How Come the Characters On Girls Never Use Condoms?

What Women Really Think
March 12 2013 6:16 PM

How Come the Characters On Girls Never Use Condoms?

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Hasn't Lena Dunham ever heard of a condom?

Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Magnum Condoms

This week’s Girls presented us with two sex scenes, the fairly sexy recoupling of Marnie and Charlie, and the supremely uncomfortable union of Natalia and Adam. Both were depicted as impromptu moments of unrestrained passion, but it struck me as odd that neither couple even brought up the idea of protected sex beforehand. Now, I would consider myself sympathetic in general to dramatic films and television desiring to gloss over this moment, in order to depict a more elegant, romantic intercourse. But for a show that often goes so far out of its way to portray the full range of sexual discomfort and awkwardness, Girls has been surprisingly hesitant to bring condoms into the mix.

This sheath shirking doesn’t even make sense within the show’s reality. I can buy that Adam, who is at least impulsive if not downright unstable, would attempt to have sex with Natalia without a condom. But that Natalia, who Adam praised just a few scenes earlier for being direct about her sexual wishes, wouldn’t even mention a wrapper seems unrealistic. The same goes for Charlie and Marnie. They’re the two characters who would consider themselves the most "responsible" of the group, yet they make zero attempt to raise the question of safe sex. They just go straight to consummating their rekindled romance on Charlie’s desk, even after Charlie acknowledges Marnie’s been sleeping with Booth, which she also did explicitly without a condom. And when Hannah, whose HPV epiphany was a major plot point of Season 1, gets with Patrick Wilson’s Joshua, who is a grown man and should know better, or with Jessa’s step-brother, who is a teenager and should be told better, she makes no reference to sexual responsibility. (I will grant that we only saw the details of the Joshua tryst up to oral engagement. It’s possible he wrapped it up after).

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Girls makes a point of portraying sex with painful realism, and though it’s true that condom use among adolescents and young adults has taken a dip recently, to portray a group of reasonably well-educated, sexually active men and women as so uninterested in contraception comes off as unrealistic to the point of irresponsibility. The show had explicit condom use in the first season, even placing the seemingly reckless Hannah and Adam in a love nest of peanut butter jars and condom wrappers. What happened? Perhaps it’s part of my overall theory that the show is purposely moving away from reality and into a deeper kind of television reality that eschews safety for elegance … if you can call unwanted ejaculate on your chest elegant.

Chris Wade is a video and podcast producer for Slate and occasional contributor to Brow Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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