On Thursday night, CBS aired the winter finale of The Big Bang Theory, titled “The Birthday Synchronicity.” In this episode, not only do Howard and Bernadette have their baby (who they name Halley, like the comet….cute, huh?), but Amy and Sheldon engage in coitus for the second time in their relationship.
The first coitus happened on Amy’s birthday in last year’s episode, “The Opening Night Excitation,” which broke a TV record for highest live viewership in the history of TV—over 24 million people tuned in to that episode when it aired.
In that episode, Amy starts to kiss Sheldon; she is ready to make their relationship intimate, but Sheldon says a powerful thing. He says, “I’m sorry, but this is a litigious society; I’m going to need verbal consent.”
It’s funny because Sheldon is known for not picking up on social cues, and he’s known for loving contracts and clear boundaries. But it’s also a powerful thing for a character to express the need for consent between two parties in a healthy committed relationship of many years who are about to engage in sexual activity.
In “The Birthday Synchronicity,” Sheldon wakes Amy up at midnight to wish her a happy birthday and when she kisses him to thank him for the present he got her, he pulls back. He acknowledges that Amy seems to be initiating coitus.
Then Amy says a powerful thing. She says, “Is that okay?”
It ends up being okay, and they begin to kiss again. Their kissing gets interrupted by Bernadette going into labor and after a false start to the hospital, Amy and Sheldon end up back in their bedroom.
They start to kiss and again Sheldon pulls back. Amy asks what’s wrong, and Sheldon says things seemed organic before they were interrupted, and now things seem forced.
Amy says a powerful thing. She says, “OK, that makes sense. The mood’s a little different now… we don’t have to rush.”
After Amy puts on a Gryffindor cape and scarf to entice Sheldon, their tryst gets interrupted again and Bernadette and Howard’s baby takes center stage for the rest of the night and the episode.
The episode ends with Sheldon playfully intimating that they are finally going to engage in coitus after a day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And for those of our fans who are keeping track, I am told Amy and Sheldon kissed more in this episode than they have in the six-plus years I have been on the show!
And Friday morning, we received a letter from a TBBT fan named Daniel, who was impressed by this “extremely powerful message encouraging clear consent.” There are many ways these scenes could have played out. Our writers again and again have shown themselves to be gloriously skilled at presenting the most important aspects of Amy and Sheldon’s relationship without ever being lecherous, creepy, silly, or disrespectful about it.
What a wonderful gift our writers gave us and our viewers to show the following:
- Even if you think you know the other person wants it, it’s never a bad idea to ask.
- Even if you think you can pick up where you left off, it’s never OK to assume everyone is on the same page.
- Even if someone seemed “into it” five minutes ago, five hours ago, five days ago, five months ago or five years ago, if they don’t seem into it now, it’s never OK to ignore someone’s nervousness or hesitancy.
Even in long-term committed relationships that are loving and healthy, sometimes we don’t speak up when something doesn’t feel right; we are worried how we will be perceived or we wonder if we will be rejected or we just think everything “should be” fine when deep down, it doesn’t feel like it is.
It’s critically important for us to learn to honor our instincts and to respect others’ comfort. It’s always good to check in and make sure everyone’s cool with what’s happening, no matter how old you are, how experienced you are, or how much you think you know what the other person is wanting/thinking/suggesting.
I’m glad Daniel emailed us about this. And it really touches us all to know that what we do means something to all of you out there. I love my job, I love playing this character, and I love being a part of a show that shows a relationship that is so complex, so special and so respectful.