Glee is one of the weirdest shows on TV, I swear. On one hand I can’t follow it like a real show because it’s so inconsistent, but otoh it’s fascinating watching what stuff they throw at the wall every week to see if it sticks, seeing what strange ways people will behave this week and how it contradicts the strange ways they behaved three weeks earlier. Sometimes an episode will seem even weirder than usual.

I thought last night’s show was one of those.

It’s the big ep people had been talking about where major couples have sex. Which means we’re going to watch Glee ruminate on “first times” and of course that’s going to be just a mish mash of things.

We start off with Artie acting like an idiot. Seriously, the premise of this ep was just so strange. They’ve got 2 days until their production of West Side Story goes up and he tells Rachel and Blaine that it’s a play about sexual awakening and have either of them...? Because if they haven’t gone whatever they consider “all the way” then how can they play Tony and Maria?

Where to even start with how strange this scene is. First, WSS is not about sexual awakening. It’s part of the story, but it’s hardly a play about sex the physical act. Second, why conflate “sexual awakening” with “not being a virgin” anyway? Whatever experience Rachel and Blaine do or don’t have—and they both have some—they’ve both “awakened” sexually since they have and have acted on sexual desire. Virginity gets invested with a lot of symbolic things in the world, and this is just really more of that. You’re not hibernating or non-sexual until you have sex. Rachel and Blaine are both in relationships with a person they love. In some ways they’ve got more personal experience to draw on for Tony and Maria than Artie does, since Tony and Maria are more about *not* being with someone you love than being with them.

Then there’s the fact that why would this one aspect of Tony and Maria—that by the end of the show neither is a virgin—be so important that Blaine and Rachel must recreate it off-stage, when the many other ways they are different from the characters is actable? Artie isn’t suggesting that Blaine will have a problem with not being Italian, or in a gang, or having never been in a rumble. He’s not suggesting Rachel ought to emigrate to a place where English isn’t the first language or that not being Puerto Rican might make it hard to relate to Maria's feelings on being Puerto Rican.

In fact, Artie’s sudden interest in the off-stage sex life of his stars is even more ironic given that for years it was considered a given—and many people still consider it a given—that gay actors need to stay closeted because no one will buy them in a straight romance if they’re known to be gay. Since Blaine’s openly gay, plenty of people in the audience are probably going to assume (correctly) that he’s never had much experience with a girl, or much wanted any. Using Artie’s (bad) logic one could argue that he can’t truly portray a boy passionately in love with a girl at first sight if he’s not attracted to women.

Basically, Artie was just putting peer pressure on two kids to have sex and shaming them for their inexperience. Which btw reminds me, didn’t Artie have some late freak out at Brittany where he accused her of sort of stealing his first time when he found out she’d slept with a bunch of guys? (Iow, Artie eagerly consented to sex and then blamed the girl when he wanted a do-over--it was her job to not tempt him with sex outside of love!) Now apparently we learn she was calling him by the names of those guys while they had sex. Not sure where the surprise was.

Artie is pressuring and shaming them in front of two teachers, though, so obviously this will be nipped in the bud—but no! Because those two teachers are Emma and Bieste who, being virgins themselves, apparently don’t feel they have the right or are too embarassed to comment.

Um, wait. Isn’t Emma the head of the chastity club? Hasn’t she in the past been almost *too* eager to tell people they shouldn’t have sex? Why is she running away from the subject this week? And why is Bieste running away from it? Sure she might not have Emma’s obsession with keeping kids “innocent” (ew) but as a teacher she shouldn’t have any problem telling Artie that it’s none of his business what his stars do off-stage. But no, she, too, is just tongue-tied in the face of Artie’s sexual experience!

Artie turns to Bieste for support for his theory. Since she doesn’t agree with him, he divines that she herself is a virgin. Because you couldn’t possibly have sexual experience and think he’s being silly. (Note: You actually can.)

Which brings us to another thing that made me uncomfortable: Bieste’s story. I love her, and I defended the whole “first kiss” thing with Will because unlike some others I didn’t think it was insulting for her to get the experience of a kiss without it being magical and truly romantic. (Really, plenty of people get their first kiss under those conditions.) But after this ep I’m getting really uncomfortable with the way that Bieste, who comes across as so tough and strong, seems forced to bare her personal insecurities and business to one man after another. It was one thing to confess her history to Will, with whom she has become friends, but now she has to confess it to a random student? So he can take charge of her love life? It’s getting a bit too humiliating for Bieste.

It made the ensuing joke where it turned out the guy she had a crush on had been trying to ask her out for months unpleasant as well. Yet again Bieste winds up being incredibly vulnerable at a moment’s notice. When the scout lays out to her, in no uncertain terms, that he does want to go out with her, she can’t just be quietly joyful, she has to go full Carrie White on him, asking him who put him up to asking her out since she’s not pretty, as if she suspects that it’s a practical joke. A tough character who’s really vulnerable deep down is compelling, but Bieste sometimes doesn’t seem written as having grown a thick skin so much as having been born with a thick (ugly) skin that doesn’t protect her at all.

So neither Emma nor Bieste see anything inappropriate in Artie’s direction to Blaine and Rachel, even on the grounds that if 2 people haven’t had sex in the past 17 years they might not have it in the next 2 days either, so telling them they’re inadequate to their roles is undermining their confidence to no good effect.

And neither do Rachel or Blaine find it inappropriate. Two characters who are canonically almost consistently confident about performing onstage and sex are sent into a tizzy by Artie’s suggestion that what an audience really wants to see onstage is non-virgins. So they both wind up having sex, but the night *after* opening night, which is there to prove that Artie was of course wrong and that sex is a private wonderful thing you don't do for a play yadda yadda.

My feelings on the sex stories, btw, was that neither really did it for me. Finn had one of the rare true emotional moments in the ep when he was passed over by the scout. Finn, of course, like so many young people being under the impression that adults have only two choices in life: Being on TV or Being a Failure. If he can’t be an actor or a football player there is no other possibility for him! It was nice that the sex was in a moment where Rachel was for once reaching out to another person instead of being about herself, but kind of ruined for me by her phrasing it as being about “giving something” to Finn that no one else could ever get because ew, back to all that virginity baggage with it being something you “give” another person, leaving yourself at some sort of loss. I couldn't help but think "consolation prize" even if that wasn't the idea.

Also, frankly, it was hard for me to root for Rachel’s story at all because all I kept thinking was about how the ep would have played if Mercedes was playing Maria, as she should have been. She was in the audience cheering the other students on, though I'm sure the next time it comes up we'll hear how Mercedes never supports anyone because of her big ego.

One other odd moment was I didn't get why they had to lampshade their "risky decision" to stick the Jets into "America." Basically they turned two lines from jokes about racism to racist taunts. I didn't really need a warning. Except for some of the accents.

Blaine’s story was kind of funny for me, because I thought he was adorable in the ep. I'm not big into Darren Criss, but his "because of the layers” was hot and affectionate and fun. Blaine, as we already know, is very capable of being sexy and believably randy. Unfortunately, I have to confess, I don’t feel that way about Kurt. I think he and Blaine are very sweet and root for them in a hearts and flowers way, but I found Kurt a lot more believable when he was confessing he didn’t even want to think about sex, much less talk about it or do it. Which, btw, was not that long ago. Kurt has gotten over a lot that offscreen now that he has a boyfriend.

Anyway, Kurt just leaves me really cold on that front. When he said he’d never been so unattracted to someone sexually as Blaine after one beer, I wasn’t seeing a difference from the way Kurt usually seemed to be. I felt sorry for Blaine—not to the point where I thought he should get away with molesting Kurt or anything, but just in general. I think he could have had a lot of fun with no-strings Sebastian, had he not been with Kurt. Kurt and Blaine have romantic chemistry, but Blaine and Sebastian had sexual chemistry.

Oh, and Kurofsky’s apparently gotten over his homophobia and hangs in gay bars now being a bear cub? Okay.

Finally, there was the interesting conversation between all the girls about their different experiences with sex. Tina had a great first time with a boy she loved and had discussed it with. Quinn’s still turned off the whole idea for complicating things so terribly. Santana can barely contain her repulsion at having sex with men. And Brittany...well, wtf with Brittany? I can only assume they meant to throw in another “Brittany has sex the way she does everything else, for reasons nobody can understand.” But I know I’m not the only one who heard her story and first thought: Brittany was raped. Again, I don’t think that was the idea, but not surprisingly how tone deaf that line was. And Heather Morris’s delivery kind of supported the darker interpretation.

So yeah, that’s Glee on virginity, sounding a bit like Brittany herself, actually. Very confident that it knows what it’s talking about, but actually sounding a little confused and saying more about itself than it is about the subject at hand.

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