“The Sex Lives of College Girls” Demystifies Female Sexuality

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Mindy Kaling’s latest television series “The Sex Lives of College Girls” is more than just a teenage comedy. The HBO Max show, which premiered in November this year, explores different avenues in young adult life through the prism of its four main characters.

Set at fictional Essex College, a prestigious university in Vermont, “The Sex Lives of College Girls” follows four roommates from different backgrounds as they first navigate relationships, sexuality and freedom. In a virtual panel discussion with seven college journalists, the four lead cast discussed how the series navigates into adulthood in 2021 – tackling important issues like race and sexuality while empowering its characters for being young and making mistakes.

“I think it’s really fun talking about your time in college, because college is kind of like a purgatory, where you’re like an adult, but you’re not really an adult. And so I think it’s a very interesting time in life to explore, starting out on your own, and then becoming who you are, ”said Pauline Chalamet, who plays Kimberly.

The character of Chalamet is a low-income student from a sheltered environment who is exposed for the first time to different types of people. Throughout her college career, Kimberly copes with a tough study and a breakup with her hometown boyfriend, while also dealing with her job, school, and financial aid struggles. Kimberly, along with her three roommates, is still looking for her identity at college.

“When you go for the first time, you simply exist as yourself. And so, you can sort of rewrite your narrative, and decide who you are and who you are, and how you want to move around the world. It’s intimidating, but it’s also very exciting. And it gets really messy. And I think our show explores all of that really well, ”said Alyah Chanelle Scott, who plays Whitney, a star footballer who tries to escape the shadow of her famous mother.

If a central theme of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” is the transition to adulthood, the show also addresses questions of representation. Whitney and her roommate Bela are both well-rounded characters of color with different interests and goals. Bela (Amrit Kaur) is an aspiring South Asian comedy writer for a white male dominated magazine, a bit like the creator of the series, Mindy Kaling. In addition to her professional struggles, Bela also undergoes a sexual arousal, which Kaur says shatters many negative stereotypes about South Asians in the media.

“Sometimes we look at a South Asian and think that’s the experience of every South Asian. I think [our show] widened and diminished the narrative that South Asians don’t have sex… we’re people like everyone else. Everyone makes love. We also have sex, ”Kaur said.

While all of the roommates undergo sexual exploration, perhaps the most notable storyline is that of the fourth roommate, Leighton (Renee Rapp). Throughout the season, Leighton struggles with her sexuality, choosing to stay locked up during her first relationship with a woman. Leighton’s internalized homophobia prevents her from being authentically herself, which Rapp, who identifies as queer, dit is a crucial story to tell within the LGBTQ + community.

“I think it’s important that the conversation around sex and discovery or how you identify with yourself is constantly evolving. Sometimes there’s a parental barrier, or a religious barrier or a value barrier that they really struggle with, and it’s 100% valid and it happens more times than I would like. But with Leighton, it’s actually so internal and so homophobic inside his own body, as opposed to the outside figures, ”Rapp said. “For me to see a different view of where the fight was, given that it was more internal, was a little sadder.”

While the four characters have very different sexual experiences, the actresses have spoken about the portrayal of female sexual positivity on the show, which other media tends to demonize.

“[The show] demystifies the idea of ​​women having sex, young women having sex, not over-sexualizing us just because we are women having sex, but removing the shame that surrounds it, ”Scott said.

“The sex life of female students” was renewed for a second season to HBO Max in December, and the stars are excited to dig deeper into the important questions raised in the first season.

“I would be interested in further exploring the hollows and valleys of female friendship. I think it would be interesting to see more of the dynamics of the four women and their friendship revealed: Did the fights take place between friends? What is the relationship with their explored sexualities? What are their interrelated race relations? Kaur said.

The first season of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” is now available to stream in its entirety on HBO Max.


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