, all these negative sexual experiences make sense in the context of the show. Conflict is needed. Relationships are a good source of conflict. However, no other character has such a direct "cause and effect" relationship between sex and something bad happening like Buffy does. It's not the context that concerns me. It's the effect these incidents have on the feminist text of the show.

And now I'm done. I think I'll go read some Spuffy smut because writing about sex on BtVS always puts me in the mood for some.


Nov. 30th, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)
lol! Yeah, Angel did grow a personality for his own series. I still find him pretty darn boring, though. Meh. I have a bias against the guy.


The One Who Isn't Chosen

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