Most teen sex comedies feel like they are made to only focus on a man’s insatiable need to see a vagina. Making matters worse, women are portrayed as naïve gatekeepers to their virginity who just need a little convincing to go all the way. What these films fail to realize, or purposely don’t acknowledge, is that women want sex too.
That’s why Maggie Carey’s The To Do List (2013) is such a revelation. It focuses on female sexuality without adding a moral commentary. With this film, I finally found a comedy about sex that I could laugh with instead of feeling like I was being laughed at.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Brandy Klark, an awkward overachiever who feels like an outlier because she has no sexual experience. Prompted by her crush on a dreamy college boy, Brandy creates a list of various sex acts she wants to learn to lead up to losing her virginity.
Carey portrays the quest for sexual knowledge as natural and normal as Brandy pursues her desires without fear or apology and seeks advice from other women who talk to her about sex frankly and openly. Only men make Brandy feel bad about what she’s doing. Carey mocks their patriarchal ideals and portrays men as blowhards with fragile egos, too emotional to handle women as sexual beings.
Brandy’s story is not about gaining sexual experience for the sake of it. She realizes that sex is better with equal participation and that her desire to have sex isn’t wrong, but using people for that experience without letting them in, leads to hurt. She comes to believe that no one should have their feelings hurt over sex.
Unfortunately, the film was a box office dud and received condemnation from critics for being too vulgar. Films are reflections of cultural norms and to have women excluded from conversations about sex helps solidify the sexist notion that women don’t want or enjoy it. The To Do List isn’t just a feminist entry into the sex comedy genre – it’s a bold declaration that women like to fuck and aren’t ashamed of it.
Ashley Maniw is a freelance writer and screenwriter based in Toronto. Her current focus is critiquing films for lackluster female representation to expose the gender gap in filmmaking and ruin your favourite movies. You can check out her work at Anatomy of a Scream and her blog or find her lurking on Twitter @AshleyManiw.