How 'Glee' Got Teen Sex Right

Two main characters lose their virginities on this week's episode—a decision the show treats with unusual humor and sensitivity

glee_blainekurt_post.jpg

Fox


After two and a half seasons (and many previous, apparently uncontroversial sexual encounters), Glee's two star couples lost their virginities on last night's episode. And Call the Parents Television Council, one of the couples was even gay. The episode was highly publicized and managed to spark controversy before it even aired—Fox even posted a "viewer discretion advised" disclaimer ahead of the telecast. But for all the hullabaloo, the whole thing was handled quite beautifully, even responsibly—a reminder that for all its melodrama and unevenness, Glee can still be a very good, even socially important show.

First, the details.The episode began, appropriately, with Blaine and Rachel singing the swelling Tony and Maria duet from West Side Story, "Tonight." Get it? Because tonight's the night. It's a song, director Artie reminds them, about unbridled passion and sexual awakening, which sparks a realization in the chaste duo that perhaps they are not suitably "awake" to play the star-crossed lovers. So when Finn invites Rachel to his house when his parents are out of town—and because she thinks she needs to lose her virginity in order to believably portray Maria—she agrees. "I'll be there at six."

Meanwhile, Blaine stops by his old school to visit the Warblers and meets Sebastian, an attractive new member of the a capella group who aggressively hits on him. At one point, he calls Blaine "sex on a stick with a voice like a dream." The newly horny Blaine—he too thinks he must have sex in order to believably play Tony—clearly laps up the pick-up lines, which are intercut with a West Side Story rehearsal of "A Boy Like That." Get it? Because "a boy like that/ wants one thing only," and entertaining those thoughts would ruin his relationship with Kurt.

The actual sex aspect of the storylines is treated quite delicately—certainly more so than on fellow frequent Parents Television Council target Gossip Girl or other teen soaps like 90210 or Skins, shows on which characters swap sexual partners like trading cards. That didn't stop, of course the PTC from condemning the episode before it even aired, calling it "reprehensible" for "celebrating children having sex." Yet the emphasis of "The First Time" was on the overwhelming emotional roller coaster that surrounds the act, far more so than on the physical aspects of it—something that one would imagine the PTC, if not most parents everywhere, appreciating. The show focuses on the romance of it all, with both couples coming to the mutual decision that it is, in fact, "the right time."

Birth control is mentioned multiple times, with Finn and Puck having a heart-to-heart about it. At one point there's a healthy and hilarious conversation among all the girl characters about sex and first times. Quinn suggests waiting not just because she got pregnant when she lost her virginity, but because she gave up something that she can never get back before she was ready. Santana alerts Rachel that it will likely be disappointing: "It's like being smothered under a sweaty sack of potatoes soaked in body spray." But Tina reminds everyone that at the right moment, with the right person, and after careful consideration, the first time can be something to cherish. Every nervous teen should be so lucky to have such a nuanced discussion to educate her decision.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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