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Sex in Torchwood: Day One

The first thing I noticed was that for all its graphic sex the episode was less erotic than the mild flirtation in Boom Town.
There the interaction between the three characters had all been about giving energy to someone the person cared about. Here it was all selfish, all about taking energy and giving nothing back. The result was that I as the audience got less out of it. I was reminded of the line, "They're not making love, they're masturbating while using each other's bodies as sex toys." I always thought that comment too harsh, but in this case it seems to fit.

It also reminded me of the difference in the sex industry between pornography made for men and the relatively newer pornography made for women. They discovered a few years ago that women were much more willing to buy porn films where the emphasis was on each person working to increase their partner(s)' enjoyment instead of just racing to the finish line.

The second thing I noticed was that while the alien fed off sex energy, it was relying on Carys to supply the information on the mechanics of human sex, and all Carys had to go on was the knowledge available to an ignorant teenage girl. Hence the emphasis on male orgasm as the be-all and end-all of sex. This is a misconception common among teenagers. Lesbian sex "doesn't count" because there's no male orgasm involved -- another adolescent misconception. Having only had one lover and him a thoughtless git, it's entirely possible that Carys had never experienced a female orgasm and didn't really believe in them.

But this meant that the alien didn't know how to induce a really strong orgasm. In order to do that the partners have to each give the other energy and set up a feedback loop. Even if all parties are highly aroused in the first place, that still helps. Carys didn't know how to do that, so the encounters were unsatisfactory for the alien. In desperation it turned to the quickest release with the least arousal, but this meant it was actually using up more energy than it gained. The creature was literally bonking itself to death by the time our heroes caught it.

That's why I found the three relatively chaste kisses at the end of the story more sensual than the rest of the show. They were all gifts given freely. Jack gave Carys life and healing. Gwen gave Jack gratitude. Gwen gave Rhys love. It's the giving instead of the taking that made all the difference.

It would have been nice if they show had spelled this out at the end of the episode. I guess they figured that since the series was for grown-ups they didn't need to. Surely grown-ups know this without having to be told.

ETA: Having watched the whole series, I can say that this episode serves as the touchstone for sex in Torchwood. This is the example of how to have bad, meaningless, exploitative sex; against which every other sexual act in the series is measured. In that regard it made sense that it occurred so early in the season.

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Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
cyberducks
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:26 am (UTC)
I had to laugh at some message board comments that the sex scenes were cheap and titilating - well, they got it half right: they were cheap, but I found nothing erotic or titilating about them - it seemed pretty clear to me at least that they were filmed to look as tawdry as possible. As you say, only the kisses didn't make me cringe, because there was emotion and caring in them.
atraphoenix
Oct. 28th, 2006 11:23 am (UTC)
Likewise XD
timbershiver
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
LOL, I didn't realise it until you just (very eloquently) spelled it out for me!

Mind, I just watched it tonight and was on the phone to my mum for most of the ep, vaguely attempting to talk her out of emigrating to Barcelona - tomorrow!

I'll have to watch it again, without distractions. I got a bit too excited over Jack's distress at the hand.
fajrdrako
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:33 am (UTC)
Intersting comments on the dynamics and relationships involved. I think part of the problem was that while Carys could feel normal human emotions, the alien hadn't figured out what that was all about; and the more she made Carys do what she wanted her to, the more Carys was in despair and incapable of the kind of seratonin responses that would have given the creature energy. Just imagine all the battling hormones within her.

I'm just as glad they didn't spell it out; exposition would have weakened the story. I liked it that we were shown what was happening, and left to understand it on our own.
meghatron
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)
It would have been nice if they show had spelled this out at the end of the episode.

I beg to differ. Good television requires smart viewers, and you clearly caught on without needing it spelled out for you. The last thing I need is to be tripping over anvils in a show I want to be watching. If Torchwood gets stupid I'm gonna have to stop downloading waiting for it be shown stateside.
romanticizing
Oct. 28th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)
Wow, these are really good points. Especially with the thing about lesbian sex as that had been bothering me. But your explanation makes sense.
inlaterdays
Oct. 28th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)
I thought a lot of the alien sex was played for laughs. Drama and pathos as well, but the alien-possessed Carys was goal-oriented in a way that was amusing at times.
kickair8p
Oct. 28th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
".....for all its graphic sex the show was less erotic than the mild flirtation in Boom Town. There the interaction between the three characters had all been about giving energy to someone the person cared about. Here it was all selfish, all about taking energy and giving nothing back.....I was reminded of the line, 'They're not making love, they're masturbating while using each other's bodies as sex toys." '

Ooooo, yeah. In Boom Town you have Jack, from a culture where sexual interaction is one of the preffered forms of communication; the Doctor, from a culture that's either asexual or pretends to be, but he's the guy who learned five billion languages despite access to near-perfect realtime translation tech, so he's jumping right in; and Rose, who probably never considered her culture sexually repressed, but is willing to learn and obviously enjoying herself.

Then you have the Torchwood team: Owen's clearly out for quick pleasure and stress relief, wham-bam-thank you ma'am/sir, anything more would just get in the way. I'll bet Tosh has a vibrator in her bedside table and considers it the perfect solution. Gwen is in a happy monogamous relationship, and doesn't understand how the rest of them live without that -- she doesn't yet realize that working with Torchwood has robbed her of a major component of that relationship, open communication. And Jack, he's holding himself back in a way we've never seen in him. Mr Introduction = Flirting barely flirts with anyone, and what flirting he does do comes across almost pro forma -- in the first two eps, the strongest connection we see him make may easily be with John the Corpse.

How long has he been backtime? How much misunderstanding, pain, and damage has been caused by 51st century sexual openness in cultures too young to handle it? The way he reacted when Suzy blew her brains out -- maybe this wasn't the first time somebody's done that in front of him.





~
crabby_lioness
Oct. 28th, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC)
How long? My next post is going to be about that. I'll put it up sometime tonight.
(Deleted comment)
mythtaken
Oct. 28th, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
Carys didn't know how to do that, so the encounters were unsatisfactory for the alien. In desperation it turned to the quickest release with the least arousal, but this meant it was actually using up more energy than it gained.

It seemed to me that there was an addiction theme going on in this episode. Carys-as-alien tells Gwen that humans are "the best hit there is" and the later rapidly decreasing effectiveness of the orgasms fits with the idea of addicts needing more and more powerful doses as they build up a tolerance. This confused me because they also had specified that the alien lived off the energy. But your thoughts here have made me realise perhaps that there were two things going on; that the addiction stuff was specifically to do with Carys as the effect the alien was having on her, whereas the problems the alien was having were as you have described above.

I really like your explanation for Carys's rejection of Gwen - this is something I hadn't been able to quite work out to my satisfaction.
kallanda_lee
Oct. 28th, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
Hmm, interesting theory - though I interpreted "it had to be a man" as, well, him having to be "inserted" for the alien to drain the energy, if you cath my drift.
And yes, I also found the kisses more sesual. Because it's often more erotic to tease than to spell it out..
steviesun
Oct. 29th, 2006 09:28 am (UTC)
I don't know if you read the Jack/Gwen kiss the same as me, but I read it as reminding him of Rose (and the Doctor).

I know a number of people have really disliked the sex in the show, suggesting that it was written in to make the show "adult", but maybe we'll find it developing throughout the series. Maybe in that sense the sex in the show is a bit more like early relationship stuff, and is neatly reflected in this episode in a similar way to the one you describe with it ending with the tender kisses. If nothing else, it seems very Jack (remembering his terribly flirting with both Rose and the Doctor in Empty Child and then his tender, loving kisses with them both before going to his "death"). I think the whole series is very very very tied to Jack and his development.
crabby_lioness
Oct. 29th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
I think the sex in the second episode is there to point out the difference between tawdry sex and the different kind(s) of sex we will see developing throughout the series. That way when X and Y develop a relationship later on, we can point to it and say, "This is not tawdry sex. We've seen tawdry sex in this series already, and it looks nothing like this."
steviesun
Oct. 29th, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC)
Good point. Interesting point.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )