We Need More Gay Sex on TV

By: Daniel Reynolds
8.25.2014

Today marks the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, and, judging by the nominations, it’s been a banner year for LGBT representation on scripted television. Among the honored characters are a bisexual vice president (Kevin Spacey on Netflix’s House of Cards), a gay police chief (Andre Braugher on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine), a closeted university provost (Beau Bridges on Showtime’s Masters of Sex), a gay dad (Jesse Tyler Ferguson on ABC’s Modern Family), a host of HIV activists (Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, and Joe Mantello on HBO’s The Normal Heart), and a prison full of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning female inmates (Taylor Schilling, Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba, and Laverne Cox, who also became the first trans actress to ever receive an Emmy nomination, on Orange Is the New Black).

As encouraging as these nominations are for the state of quality in LGBT representation in media, there is “room for improvement,” as GLAAD’s Wilson Cruz said in response to the media advocacy’s organization report Where We Are on TV. According to GLAAD, the 2013-2014 television season actually included fewer LGBT series regulars on scripted primetime shows from the previous year (3.3 percent, as compared to the record-breaking 4.4 percent of last season).

But the real omission isn't in whether LGBT characters exist, it's in letting them live full lives. Truly well-rounded, three-dimensional representations necessitate having gay characters whose sex lives have not been omitted or cast in a shameful light.

The problem isn't universal. For lesbians and bisexual women on TV, sex lives have never been healthier, according to Tracy Gilchrist, editor in chief of the women’s entertainment news site SheWired (a sister site of The Advocate). She points to shows like Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, and Grey’s Anatomy as gold standards for showing fully realized gay women.

“We’re in a great place,” Gilchrist diagnoses. “A few years ago, all we had was The L Word, and that was the exception. But today, everyone’s taking steps in the right direction.”

But progress is moving slower on the other side of the gender divide. Outside of premium cable and streaming services like Netflix, sexual acts between two men are few and far between. Any gay couples that exist tend to be neutered, as in the case of ABC’s Modern Family.

Tags: TV
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