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‘Sex Lives Of College Girls’ Is Trite Fourth-Wave Fulfillment Porn

It’s a sad statement on our culture that Mindy Kaling’s creative energy went from writing early episodes of ‘The Office’ to writing this charmless burst of self-indulgence.

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The tedious genre of fourth-wave fulfillment porn hits a new low in “The Sex Lives Of College Girls.” It’s a sad statement on our culture that Mindy Kaling’s creative energy went from writing early episodes of “The Office” to writing this charmless burst of self-indulgence. It’s like she’s trying to prove Christopher Hitchens right.

Fourth-wave fulfillment porn (see: “Booksmart,” “Brittany Runs A Marathon,” “Shrill,” “Wine Country”) is how media’s secular feminists cope with the emptiness of secular feminism, not by transforming ugly ducklings into beauty queens but by redeeming them through the contrived embrace of progressive virtues. It always feels uncomfortably personal, like writers and executives are using the content to reassure themselves this is all normal and good.

Their top-down efforts to shift cultural norms have worked but that’s why shows like “Sex Lives” fail. Nobody is finding real happiness in this genderless, sex-positive, technocratic utopia. (Just ask Gen Z.) Other HBO shows like “Girls” and “Euphoria” and even “White Lotus” have dealt with that more seriously, sometimes without knowing. But “Sex Lives” is just another clueless effort from aging feminists and who think the kids laugh at jokes like “I’m super gay. Like I’m the LeBron James of being attracted to women.”

“Sex Lives” is aggressively banal, forcing racial and sexual and class plot lines so clumsily it’s like the writers are getting paid per virtue signal. (In their currency, I suppose that’s true.) The jokes are mediocre at best. The characters are more pawns than people. It’s just not entertaining.

By all means, artists should work through their personal problems in their art. But to do that well, they have to know it’s what they’re doing. Shows like “Sex Lives” try to sell us on the wonders of secular progressivism but instead end up exposing its joylessness, by being both unfunny and unrealistic. Nobody’s buying it because it’s not working. The doubling down is unintentionally dishonest. So it’s bad TV.

“HBO somehow did a number on me,” a 23-year-old rape victim told BuzzFeed News earlier this year. The story probed Gen Z’s mounting rejection of “sex positivity.”

“It feels like we were tricked into exploiting ourselves [and] tricked into thinking it was our idea,” the girl explained to BuzzFeed. “I would say I gathered this mostly from media, Sex and the City, Girls — HBO somehow did a number on me — books, social media… You read a lot about [sex positivity] on Tumblr, you read a lot about it on Twitter when you were in high school, [and] it gets really ingrained in your brain that you need to be comfortable having sex with someone you’re not committed to. I think in my feeble 18-year-old mind, it was probably not what I needed to hear.”

Speaking of “Sex and the City,” the novelist who inspired the series has some thoughts on aging in the cultural climate she helped create. “When I was in my 30s and 40s, I didn’t think about it,” she recently admitted. “Then when I got divorced and I was in my 50s, I started to see the impact of not having children and of truly being alone. I do see that people with children have an anchor in a way that people who have no kids don’t.”

Whether Bushnell is broadly representative, the author insists she doesn’t regret choosing her career over a family. But like the fourth-wave fulfillment porn for which she paved the way, Bushnell’s claims to satisfaction are deeply unconvincing.

Bushnell now says pornography makes the 1990’s “look like an age of innocence.” Like Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times, she sees the proliferation of porn as a trend distinct from the libertine norms she embraces. In a fascinating September column, Goldberg wrote, “Somehow, as sex positivity went mainstream and fused with a culture shaped by pornography, attention to emotion got lost.” Somehow!

Just last week, Bushnell chatted with the Daily Mail about her new one-woman show, “Is There Still Sex In The City?”

“You know,” she said, “if I had sex tomorrow with someone and they didn’t call me the next day, I’m probably still going to feel a little upset.”

That’s the follow-up HBO needs.