While some TV shows are definitely filled with sexual themes, tons of sex scenes, and discussions about sexuality — this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all about sex-positivity. Especially when it comes to Hollywood, portrayals of sexuality can be super unbelievable or straight-up harmful. Whether it’s slut-shaming, unrealistic expectations about sex, heteronormativity or whatever else — it’s hard to find TV shows that give accurate and positive depictions of sex. That’s why we’ve gathered 17 great TV shows that at least attempt to a be a little more progressive!
17. New Girl
Although New Girl definitely doesn’t get too political or serious, it does a great job of incorporating some subtle sex-positivity. Jess isn’t ashamed to talk about her sexual desires, and her roommates (who are all dudes) are super supportive of her and usually help her out. She proudly dates around and emphasizes her own sexual needs. The best part about this show is it also talks about the awkwardness and discomfort that can go into sex, instead of glamorizing it and making every sexual encounter seem ~perfect~.
16. The Mindy Project
Like New Girl, The Mindy Project is another great show about a strong woman taking control of her sexuality. First of all, Mindy is a gynecologist and consistently speaks about openly about the importance of sexual and reproductive health. Plus, the show never shies away from talking about Mindy’s sexual history and her vocal desire to have sex — good sex. It may seem small, but seeing a woman being in control and totally honest about her sexuality is surprisingly rare on television.
Girls and its creator, Lena Dunham can be seriously controversial for a lot of reasons. But at its beginning, Girls started a pretty new and honest conversation about sexuality and sex-positivity. First of all, the show didn’t hesitate from showing the confusing, uncomfortable, embarrassing, gross (and even traumatic) things that can go on in the bedroom. It also managed to emphasize all the things that can make sex great. Plus, Girls was really the first show where a woman who wasn’t super-slim and “conventionally” attractive was shown being nude a lot. It made people talk about and realize that a lot of us had more in common when it came to our sex lives than we thought.
14. Chewing Gum
If you haven’t already watched Chewing Gum, you definitely should. This show follows 25-year-old Tracey Gordon as she goes on the quest to lose her virginity. As you can imagine, the show is filled with some pretty cringe-worthy sex scenes, but that’s what makes it so great. Almost no one’s first time is some sort of Titanic-esque, romantic encounter with the perfect guy. But while Chewing Gum shows the awkward bits of sex, Tracey is still a super strong and confident character, so her encounters are never associated with shame or being “slutty.”
13. Orange Is The New Black
Orange Is The New Black was pretty revolutionary for its time for a lot of reasons. First of all, a lot of (if not the majority of) the characters are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Plus, it talked realistically and frankly about sex between people who aren’t cisgender and heterosexual (*gasp*). OITNB discussed the importance of exploring our own sexualities and depicted queer relationships in pretty approachable ways – with people of different body-types, races, and identities gettin’ some.
12. Broad City
There are a lot of reasons why Broad City has become associated with the sex-positivity movement. Abbi and Ilana discuss their sexual encounters in nearly every episode, and in really nontraditional ways. Whether it was Abbi pegging Jeremy, Ilana’s sexual fluidity, or the constant support the girls give each other in exploring what feels good for them — Broad City is pretty revolutionary. The show pretty much never associates any kind of sexual encounter with shame or stereotypes, and we’re here for it.
11. Inside Amy Schumer
Yes, Amy Schumer has been at the center of a lot of controversy throughout her career. However, Inside Amy Schumer is still pretty progressive when it comes to talking about sex in an empowering light. The show follows Amy through different sketches as she navigates her love life in a pretty bold way. While it’s a comedy, the jokes are about the ridiculousness of gender roles and misconceptions about sex, while never mocking women’s sexuality. Amy proudly conquers the world of sexting, objectification, and the difficulties of relationships in ways that aren’t always pretty, but definitely relatable.
10. Jane the Virgin
Okay, stick with us on this one. It may seem a little strange that a show about virginity would also be great for sex-positivity. Despite the fact that Jane the Virgin was primarily about a virgin (although that did change in season three), the way this show talks about sex is pretty great. We see Jane, a proud virgin, but she’s never judgemental or prudish when talking about other people’s choices. That’s the cool thing about sex-positivity — whether you choose to have sex, or not, it’s all good!
9. Grace & Frankie
Grace & Frankie is another great show about two, sex-positive queens. The Netflix show is incredibly progressive for a few of reasons. First of all, it follows two women exploring their own sexuality in a realistic and shameless way. Grace and Frankie help each other on their paths of sexual exploration, finding pleasure, and trying countless new experiences. This is only made better by the fact that Grace and Frankie are older women, a demographic that almost always gets ignored by television, as well as conversations about sexuality. It reminds us that just because people get older doesn’t mean they stop having sex!
Although it’s recently come out that Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexual misconduct, Transparent was once a beacon of hope for progressive, queer television. Before any allegations came to light, Transparent show was highly-praised for being the first of its kind. It talked openly about the struggles that transwomen face, analyzed the prejudice in our society, and honestly discussed difficult issues like transmisogyny. Plus, we got to see Maura explore her new identity in terms of her romantic relationships and sexual encounters. Although the future of the show is up in the air, we seriously hope it can bounce back from the scandal surrounding it.
Don’t be too quick to write off Riverdale as another “silly teen drama.” Many fans of the show have done a great job pointing out the subtle, but super important feminist aspects of the show. Right off the bat, Betty and Veronica prove that they’re definitely for the girls, and vow not to let a man get in the way of their friendship. They’re also all about sex-positivity and fight slut-shaming in a way that’s pretty unusual for most high school girls on television. They work together to slam the football team for slut-shaming Veronica and shut down their misogynistic behavior.
Shonda Rhimes has always been praised for her inclusive, progressive, and diverse television shows. Scandal is no different. The show is a rollercoaster from start to finish, and definitely unrealistic in how ~scandalous~ it is. However, it has a lot of great representation of sex-positivity and female agency. Olivia Pope is a great example of this. She’s super powerful, sexual, and knows how to get what she wants. In one episode, the show even discusses Olivia’s abortion in a way that most popular TV shows wouldn’t dare to do.
5. Big Mouth
Few shows are able to perfectly describe the experience of awkward, horny, and confused teenagers like Big Mouth has. Despite the fact that it’s an animated show, Big Mouth gets real when discussing teen sexuality and the difficulties of puberty. It’s not afraid to talk about the universally-gross things that happen as we mature and discusses certain misconceptions about puberty. In one episode, the boys learn that their friend, Jessi (a girl) also experiences sexual urges and hormone-driven horniness the way they do – in the form of a cartoon monster called the “hormone monster.” This fact totally blows their minds and makes a joke of just how many misconceptions there are about girls’ sexuality.
Despite the fact that Shameless can be super dramatic and pretty unrealistic, this show does a great job of portraying a whole lot of sex-positivity. In addition to the fact that there are a few queer characters, Shameless constantly depicts sex and sexuality in tons of different ways. We get to see sexual exploration and the emphasis on female pleasure in Kevin and Veronica’s relationship, the sometimes-confusing encounters of Ian after he comes out, and Debbie’s sexual awakening. Even if it can sometimes be a little dramatized, the show doesn’t shy away from talking about nearly every aspect of sex.
3. End of the F***ing World
TBH, the majority of the discussions of sex and sexuality in End of the F***ing World are disturbing for the most part. There are quite a few scenes that imply or straight-up depict sexual abuse and violence, but there are also a few scenes that are very positive. This is mostly seen through Alyssa. She’s super bold and very unapologetic about her sexual desires. When she wants something, she states it without any hint of shyness or cautiousness, which is unusual for a relatively-young female character. Despite the fact that James is a literal psychopath (or so he thinks), he never judges her for her sexual urges.
2. Difficult People
Difficult People is a completely absurd, but still super realistic television show. The reason it’s so great is because both of the characters aren’t generally likeable, but they’re still really relatable. This is especially true when it comes to Billy Epstein’s (played by Billy Eichner) dating life. The bizarre encounters he has and the strange people he deals with while trying to date around are exaggerated, but still believable. Plus, who doesn’t love more queer representation?!
1. Sex & The City
And last but not least, we have the OG show about sex-positivity. Sex & The City was pretty much the first of its kind in how graphic, detailed, and realistic it got when it came to talking about female sexuality on television. While it may be fairly unrealistic from time to time, it was one of the first shows that gave honest depictions of what dating and hooking up is like for women. The characters aren’t afraid to try new things, experiment, and be assertive when it comes to sex. TBH, it’ll always be one of our faves.