So there I was on my couch late Sunday night, catching up on the latest episode of Insecure that I missed at its original time. My parents were in town for the weekend and there is nothing more awkward than watching people have sex or even just make sexual jokes on TV with your mom and dad. And if there is one thing Insecure delivers on, it’s sex. Good, spontaneous sex. While I’m all for that spontaneity, the intercourse we viewed in “Hella Open” left me with a question.
Am I tripping, or did Issa have unprotected sex with her neighbor?
I blame my attentiveness to that scene in particular on the fact that while “Eddie” seemed nice (he played along with her “You left your charger at my house” lie), I did not want her to have sex with him. I just didn’t see what Issa saw in him. So when she kicked off her “ho phase” in grand fashion with her Gossip Girl-loving neighbor, I paid attention to the fact that while she passed on his request to “titty-f–k” her and wasn’t feeling the whole legs-in-the-air-head-against-the-headboard sex, she let him enter her without a condom.
And then it all came back to me. Of all the love scenes we’ve seen Issa engage in on the show, she’s never really used protection. When she cheated on Lawrence with Daniel in the Season 1 “Shady as F–k” episode, she had unprotected sex with him in the studio. We could all see the sex coming (they were alone and the studio was flooded in hypnotic blue light), as I’m sure both Issa and Daniel could, but alas, there was no conversation about protection. Her first thought after their scene was that she was pleased with herself — until she saw a soap dispenser in the studio bathroom that reminded her of a conversation with Lawrence and then ran out.
But as for the sex in Season 2’s premiere episode, “Hella Great,” I don’t think anyone saw it coming. Lawrence, while over to pick up his mail and the last few items from the apartment he once shared with Issa, kisses her on his way out, and before you know it, they’re on the couch having sex. Unprotected. (Feminista Jones also pointed this out.) In the end, Issa, although confused, is hopeful at what the impromptu sex could mean for their future, but that’s about it.
After each scene of sex between Issa and the guy of the moment, she seems pleased, a small smirk coming across her face, invalidating her insecurities for the moment. But there is no thought about what was missing from each of these scenes: some form of protection, an acknowledgment of whether or not either party had some, or the realization after the fact that “Uh oh, did I just do that?”
“I do think it’s interesting that there hasn’t been a scene yet where there is a conversation about Plan B or something like that,” said my friend over ice cream cones last night. “It would even be relatable to see her fret in the morning about not having used protection. I think the sex is great, and I know people have unprotected sex, but I don’t think it’s as realistic as it could be about what happens when you do and don’t.”
I don’t bring all of this up in the hopes of being a Debbie Downer. I love Insecure (just as I did Awkward Black Girl) and think it shows the most realistic portrayals of the dating and non-romantic relationships of Black women right now. However, I do wonder if the focus on trying to show men in the same light as women are often shown when it comes to sex (a– out, practically naked that is) is causing producers to unintentionally forget to have the characters wrap it up or even make mention of birth control.
Still, this is a common thing for premium cable series. Girls, which was also on HBO, caught flack a few years ago when two of its characters, Adam and Natalia, had an unprotected sex scene that looked more like rape than a consensual experience. Not to mention that the lead character, Hannah, was often criticized for whether or not she was out here using protection with the men she slept with. By the end of the series, she ended up having an unplanned pregnancy that she went through with.
But what makes Insecure a little different is that in Issa’s scenes, we see the sex happen in almost every stage. From the sexual tension to the first rough kisses, on to the sexual partner pulling down their pants and then finally penetrating her (and in some cases, i.e., Lawrence, ejaculating). To showcase all of that but for there to no protection present or even talked about later is interesting. Other characters who’ve seemingly gone without include Molly, who we saw have sex with a stranger in the Season 1 finale, “Broken as F–k,” without protection, and Lawrence, who after having sex in the Season 2 premiere with Tasha, didn’t get up and take off a condom. She could have worn a diaphragm, but come on, this is TV.
In the end, I know that people have unprotected sex and it’s not the responsibility of the show to encourage or showcase anything else. That is a very real thing and maybe, for some, it could take away from the carnality of each scene if we were to see a condom or hear a conversation about protection. But if we’re going to talk about what’s realistic, as neurotic of a character as Issa is, I doubt that she could really go raw with every man she’s having intercourse with and not feel some sort of anxiety about it. “Ho phase” or not.
I thoroughly enjoy Insecure for the conversations it starts, the imagery, the music, the dialogue and the sex. And a condom, a condom package, a diaphragm, a sponge, a mention of an IUD, shot, birth control pills or any other form of contraception wouldn’t take away from any of that greatness.