Let’s Talk About (Shamy) Sex

Mayim reflects on language and cultural assumptions about sex
By Esther D. Kustanowitz  Published on 12/18/2015 at 8:48 AM EDT

So Amy and Sheldon had sex. We did it. It’s done.

As I expressed in my last post about it, I had a lot of mixed and complicated feelings. And while many of you were excited to learn that this physical connection between Amy and Sheldon was coming, many of you were also upset that the surprise was ruined with so much coverage. I wanted to share a bit more backstory to how the buzz about this unfolded and how it made me feel then, and how I feel about it now.

A lot of the press surrounding the episode’s filming and leading up to the airing of this episode had me and Jim Parsons being asked a lot of questions. The two main questions were:

  1. “So, is he good?”
  2. “Is she… ravished”? (and other such phrases, most of which don’t make me comfortable, see below for more on that…)


Hmmmm for a few reasons.

First of all, the episode – and our show – are not about vulgarity as a mainstay. Our writers are sensitive people. They didn’t write an episode about sex to be raunchy or bawdy. They wrote an episode about sexual intimacy in a committed, loving relationship between two characters people have known and loved for years.

Second of all, since it is 2015 and in our country (and most every Western-influenced country) we must discuss sex ad nauseum, why are the questions about how good he is? Why isn’t it about how good she is?

(Feminist Moment #1 right here, folks: our culture constantly places sex – even between two virgins – as an act that is judged or classified or compartmentalized by the skill of the male.)

Third of all (and with Feminist Moment #2 coming at you), the way our culture talks about the act of sex is by framing it as what is done to the female.

Language matters. Words shape perceptions and stereotypes and biases. Think about it for a second. Think about how we talk about sex. Part of it is based on anatomy: men are the “givers” while women are the “receivers.” (Even electrical plugs are called male and female…) Part of it is cultural. Sports metaphors are commonly used for sex: scoring, home runs; all of those are historically male discussions and are typically used by men in describing sex. And there’s the word “ravished,” which seems wild and perhaps non-consensual.

male female plug

Think about the words for female genitalia being used as insults that men hurl at each other; all of that contributes to how we frame and see sex and women and their role in sexual relationships.

If you saw the episode, maybe you have your own answers. Here are the ones I gave to every single reporter who asked me both of these questions, which I am pretty sure none of the interviewers will publish:


“Is he good?”

It’s not important. That’s not what this episode was about. It’s actually not what the first time you have sex is about either, for either person. Anyone who has waited a long time to have sex will tell you that once you have decided to have sex for the first time with someone you love and are committed to in a way that a longer term commitment facilitates, it’s a heavy moment. It’s not about making it like a scene from “Fifty Shades of Grey” at all.

If hard-pressed to get all technical about these characters on this particular TV show, the sex probably wouldn’t be “good” by the standards anyone who’s had “good sex” would deem it for either of them. Put Sheldon in bed with any woman who’s had sex and she’d probably say he wasn’t very “good” his first time.

And maybe the joke is that this uptight germaphobic guy would be this beast in bed. I guess that’s funny. And because Amy has been “randy,” we assume she would be a beast in bed? Also not necessarily so. A lot of men and women who act all confident and hypersexual are actually very complicated and sometimes they act very different in the bedroom. But that wouldn’t be very funny for a sitcom episode, I suppose.

So I think Sheldon was as good in bed as Amy needed him to be!

Is she ravished?

The decision by the writers to have Amy’s hair mussed up sets the stage for “Amy had a good time” and that it was a healthy frolic. That works for me.

Can we just leave it at that please without it becoming “what he did to her” the way most of society talks about sex? Just this once can we do that please!?

What happened between Amy and Sheldon was very special and as an actress, I didn’t feel the need to make the details of my mind or of Jim’s mind or our writers’ minds more public than what we chose to show you in that sweet, funny, awesome episode.

I’m constantly fascinated by the ways my being an actor and a woman and a feminist intersect and give me the ability to explore my comfort levels with it all. I also love that I can be a feminist who is private about sexuality as an act of defiance, rather than feeling that I have to match how our society frames women (which I think is often a tad vulgar).

I hope you enjoyed the episode and that whatever you think about how sex was for Amy and Sheldon, you remember that even though it’s just a TV show, it can still teach us a lot. It teaches me all the time.

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