Chewing Gum Episode 1 - The SSL Review

Dude - Chewing Gum is on point.
You should check this show out on Netflix. My fellow Americans, it's British, so it only has 6 episodes per season, which honestly, I think is the weirdest shit. It's like maybe the single biggest thing that separates us from the UK - culturally speaking. I mean I'm not knocking it. It's better in some ways, but it's super foreign, people.

Michaela Coel - Chewing Gum creator, writer and main actress

The other thing is the accents are real rough to comprehend. It's reeeeaaallll British street. It's like, literally there are just words said that don't exist in our vocabulary. You do get used to it so you can follow, but you need to be heavy on your game - no distractions, volume up, eyes on the mouths when you're first into it. Actually, you should probably just use captions - which I honestly didn't think of till just now.

much of the fab Chewing Gum cast
Anyway, this show is everything I hope for in media-making. It's joyful, and hilarious, and thoughtful, and fresh...and it's got that orgasm equality flair. I'm telling you, I really believe that a show that gets a good SSL Review is almost always a good show in general. I think if someone is being realistic about female orgasm and giving thought to how it is depicted, then they are probably giving all the other parts of the show that attention as well, and it shows.

And it's SSL Reviewable
This means I will be critiquing only discussions or depictions of female orgasm or masturbation (or related things if I so choose). I'm looking mainly at realism and about what part the depiction/discussion plays in the larger conversation about female orgasm and women's sexuality. This series is filled with SSL Reviewable moments because it is largely about a 24 year old woman, Tracey (played by Michaela Coel who is the also the creator and writer of the show), trying to lose her virginity.

Please, my friends, do enjoy more SSL Reviews for MOVIES and TV SHOWS.

Season 1 SSL Review Overview
Overall I love that this show, and I'm talking about the first season as a whole here, doesn't get stuck in the intercourse/male-oriented view of sex that plagues most sex comedies.

Tracey's sexuality begins as merely a strong urge, but due to her religious sheltering, she has no outlet and no good context for understanding what kind of outlets are available and appropriate. But she tries - actively and with gusto, and her journey is perfection to me. It feels clear to me that this is writing from a female body and not from someone who is simply assuming things about female bodies and female urges.

The way Tracey moves her body, even in her awkward sexual ignorance, and how she reacts to different sexual situations, makes me feel like she instinctively knows where her feel-good parts AKA clit is, even if she might not be able to name it. It also seems clear to me that she has both been influenced by the world's expectations of women and sex, and also that she's sexually clueless. There is a beautiful dance I see between her sheltered sexual ignorance, her innate, sorta animal, body-focused sexual urges, and her perception of what she should want and how she should act in sexual situations. The conflicts and awkwardness that arise when these 3 thing slam together during her journey are extreme and goofy, but they are also so, so very real and relate-able.

The thing about us women is that we are bodies with sexual urges trying to find our way in a sexual world adapted towards male bodies but marketed to us as if it weren't. Most of us are not as sheltered and gawky as Tracey, but all of us women are in some way flailing in the strange and contradictory sexual space we are able to carve out between our carnal needs, our expectations of how things should be, and the unfortunate lack of realistic depictions and information our society affords us about our orgasms and our sexual options. Tracey's extreme case is hilarious partly because it's actually not that extreme and not that foreign. Michaela Coel taps into the largely untapped humor of female sexuality from a realistic, deeply insider perspective. That in itself makes this show fabulous, but it's also well put together. Again, you should watch Chewing Gum...the second season just came out, and I'm excited to check it out as soon as I SSL Review the rest of the 1st season.

Episode 1 SSL Reviewable Scene Details
So, let's get on with the SSL Review. There were 2 main storylines that involve themselves with female orgasm (even if loosely), and I will describe them each before giving my SSLReveiw thoughts.  If you don't want this spoiled, go watch the show and come back (although I don't think it'll be any less funny if you read this first).

Intro to Tracey and Candice's Sex Storyines
So, Tracey's from a deeply religious family and her fiance, Ronald, is devoutly religious. They have never had sex or really done anything remotely sexual. We quickly learn that Tracey is pretty horny and fantasizes about sexual stuff a lot. So much so she seems to get bloody noses from the sexual frustration at times.

Tracey and Ronald absolutely not having sexual relations
She works at a convenience store and her BFF Candice is talking to her as she's working and encouraging her to go break her hymen that night - telling her it's tiiiime!
Tracey: Candice, I'm 24, I'm a virgin, yes, but that doesn't mean I have to wanna have sex with my boyfriend, yeah?
Candice tells Tracey she doesn't have to have sex with her boyfriend. She can bag someone on Tinder.
Tracey stocking and talking with Candice
Candice: You know if you leave it too long, you'll tear when he enters you. You'll need stitches.
Tracey: Well thank god for the NHS, then isn't it.
Candice: Babe, let me give you a makeover. You'll never get the D looking like that.
Tracey: Candice, I don't want the D, or one of your makeovers.
Candice: Alright, as long as you ain't lying to yourself. Sex is overrated anyway. Yeah, it's good when it's good, but it's never exciting, like it's never frill.
Tracey: (suddenly interested) Is it, is it Aaron?
Candice: He's very you know...He's very...
Flashback to:
Candice and Aaron both naked. She's on her stomach but propped up on her elbows against the lower bed board. He's banging  her from behind real into it, and she's just being pushed back and forth with a straight face. He says he loves her and that she's "...an emblem of the..." but Candice interrupts and lifelessly finishes his sentence,  "yeah, I know...emblem of the sun."
Candice: I want him to have a firmer hand.
Tracey: (being a real supportive friend) Of course, man.
Candice: I want him to hold me down.
Tracey: He's got to be there for you, man.
Candice: ...with his hands, like tighter, strangle me like bear tight until I almost die, but I don't. I just do a big come. Fuck Fifty Shades of Grey. That's some vanilla shit. I'm talking raw BDSM, bondage, discipline, wankings, spanking...
Tracey: yeah - I feel uncomfortable.
Candice and Aaron
They are having sex later that day in the same position as the flashback above, and she's telling him things like "slap-it" and "pull my hair" under her breath while she's moving back and forth against his thrusts with a bored look on her face. Then she tries to make him mad so he'll get violent with her, but he ends up crying and telling her he doesn't want to hurt her, and he's not interested in what she wants.

Later though, at a party, he has a change of heart because he loves her and wants to try it if it's important to her, and so raises his hand to her. She's not about it, and tells him, "it's for when I'm wet!" They both soften, talk about it, and realize it can be a gradual change, and then they decide to go mess around.

Tracey's De-Virgining Mission
So later that day, Tracey decides to take Candice up on the makeover. As Candice is applying make-up, Tracey tells her. "I don't know why I lied to myself. I want it. I want it."

Candice finishing Tracey's makeover

When her make-up and hair is done, Candice starts giving her tips about eye contact and how to go in for the kiss. Tracey's not great at any of it. Oh and Candice's grandma "Nan" is hanging out in the room too.
Candice: You got to make him feel like he's in control, and when he gives into you just sit on his face.
Tracey: Uh what?
Candice: Just sit on his face.
Nan: Just perch on it, love.
Candice: Sit your bare pussy on his face, and if he don't open his mouth just hold his nose.
Nan: Like in the first aid.
Later, in all her make-over glory, she is in her fiance's room trying to seduce him. When he turns and sees her in her underwear, he chastises her. She kinda desperately asks him to just do it since they are getting married anyway - and asks him to just "rub your private parts on my private parts."
Tracey: We've dated since I was 17, and we haven't done anything. I don't think it's normal. I haven't kissed you, I haven't held you. I haven't sat on your face.
Ronald: (absolutely appalled) Why would you sit on my face!?
Tracey: I'm not sure.
They part ways, and later that night at a party she ends up in a bedroom with a guy she thinks is cute, and she jumps him. He's sitting on the edge of the bed, and she's sitting on his lap straddling and facing him. Her hips are really going and grinding against him. They're making out and she's doing some bizarre face-sucking and licking - saying she's always wanted to do that. She's weird and kinda childish, but also super intense and desperate in only the way one can be during a much desired sexual encounter.

Tracey face sucking Connor
Then she pushes him back and moves up to straddle his face, saying to the camera that she can't remember if she's supposed to have her clothes on for this or not. She grinds on his face, clothes still on. Then she stops and says to him, "Did you like that?" He says, "Not really," and she says, "me neither." And that's the end of that.

My Thoughts
Although this whole thing is about Tracey losing her virginity,which in most scripts would focus on getting the P in the V, this show is different. The 1 piece of advice her experienced friend (and her friend's grandma) gave her was to basically demand some oral. Of course, one should never hold some one's nose to force them into oral sex, but I am all for having strong expectations of a little cunnilingus. I mean, since Ps in Vs do not orgasms make, but mouths on clits do, I think it's a valid expectation. I love that talks about the 'first time' actually focused around her pleasure in a realistic way. It adds a female-centric, orgasm-equality style element to conversations and depictions about first times that really aren't there normally. So progressive this is, my friend, quite progressive. I also like that Nan is on board with perching on a dude's face, because by god, we all should be.

Granted, Tracey doesn't actually understand yet why she should sit on some one's face, and the idea isn't depicted as all that sexy right now, but I will say the larger arch of Chewing Gum does indeed make that clear for her - and i very much appreciate that.

I like that Tracey says to Ronald, "Rub your private parts on my private parts," and not something like "just put something inside me!" or "I need your penis!" Those are things I would expect to hear on most shows because they focus on the most obvious thing people think of when they think of sex - PinV. However, "putting things inside vaginas," doesn't focus on what actually relieves a woman's sexual tension - an orgasm...because those come from outer clitoral stimulation (as in rubbing privates on privates like Tracey suggested).

I know my praise of Tracey's phrase choice may seem nit-picky and subtle, but to me it exemplifies the writer's thoughtfulness, creativity, and female-centricism. They skipped past the obvious, status quo take on this situation and were able to capture not only Tracey's sexual innocence, but also her raw sexual urges in a realistic female-body-focused way. She just wants something dirty and forbidden to rub against the part of her that is swollen and needy; the outer parts. I think her scene with the boy whose face she sucks is also a good depiction balancing her childishness with both her deep bodily desires and also her attempts to do sex the way she's been told it should be. Like I was discussing above, I think this show does well at treating Tracey like a real human person with human sexual urges - and not like an assumption of what a woman (particularly a sheltered woman) might be thinking about sexually.

Candice...So, to me she is incredibly realistic in her sexuality because, like all women, she is juggling her own inner bodily desires with the expectations society has put upon her about what sex should be..all within a very male-centric sexual culture that gives little to no accurate information about how women actually orgasm (i.e. a culture that incorrectly insinuates orgasms comes from a penis moving in and out the vagina...and ignores the clitoral glans - which is the thing that actually needs to be stimulated for orgasm).

I think we see this oh-so-common conflict of female sexuality very quickly when Candice heartily encourages her friend to get the D, but then does a 180 and says it's actually not all it's cracked up to be. We then see her getting the D, and quite realistically (given that the only part of her 'down there' being stimulated is the inside of her vagina) she is not even close to coming. So right away we see she is a sexual woman having sex in a normal, common, accepted way - as so many women do, and not orgasming from that (while her male partner is orgasming). Seriously...this is some real world shit. Women are having a lot of sex that they are not orgasming from while their male partners orgasm all or most of the time. This is the reality of many, many hetero women's lives.

What Candice does next is, to me (and honestly, I don't know if this kind of stuff even went through the writer's heads), a very sensible and realistic reaction to her situation. So, as you remember, she goes on about her desire for a lot more roughness. Now hang with me here. Candice has sex on the reg, but if it's like it was shown to be, there is no damn way she is having orgasms. She's clearly a sexual person, and so she has strong desires, but the sex doesn't scratch that itch (orgasm itch if you know what I mean). She, like so so many of us, assume, given everything we hear and see, that it should, but it doesn't. And also like many women, she can't quite place her finger on why sex that should be awesome is not (spoiler alert: lack of clit stim creates lack of orgasm which makes sex boring over time)...so Candice craves more. She wants something to excite and stimulate her out of the dullness of the sex she is having. She wants variety and risk and craziness, hoping those things will get her the kind of awesome sex she assumes sex should be.

Candice is placing her hopes on the raw animal quality of BDSM, but -and again stay with me here- maybe what she's really chasing is an orgasm during sexual encounters. I mean after all, she does at the end of the BDSM talk say that she wants it to finish with a big come. Sure, it's possible she is actually into all the BDSM stuff too, but here's the real world rub. If that BDSM stuff doesn't include clit play, she'll still not be orgasming and she'll still be in the same boring sex boat after the excitement and newness of BDSM wears off - just as the newness and excitement of vanilla sex wore off.

So, I just did a shit-ton of assuming about Candice and her intentions and desires and all that. Clearly she is merely a character and I'm merely assuming, but what I really wanted to point out was that I think her character and her storyline really captured something relate-able and real; particularly about the toll lack of orgasm can take on women's sexuality and how sexual and adventurous women must make their way in a sexual culture that is not molded towards them the way it is for men. Even if the writers never really thought about Candice's inner motivations in this way, I think they probably created her because they were creating her from insider knowledge about how women often react to their own sex lives, and frankly even that small bit of realism for female characters is uncommon in media.

The Vulva Rating
Chewing Gum's first season is one of the best sex comedies out there if you ask me. It comes at sexual situations from a realistic and female-centric perspective and thus taps into humor and insight that is largely untapped. So, it's unique and funny and it often engages with the idea of sex without the P-in-V focus - at least much more than most tv and movies. This first episode is an introduction in many ways, and although I think the next 5 episodes get a little more juicy and interesting on this subject, I still think this 1st episode was solidly bad-ass on an SSL review level. It gets 5 vulvas due to 1) no female orgasms achieved in unrealistic ways 2) depictions of sex that would realistically not lead to orgasm actually not leading to orgasm 3) A focus, although a comedic one, on cunnilingus in the discussion and depictions of a woman attempting to lose her virginity 4) solidly realistic female characters that embody all the contradictions and confusion of our current sexual culture.


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