Maybe it’s time to redefine ”ladylike behavior.” The leading ladies of movies and TV have lately been grabbing attention for on screen sex talk that’s dirty enough to make Lil’ Kim blush. Thanks to ribald dialogue about fetishes and ”funky spunk,” the third season of ”Sex and the City” (HBO, Sundays at 9 p.m.) has scored strong ratings and Emmy nominations for Best Actress (Sarah Jessica Parker), Best Supporting Actress (Kim Cattrall), and Outstanding Comedy Series.
On MTV, the women of the sudsy serial drama ”Undressed” (weeknights at 11 p.m.) have no qualms about swapping stories of orgasms and vibrators. And now on the big screen Amanda Peet is saucily following suit by chatting about penis size and sloppy sexual technique with her gal pals in the indie not so romantic comedy ”Whipped.” ”Not that women should resort to the [sexual] ways of men, but it is kind of fun for us women to have a hoorah,” says Peet.
If all of this naughty girl banter makes you uncomfortable, that may be the point. ”No one really wants to talk about, say, rimming, but I’m having fun forcing the issue,” says ”Whipped” director Peter M. Cohen. ”And ‘Sex and the City’ is also dealing more and more with things everyone can relate to but no one wants to talk about.”
But if everyone’s squirming in their seats, why are they also watching? Because these tough talking broads reflect how some women really converse over brunch with their gal pals. In a recent Time magazine survey, 54 percent of the women polled felt ”Sex and the City” was a realistic portrayal of the single life. And, thanks to Linda Tripp and her trusty tape recorder, people aren’t as shocked as they once were by women’s raw sex talk – even if it’s overheard in prime time. ”The whole Clinton scandal inspired a kind of openness in the public, which is feeding back into the media,” explains psychologist Dr. Stella Resnick, author of ”The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings & How to Let Go and Be Happy.”
But graphic chatter, no matter how humorous, can cross the line. ”Whipped,” which earned a paltry $2.7 million in its opening weekend, was savaged by critics for its crass sexuality (Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman rapped the male characters’ ”bitch-slap hostility” toward women). And some insiders say there’s one big reason you won’t see a ”Sex and the City” movie any time soon. ”People aren’t as apt to go to a film that has a sexual element as they are to watch it on TV in the privacy of their own homes,” explains Robert Bucksbaum of ReelSource. ”With TV, you can watch whatever you want and no one will ever know.”
So expect to see more of these saucy, independent female characters on the tube. UPN, for example, has their own network-tame ”Sex” inspired show about four single African-American buddies, ”Girlfriends,” ready for next season. And chicks run the show (or at least try to) in these upcoming movies: Robert Altman’s ”Dr. T & the Women,” starring Richard Gere (Oct. 13); the post post-feminist update of ”Charlie’s Angels (Nov. 3); and ”What Women Want” (Dec. 15), featuring macho star Mel Gibson’s sexual enlightenment. ”Women want to see female characters who are more in control, and since they are really driving the box office these days, they have the strongest say,” says Bucksbaum. ”Date movies are the biggest ticket sellers out there, and hey, if the women don’t pick the movie, the men go home alone.” Now, that’s REALLY girl power.