HBO has always paved the way for nudity on television. They are, of course, the network for adults, and exposing private lady parts is part of their long and storied tradition. But while that may have been a differentiator in the early 2000s, HBO isn’t the only network doing graphic adult-oriented television, and naked boobs on screens aren’t exactly a rare commodity these days. Still, HBO seems committed to this track, for better or worse.
Not that there isn’t any artistic merit to gratuitous nudity. Westworld—HBO’s new flagship series—is all about wish fulfillment, so it would make sense that sex plays a big part in that. There’s also something smart about sucking the viewer into the same power fantasy that the guests are enjoying in the show (read a synopsis of Westworld’s plot here).
However, it’s clear after three episodes that the power fantasy on display is predominantly a masculine one. The main draws of the park are sex (and not of the mutually-consented type, but of the “take what you want, when you want it” variety) and violence—a traditionally masculine playing field.
Sure, there are women enjoying the park as guests, it’s just that their experiences seem to be largely determined by dominant masculinity in some fashion or another.
One female guest takes supreme pleasure in her husband shooting a bandit through the throat. And this makes perfect sense. In Westworld’s blood-soaked desert-scape, a woman’s power can only be accorded in equal proportion to the power of her man. And while at least two of the female hosts are treated responsibly by the show’s writers, no female character has any real control.
Yet, the latest episode did treat us to a female guest who loved running and gunning with the boys, blowing holes in bad guys and going on adventures. She also seemed to share their same affinities for the tender sex, buoyantly bouncing up the stairs to romp in the sack with one of the show’s prostitutes.
But it’s not as if there’s much else for her to choose from. If you asked a typical, straight lady what her ideal cowboy sex toy would look like, you’d be hard pressed to find him anywhere in Westworld—home of the grizzled, toothless, and unkempt.
The closest we get is the dreamy Teddy, but he’s hopelessly in love with one of the other hosts, and we’re explicitly told by Westworld’s founder and patriarch that Teddy’s sole purpose is to get killed by male guests who can then have the pleasure of raping his girl.
So yeah, given the situation, it makes sense that Anonymous Woman X (she’s never given a name) would choose to fool around with another anonymous female.
And that’s cool. I mean, it’s perfectly legitimate for a woman—gay or straight—to indulge in a sexual fantasy involving another woman. It’s just that this girl-on-girl thing is treated with the same kind of care and sensitivity as soft-core porn that’s trained to the male gaze. My guess is that there are more lesbian-y things to come, to the delight of male viewers everywhere.
This treatment of female sexuality is particularly discouraging in a show that’s entirely devoted to the innermost workings of the psyche. Desire is the primary impetus for everything that takes place, whether that desire be physical, spiritual, or intellectual.
And I could be totally wrong here, but my sense is that women are capable of repression and desire, just like men. So I ask again:
Why aren’t more ladies getting it on in Westworld?