Over the years there have been many rankings and roundups related to Sex and the City. Carrie’s best hair (early Season 3), boyfriends (Ben, the reader guy she meets in the park in Season 2, who doesn’t ever become a boyfriend per se), handbags (no actual idea, I’m mostly a tote-bag queer).
In light of the show’s 25th anniversary and the upcoming second season of And Just Like That … I decided to do a very unscientific timeline of all the surprise queer and queer-adjacent episodes of Sex and the City. The science: I didn’t include plotlines involving Stanford or Anthony—known homosexuals (sincere R.I.P. to Willie Garson). Nor Oliver, the fag Carrie befriends for a single episode in Season 4, possibly because he is (of course) a shoe importer by trade. Instead I rounded up the episodes and plotlines where there was unexpected queerness, as defined by me. For what it is worth, however: the very best Stanford episode is 100 percent Season 2, Episode 12 (La Douleur Exquise!), with the underwear party, because it is 1999, the internet is new, Stanford is going to meet a man he knows only as BigTool4U—and I love that for him. There are even some undertones of body positivity, which I will gladly accept.
Not included: the trans sex worker episode in Season 3, because it is absolutely too offensive and irredeemable. Also, the Season 2 episode where the girls go to drag queen bingo and find out that Samantha’s ex has a drag persona based on her, because it’s not central to the plotline.
S1, E3: “Bay of Married Pigs”
We in 2023 know that Miranda Hobbes is queer, but in 1998 she very much claimed otherwise. Because she is unmarried—and, let’s be real, because she has short hair—Miranda is set up at her law firm’s softball game. Syd, who also has short hair and is apparently good at sports, laughs it off when Miranda announces she’s straight, which should be the end of her. But Miranda decides to use her when the sight of being coupled is enough to get her an invite to her boss’s dinner party. Cue: “On the east side, a pseudo-lesbian couple attended a right-wing dinner party.” I have to assume Syd just goes along with this plan because she is either nice or desperate, but Miranda—who wears a tie to dinner—gets no points for dragging her into this situation. Her boss, upon learning their relationship is sham, announces that his wife will be disappointed because “she was looking to add a lesbian couple” to their circle. The real clincher is when Miranda non-consensually kisses Syd in the elevator after dinner, only to announce that she’s “definitely straight” (hear that, Che Diaz?) afterward.
Bonus queer cringe: Carrie runs into a gay couple she barely knows who ask her, on the street, to be their egg donor. Carrie claims this is a new level of “single-bashing” and that she’s been seen as an “egg bank.” Twenty-four minutes of life I can never have back.
S2, E6: “The Cheating Curve”
SATC is ahead of its time for a change when it calls power lesbians “the latest group to flaunt their disposable income.” Yes, true: gays can be capitalists too! Carrie’s voiceover notes that they have “great shoes, killer eyewear and the secrets to invisible makeup” and later calls them “Manhattan’s chicest new social hive.” What she calls “power lesbians,” I might call “lipstick lesbians,” but tomato, tamahto.
Highlights include Samantha whining that there are not enough men at the lesbian art show: “Don’t straight guys usually follow them around to see what they’re going to do?” she asks; the dyke bar being called the G-Spot (so original), and Samantha calling Charlotte—who has befriended the art dykes—a clit-tease. (Charlotte responds that the lesbians are “cool and they buy art and their lives aren’t complicated by men.” We all know how queer women are notoriously uncomplicated.)
Also in this episode, though, I’d argue more clinical than queer: the iconic scene where Samantha removes Carrie’s diaphragm for her. “And I just had my nails done!” she quips. #femmeproblems
Bonus: Miranda’s aside that she “was a major lesbian in the fourth grade.” A scene believed to have recently been “unearthed” in light of AJLT…, when it’s been available to stream—or on DVD—this whole time.
In the end, Charlotte’s heterosexuality is revealed to her new friends, whom she tells she is straight, but “connects with the female spirit.”
“Sweetheart, that’s all very nice,” the newest lesbian she is introduced to says, “but if you’re not going to eat pussy, you’re not a dyke.” Justice for trans dykes, though (seriously).
S2, E11: “Evolution”
If this episode is well known, it’s because it is the one where the girls discuss having bowel movements at men’s apartments—secondary to Leaving Things at Their Apartment to test commitment. It is, however, also the series’ second most biphobic episode.
Charlotte goes out with a man we’re introduced to as “a gay friend who’d catered parties for the gallery, dessert chef Stephan Bodean,” who kisses her at the end of the night. The ladies proceed to debate if Stephan is “a gay straight man,” made queer-coded by overexposure to the culture made available by NYC, aka “straight with a lot of great gay qualities,” or a “straight gay man,” aka “a gay guy who plays sports and won’t fuck you.” Is he straight or gay? Charlotte wonders aloud, because, of course, bisexuals do not exist. Definitely not in—checks notes—New York City in the ’90s. She even considers that perhaps Stephan is gay, but doesn’t himself realize it.
Because he knows Broadway singers and designers—Charlotte asks if he’s ever been with a man before sleeping with him. “I’m a 35-year-old pastry chef who lives in Chelsea,” he tells her. “If I were gay, I would be gay.” Charlotte is into the sex, but then all hell breaks loose when Stephan is … afraid of a mouse. The ultimate distinguisher between gay and straight.
The best bit of this episode happens as Cher’s “Believe”plays while they make out in Stephan’s immaculate apartment.
Stephan: “I love her, she’s such a survivor.”
S2, E16: “Was It Good for You?”
A relatable experience: Samantha goes to dinner with matching boyfriends David and David, who proposition her, as neither have ever been with a woman and they want to try it out once. She tells Carrie she’s considering it, at which point she says, “Wake up, it’s 2000: the new millennium won’t be about sexual labels, it’ll be about sexual expression.” If only she knew how many labels were going to arise in the coming decades. She does continue on to say, “Soon, everyone will be pansexual”—rich for this weirdly prudish and heterocentric show.
Side queer/not queer content: Carrie meets Patrick Casey this episode, the recovering alcoholic she briefly dates. When she runs into him on the street with a fellow AA member, whom he notably doesn’t introduce (please see: that second A), she accuses him of being “in the middle of a thing with [his] lover” and he exclaims that—gasp, no!—he’s not gay, just an addict. As is a well-known fact, you cannot be both at once. (I joke! You can most definitely be both.)
Samantha does start to have sex with the Davids, as they are later referred to. It is uncomfortable, for me, which is all that really needs to be reported—that, and that they don’t continue beyond a few minutes. One of the Davids calls Samantha’s vagina “very pretty.”
In an unrelated scene, the girls go to a tantric sex workshop, which is simultaneously extremely heterosexual and also reminiscent of every lesbian sex workshop of the late ’90s in its gentle and direct terribleness.
The line of the episode is when Samantha says to Carrie, “You know, for a sex columnist, you have a very limited view of sexuality.” Hear, hear—we have all been thinking it.
S3, E4: “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl”
If you’re only going to watch one “queer” SATC episode, make it this one. This manages to be the most variously unhinged of them all, and I personally can’t get enough of it, but it’s a wildly contentious one (or as contentious as an episode of television that aired 23 years ago can be—even our editorial team is split).
On the one hand, this is the biphobic episode. On the other, it’s the single episode to bring in any true queer culture, IMO (though it’s fictionalized; more on that in a moment). It also includes Alanis Morissette. Let’s take a step back.
The episode opens with a photography show for the fictional photographer Baird Johnson. The photos, however, are very real—and I’m fairly certain they’re from the very real 1999 book The Drag King Book by Del LaGrace Volcano and Jack Halberstam, an absolute staple of the shelves of dyke-spectrum people at the time. The cover image—of a young Cooper Lee Bombardier, trans author and visual artist—is most certainly in the show. Excuse me while my mind is blown—I hope the queer originators of these images made so much money from this endeavour. I can’t even tell you how many offensive comments are made in the first 2.5 minutes. An excellent exchange, however, happens when Stanford says, looking at a photo, “Look at that bulge, it’s shocking,” and Carrie replies, “Hurry up and look before Giuliani shuts it down.”
Carrie dates a younger guy, Sean, whose age winds up being secondary to the fact that he is bisexual. Carrie flags this as a major problem to her girlfriends over brunch the day after she finds out, a brunch during which Samantha quips “all the kids are going bi” and “I’m a try-sexual, I’ll try anything once.” Who should have been the sex columnist here? She gets no points, however, for her claim that all bisexual men all wind up with men, and so do all bisexual women. Reader, I did not turn off the TV at this point.
“I’m not even sure bisexuality exists,” Carrie says, “I think it’s just a layover on the way to gay town.” There we have it, folks.
We do learn that Charlotte knows the word “butch.” She does the worst drag anyone has ever seen, for Baird Johnson. But why is this the episode? Because at a house party of Sean’s liberal-minded friends and exes, Carrie winds up KISSING ALANIS MORISSETTE during a game of spin the bottle and I died. (Carrie, being Carrie, predictably freaks out and leaves both the party and Sean forever.)
I don’t even have time to get into Miranda trying “The Goddess Workout,” tres lez, because there is absolutely too much going on in this episode.
S4, E3: “Defining Moments”
This episode, as many are, is unforgivable—this time because it’s when we meet Ray, the jazz guy. (For the record, Carrie should not have dumped him because of his ADHD; she should have dumped him because of his hat, the scatting and because he was insufferable.)
Ray aside, it’s also where we meet Maria Diega Reyes, a Brazilian lesbian artist who shows her work at Charlotte’s gallery.
When Maria comes on to Samantha by caressing her hand while washing paint off of it, Samantha says, “I’ve done the girl thing. Once, twice, usually involving a guy and a couple of quaaludes. And it was nice, really, and really nice for the guy, but I’m not a relationship person.” Because, you know, all lesbian contact is a capital R Relationship. Samantha decides they should be friends.
Of course, they then go out to group dinner at a hot new restaurant. Maria tells Samantha she lied and can’t just be friends. Samantha, not one to take rejection, follows her into the bathroom ready to “open herself up to a relationship—with a woman.” Because following a woman into a public bathroom just screams Serious Relationship. They kiss. I’ll leave it at that, as we’ll be seeing more of Maria soon enough.
S4, E4: “What’s Sex Got To Do With It?”
Buckle up, we’re going on a variably cis-centric and homo/transphobic journey, folks. When we left off, Samantha was In a Relationship [with a Woman]. She tells her friends about said relationship and announces that she Is a Lesbian. Again, because SATC lives in a world without bisexuality.
Responses include the girls joking that they identify as a fire hydrant or a shoe … unfortunately a line of fucked-uped rationale we’ve heard in recent years in response to trans kids. Also: “She’s not a lesbian, she just ran out of men!” Again, not so original.
In bed with Samantha and Maria, there is a lot to deal with. Samantha tries out her usual moves and Maria stops and criticizes her, saying, “This is lovemaking; this is not a porno flick.” Cool, cool.
There is an after-the-fact allusion to fisting at brunch: “Did you know that when a vagina gets engorged, it expands to the size of a fist? It’s like a fabulous cave.” A brunch during which one of the girls announces that “a finger is not a dick” and Samantha retorts that “Maria has 10 dicks.” (If you’ve watched AJLT … this will be reminiscent of when Miranda confesses to having had sex with Che, sex that made her “the most alive” she has felt in years, to which Charlotte replies, “A finger made you feel alive?!”) I’d love to know who is writing all of these one-finger sex scenes …
The real clincher here is Samantha bringing about “the very elusive female ejaculation”… super likely, given this is her second time having sex with a woman. On the other hand, we have both fisting and squirting in one episode of this highly hetero show, and I will take our wins where I can get them.
S4, E5: “Ghost Town”
Once I met a woman who was having her first queer romance in many years—a literal lesbian affair, in this case. Her biggest complaint? All of the cheese. Apparently there was a lot of sex, a lot of talking and regular breaks for food that didn’t require cooking—enter the cheese.
I recalled this situation when I rewatched this episode, early on in which Samantha tells the girls that when it comes to her and Maria, that all they ever do “is lie around, take baths together and talk about feelings.” Ah, yes, lesbian bed death, as Samantha has now been a lesbian for two whole episodes. Samantha does have a good line about wanting to take their relationship out on dry land.
In this episode, Maria is infantilizing, biphobic and a lesbian cliché. She threatens to call the cops when a former lover of Samantha’s knocks on the door late at night, and proceeds to break Samantha’s dishes in a fight where Samantha says she wants more passion. Because what this show was missing was lesbian rage issues.
But, wait for it, it’s about to get worse, and more amusing, all at once. Maria attempts to make amends with Samantha by showing up with a gift. Samantha opens the leopard-print box to find an already-assembled harness and dildo, with a red bow around the dick. You can’t make this shit up. Samantha, unfortunately, is touched by the gesture. She later announces that she’s thrown out her back during their proceeding activities, and that she and Maria have broken up, citing that strap-on sex “doesn’t work” and that Maria thinks she has intimacy issues, as reasons.
S5, E8: “I Love a Charade”
Bobby Fine, a “piano bar legend” heads off this season finale with a rendition of “Is That All There Is?” We meet Bitsy von Muffling, whom Bobby is engaged to, and planning a huge Hamptons wedding with. “I finally found the right girl,” he says, leaving the girls—and viewers—to wonder if the implication is that this is what it takes to Not Be Gay.
Is it money, companionship—why?, the girls wonder. Samantha hosts a party in the Hamptons before the wedding, where it is confirmed that, yes, Bobby and Bitsy do have sex—great sex, in fact. And Bobby comments on Stanford’s boyfriend Marcus’s (ripped) body. More jokes are made about Bobby’s relative straightness and how he probably needs “another penis in the room” to get aroused. Again, because neither bisexuals nor trans people exist in this New York. The jokes about Bobby continue into Season 6.
If you are a SATC fan, reluctant or otherwise, you know that this is also the episode where Jack Berger and Carrie first decide to give dating a shot. At this point it’s not clear that he’s as hate-worthy as we’ll later find out. Not queer, but noteworthy.
Stanford and Marcus’s brunch spread is so fantastic that Miranda and Carrie decide that they should marry gay men (though we learn the couple is not having sex). So much eye-rolling is needed to get through this one. Bitsy and Bobby’s wedding has some major T4T energy, which is definitely unintentional.
Harry and Charlotte share that they’re falling in love with one another, but Harry tells her he can only marry a Jew. “She can marry a gay guy, and you can’t marry an Episcopalian?” Charlotte says, because apparently Getting Straight Married does not make one a heterosexual.
Sure, it wasn’t always handled well, but SATC blazed some queer trails … in its own way. For a show about a group of women who were no less than obsessed with men, there was a surprising amount of queer content to be found in the show’s six seasons. As the show’s reboot attempts to show queerness—and transness—in more overt and intentional ways, it’s worth checking out the archives for the journey to this point.
Season 2 of And Just Like That … releases June 22; let the Che Diaz memes proceed!