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How Outlander gives a positive voice to female sexuality

Contributed by
Mar 11, 2019

When Starz first announced it would be debuting a historical fantasy series called Outlander in 2014, I was instantly intrigued. The premise of the show — a British World War II nurse falls through time to find herself in 18th-century Scotland — was pretty gripping, combined with the dramatic trailers featuring tons of action and romance. Little did I know, however, that for a show steeped in historical events, it would be so ahead of its time, especially with the depiction of female sexuality.

With most historical fiction/fantasy-based shows, debauchery is expected with the bodies of naked women to be seen usually for the gratification of male characters. That’s not to say women aren’t typically having some form of enjoyable sex, but it’s usually a plot device done with the male gaze in mind. However, Outlander pushes the boundary on this by allowing the women to own their sexuality in almost every scene.

The women of Outlander don’t just enjoy the sex they’re having, but they’re usually in control when it comes to the pleasure they’re receiving and it makes for great, sex(y) positive TV for ladies.

The first time we got a hint of this was in the show’s pilot. While exploring the ruins of Scotland during their second honeymoon, protagonist Claire Beauchamp Randall and her husband, Frank Randall, get a little frisky. Before anything else can happen, however, Claire guides her husband to perform oral on her, which he happily obliges. According to Claire (in a voiceover), sex has been the thing to reconnect her and Frank since the war. It's their language and Claire is not ever afraid to speak it, to ask her husband for what she wants — nor does she seem bashful in the idea of them expressing their physical passion for each, even in an open space. She wants what she wants, when she wants it and has no qualms about it.

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Credit: Starz

This theme continues along in the show when our beloved Claire falls through time. In Season 1, Episode 7: “The Wedding”, Claire has traveled 200 years into the past and is virtually forced to marry the dashing (and virginal) James MacKenzie Fraser to save her from the clutches of a sadistic captain despite already being married. For Claire and Jamie’s marriage to be binding, they must consummate it that night. After several rounds of whiskey, they do the thing and it’s quick and mildly pleasurable, but Claire isn't entirely satisfied and visibly so. Because of this, Jamie remarks how it’s “true” women “don’t care” for sex, having listened to the more experienced men in his life. This, of course, is an allusion to the context of female sexuality at that time, which was clearly dismissed in favor of either childbearing or male gratification. But with Claire being a headstrong woman unafraid to demand her sexual needs be met, Jamie learns this is not the case.

As the night goes on, the pair become more comfortable with each other and engage in the first of their really intense lovemaking. Yet again, Claire is in control and she has Jamie strip for her, as she circles him, touching various parts of his body and the lines of his frame. She, in turn, strips for her new husband, before the two embrace in a steamy romp where Claire has a loud orgasm, shocking Jamie. In this, we see a depiction of a woman allowing herself to vocalize her enthusiasm, and enjoy the pleasurable moment fully. In their post-coital conversation, Claire tells Jamie that a woman reaching orgasm (especially a loud one) is the mark of a good lover and the newly-deflowered Jamie embraces his new moniker. Often.

In another Season 1 episode, Jamie and Claire are in the woods, mere hours away from Jamie taking Claire back to the stones that can send her back to her time. It’s possibly their last night together, so Jamie manually stimulates Claire to see her in the throes one last time. As Claire's passion begins to mount, she tells Jamie to enter her, but he only wants to watch her — and she lets him. Again, there’s no shame in the twosome watching each other. Jamie is pleased by watching his wife squirm at the movement of his fingers, and Claire openly displays her satisfaction in his touch and voyeurism.

Throughout the series, we continue to see Claire and Jamie embark on steamy sexcapades where her zeal for lovemaking — in all its forms — is tended to by her adoring new husband, who is actively attuned to her body and respectful of her wishes. And like Claire, her daughter Brianna Randall (the product of Claire and Jamie) is apt to contradict the stigma of female sexuality and is even more vocal on the matter.

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Credit: Starz

In Season 4, Episode 3: “False Bride”, Bree attempts to take things with her romantic interest, Roger MacKenzie, to a new plateau by asking him to be the first man to make love to her, ever. It’s a pretty hardcore declaration and scene altogether when Roger proposes to Brianna and she says no, but is still willing to get between the sheets with him. Roger shames Brianna for wanting to bed him before marriage, but Bree turns the tables on him and his hypocrisy by mentioning the double-standard of it being acceptable for men to have premarital sex, but not women.

In calling out his misogyny, Bree owns her sexual desire and demands the same level of respect for wanting physical intimacy without being tethered to archaic, ideologies of how virginal women should experience intercourse. Unfortunately, Roger doesn’t budge and the pair go their separate ways. It isn’t until some five episodes and 200 years in time travel that the two finally have a lengthy, sexytime session once again initiated by Bree in Episode 8: “Wilmington”. Roger does get his way when the two are “handfasted,” but the experience is mostly about Bree’s enjoyment and learning curve when it comes to sex. Roger pleasures her orally, and explains him using the “pull out method,” has nothing to do with not desiring her, but him wanting to enjoy having her sans babies. In turn, Bree’s explores her ability to please by going down on her man and being visibly proud of her accomplishment.

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Credit: Starz

Overall, the show does a great job of showcasing women who are confident in their sexuality, and fearless when it comes to having their counterparts appease their healthy sexual appetites. And for a series set in the past when men had virtually no consideration for their partners' feelings, the Starz hit is literally ahead of its time.

On Outlander, when our lady characters are having hot, steamy sex with their partners, there’s not an orgasm to be faked — and that’s the way it should always be, past or present, fiction or real life.

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