How Samantha Jones from Sex and the City was Used to Slut Shame Me

The first time I watched Sex and the City was in 2003. I was at my new friend Monica’s house. Monica and I had met through mutual friends, and I found out she lived on Turner Street, the street before mine. Monica was 20 and I was 19. This was my first visit to Monica’s home, after accepting her invitation to watch music videos and drink wine. She poured us two gigantic glasses of white Zinfandel from her mother’s stash, and we excitedly scurried from the kitchen to the living room, our fishbowl glasses of wine swooshed from side to side.

My Boo by Usher, played in the background, creating a romantic mood that paired well with our alcohol and twenty-something boy problems. When the song ended, Justin Timberlake’s pop banger of 2002, Like I Love You played and her six-year-old daughter curiously emerged from a bedroom, and started to dance in front of us, we danced too, in our seats to the beat, taking swigs, between each lyric. When the music faded, Monica told her daughter to go back into her bedroom because it’s “mommy time” with her friend. She eventually skipped away slowly, but throughout the night I spotted in her in my peripheral vision, periodically poking her head outside her door.

“Have you seen this show?” Monica says excitedly changed the channel from MTV to HBO. It’s with Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s about single professional women living in New York City, they wear designer clothes, have good jobs, oh, and no one is married or has kids. Plus, they have great sex!” She exclaimed loudly, her eyes beaming and buzzing. “Yeah, the show is called Sex and the City.” 

At 19 years old my top TV shows were mostly family oriented with the exception of Friends and the Real World on MTV. I lived at home and shared a room with my sister. The only Television available to watch trending entertainment was always occupied by my little brothers. The ability to freely watch a TV show like Sex and the City wasn’t an option. 

In fact, the only time I had the opportunity to watch racy entertainment was at my grandma’s house when she went to bed or when my parents rented a movie from Blockbuster video and stepped out to run errands for the day. In my childhood, we regularly watched movies together as a family. Whenever a sex scene flashed across the screen, in tandem one parent would rapidly cover our eyes with their hands, while the other would fast forward the steamy passion with the remote control, followed by a couple of awkward moments of silence, until the movie transitioned into an action scene. When the movie resumed my parents never explained to us why the characters were sweaty and lighting up a cigarette.

My parents never had a conversation with us about sex and sex related content. I imagine they just assumed we would eventually figure what sex was all about, but it mostly had to do with their cultural conditioning. In many ways, I was naive and ignorant when it came to conversations regarding sex and growing up in a traditional Mexican family that went to church every Sunday had its limitations. Also, born in the early 80s and raised as 90s kids, immediate access via the internet to sex images, just didn’t exist. So, for me, sex education was flipping through the pages of Kama Sutra books at Borders bookstore. 

When I was a teenager, we had a family computer with dial up AOL internet but there was no privacy to look up images of sex. As a teen, not having exposure to sex related content forced me to use my imagination and get creative by cutting out pictures of David Duchovny and Jean-Claude Van Dam. And in the early 2000s, at 19 years of age, there was still a lot I didn’t know about sex and just trusted (at the time) my 23-year-old boyfriend to show me the way. 

Monica eagerly introduced me to Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha as if they were old friends from a past life. “Well, Carrie is the writer, and she is in love with Big, this rich businessman. Miranda isn’t as pretty as the other girls, but she’s the smartest and a lawyer. Charlotte is preppy, and desperately wants to get married. Oh and of course there’s Samantha, she’s kinda the slutty one. She sleeps with a lot of guys but is the best dressed out of the women. Unlike the other women, Samantha doesn’t want a boyfriend or to get married.” I was intrigued right away! We watched an episode that night and I was immediately hooked. Not just with the sex part, but with how these women were independent, educated, lived alone, and most importantly had careers—not jobs. 

Sex and the City, was (and still is) a very popular show in the late 90s through the early 2000s, and the series gained such a huge following that a movie debuted in 2008 and a sequel in 2010. Women with their girl gangs flocked to the theatre. Even men knew about the show and its characters. Part of the show’s appeal was that the setting was in New York City, and the ladies frequented trendy restaurants and bar lounges. They sipped on exotic cocktails while wearing designer clothes like Chanel, Dior, and Dolce and Gabbana. Part of the intrigue was the fashion and they had style that pushed the conventions of normal everyday attire. The ladies of SATC had a wardrobe unlike anything I’d ever seen. Along with hair, makeup, jewelry, and purses styled to perfection.

In addition to their fabulous NYC apartments, they had witty gay best friends that laughed at their every joke. The other part of SATC magnetism was the relatability of the character’s love lives. Many women identified with what it meant to be single and the challenges of trying find a normal love match. 

Watching an episode was intoxicating like an opioid hit to the blood stream. Sex and the City, was the first television show that I watched where women had sex in a non-romanticized way, and they showed it—all of it–the ecstasy of sex and most importantly the awkwardness of it. 

I did not know any women in real life, in my family, and community that lived such lives. I was raised by teen parents and that made us a check-to-check family, leaving little exposure to the narratives and realities of other individuals beyond our small Mexican family bubble. So, the show became a form of escapism in many ways, because it represented and validated an alternate way of life beyond the confines of my own. Back then, at 19 years of age, I had beat the odds of becoming a teen parent like my mom and more than anything, I wanted a different life, a life full of choices like the women on Sex and the City.

In the height of SATC popularity it was common among girlfriends to say, “Oh your Carrie in the group, and you’re the Miranda!” Of course, everyone wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw, she was the star of the show, and it was typical for friends to fight over the character’s cool writer persona. The second-best choice was Charlotte York, as she was beautiful and innocent, with a preppy fashion sense, and had a sophisticated job as an art dealer. Unfortunately, No one fought over Miranda Hobbs or Samantha Jones. Miranda was choice number three of the group of ladies, a workaholic, deemed the less pretty and the cynical one. The last choice was Samantha, she was known as the “one who got around” AKA “slutty” friend the group. 

Even though I was the writer of my group of friends, I was never considered the Carrie of the group. Instead, they’d immediately say I was Samantha, then giggle under their breath. Although, I never completely identified with Carrie’s character (too many rhetorical questions), secretly, I did love Samantha, but was too scared to admit this to friends. I was a shy 19-year-old in a sensitive time, in a conservative town, where identifying with what was considered as “wild single lady sex” would have ostracized me. 

Samantha Jones’ agency is part of her appeal but there’s so many more layers to her character that intrigued me. She is a powerhouse public relation executive who is the CEO, of her company (Honestly, she has the best dialogue and jokes). Samantha Jones is a character who exudes so much confidence, it makes you jealous. Her character does not have trauma-based confidence—meaning she does not go through some type of trauma in the story line in order to find her strength. She just has it. 

She has money, power, and more importantly autonomy. She controls her narrative, not a husband, not children, not her culture, she is in complete control. Most of the women on SATC, are character troupes, even Sam to some extent, however, she’s definitely the most interesting and written through more of a multi-dimensional lens.

My “so-called” friends” never gave me the opportunity to be Carrie, right away without my input I was labeled as Samantha, and back in the early 2000s, this was (and in some ways still is) considered an insult. Twenty-years ago, no one viewed Sam’s character as progressive, they interpreted her as selfish and slutty. Sam enjoyed sex and everyone had a problem with it. Sam prioritized her orgasms over romance with the opposite sex (Honestly, men do this all the time except they use coercion and manipulation). Sam never hurt or coerced anyone in the pursuit of her orgasm. 

In fact, in season 2 episode 4, Sam allows herself to be vulnerable to a handsome club owner, who showers her with attention and compliments, only to ghost her right after they sleep together. Sam is hurt again in season 4 episode 18, catching her new boyfriend Richard going down on another woman on his lunch break. He says to her “this is just sex, I love you.” Even though Sam was hurt on multiple occasions, she still practiced vulnerability but knew when to exit a relationship and she did so amicably in all of her major relationships. 

Samantha Jones was used to slut shame me in my early twenties and even in my late thirties. Recently, someone slut shamed me in a DM, when I shared a story about her uniqueness and how she will be missed in the reboot. Women throughout the years have said, “she always said reminded me of you”, with a tight lip smile. This new subtle yet passive aggressive insult was created for the sole purpose to hurt and marginalize what pushed against traditional cultural norms. They said this to remind me that I was single, and they were not. That they were married, and I was not. And in my small conservative hometown, where everyone got married and had kids before 30, I was the odd one. 

I imagine that some friends viewed me as “Samantha” because I was more curious about sex than them and unlike them, I didn’t have a long-term high school boyfriend and even into adult hood a long-term partner in general. Sure, I dated, but getting married and having children was never something I really wanted. I imagine in the absence of commitment, people around me just made negative assumptions about my romantic life because I was pushing against these cultural norms, especially in my Mexican family. But being raised by teen parents and becoming what writer Angela Morales defines in her essay The Girls in My Town “a mother by default” (because my mom kept having children) gave me a different outlook on life. 

My childhood was spent taking care of my brothers and sister. In the summer, when there was no school my grandma would take care of various grandchildren, and being the oldest child, I had to help out with day care duties. This was just the norm in my family; At one point in time my county was ranked #1 in teen pregnancy in the United States. To be honest, raising children and acting as a stand in mother was something I did throughout my entire childhood, and it was something I did not want to do into adulthood. In the absence of saying “no,” to someone who asks if I want children or if I have children, people automatically assume I don’t like kids and that is further from the truth. To me, kids are so precious and special, but at 38 years old, I’m still creating a life for me.

The term “slut shame” sheds light on the double standards facing women. The term speaks to the repressive nature of how women are not allowed to have sexual agency in their own lives and are shamed if they do. The virgin/whore dichotomy persists; society shames women for having sex, society shames women for not having sex. As a result, you are a prude or a whore, take your pick. This is nothing new, but now there is a more subtle way to compartmentalize women by using independent women in popular culture. 

What society does not understand is that using this type of lexicon to shame women carries weight. When anyone in general makes comments about a women’s sexual history, and refers to her to as a slut, or whore, they are trivializing her—and stripping her of her humanity by making her a thing—and an object. Unfortunately, we do not see the humanity in an object—and as Jean Kilbourne states, the first step into justifying violence against another person is turning them into an object—a thing. And this is a dangerous space for women to exist in—considering the national statistic for sexual violence against women is 1 in 6 and 1 in 4 for college students. 

I still love the series today, but what our popular culture does so, so, poorly is emphasize romantic love above anything else. Even though SATC, created representation for single independent women, all of the women in that show (except Samantha), got married. Our popular culture is still selling us this idea that our lives do not begin until we find our “other half.” And if media is a public pedagogy, like media studies professor Dr. Christopher Bell states, then what are these one-dimensional narratives teaching us? In my observable world, I know of so many women that choose love before self and prioritize having a romantic relationship before their education. To some extent these movies and television shows do shape our ideas about romantic love. 

Even some of my favorite shows like 30Rock and Parks and Recreation ended with the female characters getting married and having kids. There is so much emphasis at the end of these series for these women to finally find a soul mate, and it’s as if their lives begin, and all the problems that existed before magically disappear. And I totally get it, love sells, and it creates intrigue for the story but the “marriage will fix everything narrative” sends a mixed message. There is nothing wrong with wanting a conventional life, but it shouldn’t be the only solution in popular entertainment. If media is a public pedagogy, then this narrative becomes the definitive narrative. 

What’s remarkable about Samantha Jones is she is unwilling to jeopardize her integrity for a relationship but more importantly her ability to prioritize herself before romantic love. In season 5 episode 3, after climbing 11 flights of stairs in order catch her boyfriend Richard, cheating, she realizes that having a relationship without trust is not a way to live. She says, “I love you to Richard, but I love me more.” In The Sex and the City movie, Samantha says to her boyfriend Jared Smith, “I love you, but I love me more, I’ve been in a relationship with myself for 49 years and that’s the one I need to work on.”

Everyone on that show followed the conventional way of life, however, Samantha Jones, chooses Samantha Jones. Her character represented choices, an alternate path where romantic love was the bonus and not the epicenter in her life. Samantha’s character showed us that there are so many more rewarding experiences in life often eclipsed in the pursuit of finding someone to complete an incompleteness that does not exist. 

Many women are socialized into this construct that they will not find happiness until they meet their other half and they’re just waiting for their lives to begin until they do. I too was waiting, for my life to begin and not just for love, but for the career I was working so hard to get. I believed that my life wasn’t fully starting until I had one or another, and I wasn’t really living, but just going through the motions of life, until one day I decided to examine these invisible pressures that existed in my own life. And a reclamation took place where I decided to stop feeling odd and began to accept my uniqueness for wanting different things. I started living in the present moment and I’m much happier; coming to the realization that life exists in the present participle—(ing), life is happening now.


Jackie Huertaz received her MFA in Creative Non-fiction from California State University Fresno. She teaches at Reedley College, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Her work has been seen in The 45th Parallel, Memoir and MixtapesQuail Bell Magazine, and Entropy Magazine. She writes about pop culture, the working class, and Mexican American identity.

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