With Friends Like These…

I just watched an episode of Friends, and please, God, give me that half hour of my life back.

Basically, Rachel tells Ross she’s slept with four or five men while he’s slept with two women (including her). He freaks out that she had ‘wild animal sex’ with someone and feels deeply insecure. She reassures him that they have something much better than wild, animal sex; a connection, camaraderie.

To hender reverse the situation: how many scenarios have we seen where the woman is less experienced? How come no-one makes a big deal about that? Why do women have to make men feel special about having more experience but for men, it’s the status quo? I have never once seen a man reassuring his girlfriend that they have something special despite being more experienced than her.

Then, Rachel squabbles with her housemate Monica about who gets the last condom. Like, why not someone just bloody run out and get more. I suppose I should give them kudos for bringing up condom use (better than All Saints can do!) but it never even got resolved. OK, that’s sloppy writing on their part as well as bad feminism, but seriously, the episode sucked.

Comments

  1. says

    never saw that episode, fortunately, but if he said he only had sex w/ 2 women, he’s lying – he had a wife (and discussed their wild animal sex), then he slept with the other paleontologist he meet in China, then Rachael – so 3.

  2. says

    I think you have to either stop watching Friends, or just accept the fact that Ross is an idiot. Because seriously, Ross is an idiot. He has the maturity of a teenaged boy. Every thing he does, every thing he gets insecure about, I was the same way- when I was 16. And then I grew up. I would never recommend making a show about my 16-year old self.

  3. says

    Yeah, I think it was 2 women before Rachel, not including. Though the point remains: he’s intimidated by her larger experience.

    John, your comment sounds dangerously close to telling us to either stop watching or stop complaining, which is against the rules. I’m hoping the “you” in your comment is a general “you”?

    I would never recommend making a show about my 16-year old self.

    Yes, but the point is someone did, and it was a huge hit, and this site exists for the purpose of critiquing gender issues like why the media presents more immature boy men than mature men.

    And while you may have grown up, a lot of 20-something sexually active men who are forming the sexual histories of young sexually active women still think a girlfriend of theirs should have a certain number of former partners, no more no less, but that she should accept whatever number of partners he’d had as his due. I’m not so sure most men do outgrow this fixation, but even if we assume they do, the damage is already done. And what it reveals about our culture’s double standard is worth talking about.

  4. harlemjd says

    Actually, if I recall the episode correctly, the Ross and Rachel conversation was sparked by one Monica had with Richard in which she had also slept with more people than he had (he was the one who had only slept with 2 people – his ex-wife and Monica). She was embarassed about her number and when she did tell him (off camera) he was fine with it.

    Also, I think they flipped a coin or something like that for the last condom, Rachel won, and Monica and Richard did not have sex that night. (I also wondered why they couldn’t buy more [or why they would let the box get down to one in the first place] but at least they made a point of having the characters not have unprotected sex.) Again, Richard (the grown-up to Ross’ man-child) was disappointed, but calm.

  5. scarlett says

    just accept the fact that Ross is an idiot. Because seriously, Ross is an idiot. He has the maturity of a teenaged boy. Every thing he does, every thing he gets insecure about, I was the same way- when I was 16.

    I wouldn’t have had so much trouble with the half a dozen episodes I saw if the producers and writers made it clear that Ross was an infantile, insensitive jerk. But they often made it out like he was entitled to say and do what he did and Rachel had to soothe his ego over every little thing he got upset over.

    a lot of 20-something sexually active men who are forming the sexual histories of young sexually active women still think a girlfriend of theirs should have a certain number of former partners, no more no less, but that she should accept whatever number of partners he’d had as his due.

    I remember when Charlie Sheen admitted to having slept with about five thousand women, I ponderedwith my mates if that was physiologically possible, but otherwise, it was kind of funny. If he’d been a woman, she would have been considered a slut.

    My ex was really uncomfortable with the fact I’d slept with more people than he had. I was his first and he often made comments during our 4.5 year relationship that he wished I had been a virgin. I didn’t realise how insensitive and hurtful those comments were until several months after we broke up and I had time to reflect on just how selfish he was in our relationship.

    But I don’t think his attitude is all that an uncommon one. I think a lot of men expect women to have enough experience to keep them satisfied, but not too much that makes them slutty, and certainly not more than them. I think shows like Friends help perpetuate that that idea is OK by having Ross be weirded out by what is not a particularly high number and having Rachel soothe his ego rather than tell him he’s being a child.

  6. MaggieCat says

    I think shows like Friends help perpetuate that that idea is OK by having Ross be weirded out by what is not a particularly high number and having Rachel soothe his ego rather than tell him he’s being a child.

    While I don’t disagree with this, the part that harlemjd mentioned with Monica and Richard is why I happen to love that episode. Despite seeing this in repeats however many times after seeing its original airing, that’s the part I remember– that Richard, who was older and had been single for a while had only slept with two women, and had no problem whatsoever with the fact that Monica had (at least what she believed to be) a significantly larger number of people in her past.

    The reason I like that is because the issue they were having actually had little to do with her sexual history, it was really about the fact that she didn’t want to discuss an element of her past because she didn’t trust him not to freak out. But she finally told him and he didn’t flip because he loved her and rational mature people don’t do that sort of thing, and everyone went back to acting like grownups. Rather a nice message there for everyone concerned. (And also another reason I’m still a bit annoyed that the healthiest relationship that show ever had didn’t make it.)

    So I always had a hard time avoiding the sense that there was a comparison being drawn between Richard’s rational behavior and Ross’s complete lack thereof. Or possibly between the fact that Monica and Ross are both neurotic drama-addicts and one should carefully consider the situation before dating anyone named ‘Geller’. ;-)

  7. says

    John, your comment sounds dangerously close to telling us to either stop watching or stop complaining, which is against the rules. I’m hoping the “you” in your comment is a general “you”?

    I was speaking in generalities, but this particular topic does strike me as somewhat pointless. I’m not saying that every topic on this site is a waste of time, or that you should just “stop complaining.” You do good work here, but sometimes I feel that you miss the mark. This is one of those times. That’s just my opinion. If I came too close to stepping over one of your lines, please know that this was not my intent.
    I guess I’m just having a hard time following this fixation on Ross Geller. He was always treated as that annoying guy who got really clingy and overreacted to everything. Everyone on the show felt this way. Everyone watching the show felt this way. I never for a moment thought that the writers of the show endorsed anything that Ross said.
    Surely there are plenty of cruel, manipulative, vain, hurtful male characters in the world of fiction. Ross never struck me as one, nor do I think anyone took any valuable life lessons from his character.

    Anyway, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to comment.

    Good day.

  8. says

    He was always treated as that annoying guy who got really clingy and overreacted to everything. Everyone on the show felt this way. Everyone watching the show felt this way.

    Oh, really? When the whole group of “Friends” chimed in on the “break” issue, several of the characters – including Monica – agreed with Ross’ interpretation of the word “break” having a whole new meaning in English. And so did you and Jay, remember? It’s curious how quickly you chime in on the Friends threads, even though you consider them pointless. ;)

  9. sbg says

    I guess I’m just having a hard time following this fixation on Ross Geller. He was always treated as that annoying guy who got really clingy and overreacted to everything. Everyone on the show felt this way. Everyone watching the show felt this way. I never for a moment thought that the writers of the show endorsed anything that Ross said.

    But by holding him up, along with the whole group, as funny, isn’t that in a way tacit approval? It’s a fine line, I suppose, and one most probably don’t even think about.

  10. says

    Oh, really? When the whole group of “Friends” chimed in on the “break” issue, several of the characters – including Monica – agreed with Ross’ interpretation of the word “break” having a whole new meaning in English. And so did you and Jay, remember?

    Oh, hey now…the fact that I think that Ross was okay to interpret “break” in that fashion (which I still don’t see as a whole new meaning in English, btw) doesn’t mean I don’t think Ross is a whiny, arrogant a-hole, who did a bunch of indefensible stuff.

    I just tend to beat on Ross for (what I consider) the legitimate things…his overreactions, his jealousy, his overcontrolling nature vis-a-vis Rachel’s other relationships, his double-standards, and his pettiness. His interpretation of the word “break” when used to refer to a relationship is not something I feel the need to take him to task on, especially when there is other plentiful ammunition.

    In short: Ross = dick. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and the way he interpreted Rachel’s comment still strikes me as one of those.

    But whatever…I accept your stance as a perfectly valid one. I just don’t think it’s the only reasonable one. :)

    Re: the OP

    Ross is being exceptionally insecure, and I agree this is a classic double-standard regarding society’s stance on male/female sexual activity. I really liked MaggieCat’s comment about Richard (who I always liked on that show) as a good demonstration of a rational man’s stance on pre-relationship sexuality.

    My own wife was worried about how I would feel about stuff she did before we got together, but I’m fine; that was then, this is now. And while I can almost understand the typical male insecurity (being a male with many insecurities myself) about one’s sexual prowess/vigor/attractiveness if he hasn’t had a lot of experience, but it’s certainly not Rachel’s fault, or her job to make him feel better about it.

  11. scarlett says

    Maggie, in regards to your comments about Richard, yes, I did actually like the way that was done. I liked his attitude of ‘this is how many and these are my reasons and what I’m comfortable with, and if you have another comfort zone, that’s cool’. It’s an attutide I’d like to see more of and I’m actually surprised they managed to bring such an element of maturity and understanding to the show. (John, I did stop watching it, not to boycott ROss, but because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about and it took me half a dozen eps to figure out they wee a bunch of annoying, vapid, self-absorbed characters who did stuff like squabble over a condom when they could have gotten more and tried to present that as funny.)

    Everyone on the show felt this way. Everyone watching the show felt this way. I never for a moment thought that the writers of the show endorsed anything that Ross said.

    If they didn’t endorse Ross’s insecurity, then why did they have Rachel coddle him? Why didn’t she just say ‘that’s my past and you’ll have to learn to deal’? But not making it clear that Ross was displaying the maturity of a child they condoned that it’s OK for a guy to reacted badly to their girlfriends and wives having more experience than them.

    My current boyfriend has only ever slept with me, and I can’t him being insecure enough to make a big deal out of something like that or me putting up with it. It certainly wouldn’t be a big deal if the genders were reversed. And we’re ten years younger than Ross and Rachel!

  12. says

    Jay, I wasn’t criticizing either of you for having the opinions you had. I meant to point out that it was a legitimate discussion about differing opinions held by various people which John participated in until he decided it was getting silly, at which point he implied the discussion had lost value for all parties concerned and should stop.

    Which is a rather self-involved way to look at a discussion. Very… I dunno… I think the word I’m looking for here could be… Ross-like? ;)

  13. MaggieCat says

    But by holding him up, along with the whole group, as funny, isn’t that in a way tacit approval? It’s a fine line, I suppose, and one most probably don’t even think about.

    If they didn’t endorse Ross’s insecurity, then why did they have Rachel coddle him? Why didn’t she just say ‘that’s my past and you’ll have to learn to deal’? But not making it clear that Ross was displaying the maturity of a child they condoned that it’s OK for a guy to reacted badly to their girlfriends and wives having more experience than them.

    I don’t think so. I mentioned this in the comments for the first R&R article about the “break” that went up– Ross’s jerky, controlling behavior was usually held up for ridicule. I think that the writers sometimes missed the mark (like in this case, where I personally think they got caught up with the idea of having Rachel tell Ross how much more she loved him than other men she’d dated to push their (epically dysfunctional) relationship forward and then worked backwards, not really registering that they were implying she’d done something that needed to be apologized for because it is so ingrained that it’s a woman’s job to prop up the boyfriend’s ego) but at the same time they so often shot his irrational jealousy down that because of that I just can’t accept the idea that the show was endorsing his actions. Ross was an emotional sinkhole of unending neediness and at some point everyone called him on it.

    And having Monica and Richard dealing with the same topic in the same episode in a much more rational manner just puts Ross’s bad behavior and Rachel’s enabling behavior in even starker relief. Of course that myth that Hollywood seems to believe that mature and functional couples are boring means that didn’t get quite the same promotion by the network.

    I just tend to beat on Ross for (what I consider) the legitimate things…his overreactions, his jealousy, his overcontrolling nature vis-a-vis Rachel’s other relationships, his double-standards, and his pettiness. His interpretation of the word “break” when used to refer to a relationship is not something I feel the need to take him to task on, especially when there is other plentiful ammunition.

    In short: Ross = dick. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and the way he interpreted Rachel’s comment still strikes me as one of those.

    Not to go back to topics from other articles, but this is pretty much how I saw it as well. I always saw where both of them were coming from at the beginning, since that’s how I would have interpreted what she said if someone said it to me. I wouldn’t personally have run right out and slept with someone else, and I understand why she’d be upset by the speed at which he moved on, but I can’t support her “You cheated on me” rants.

    (After that of course the sympathy I initially had for Rachel’s POV was run into the ground when she spent the next several years doing my least favorite thing in the world: harping on it non-stop even after they got back together at later dates. No. Either forgive him or don’t, that’s your call, but don’t get back together with him and then act like you’re so wonderful for being the bigger person while you hold it over his head for the rest of your natural damn lives.)

  14. scarlett says

    (After that of course the sympathy I initially had for Rachel’s POV was run into the ground when she spent the next several years doing my least favorite thing in the world: harping on it non-stop even after they got back together at later dates. No. Either forgive him or don’t, that’s your call, but don’t get back together with him and then act like you’re so wonderful for being the bigger person while you hold it over his head for the rest of your natural damn lives.)

    I never watched an episode when it was on first-run, but it was big enough among my friends that I could follow the story arcs. I was in my teens/early 20’s and agreed with your sentiment, Maggie, that you either forgive them or you can’t but you can’t forgive and then not let go.

    As far as this general discussion goes – I have to admit, storylines like this always hit a nerve with me because I went through it with a guy who all the time made me feel with little comments that I wished I hadn’t done some of the things I’d done. We broke up over a year ago and I’m still coming to understand that these were his issues, not mine. So when I see self-absorbed, inconsiderate behaviour from men on TV and the movies that was in his character, I tend to have very little tolerance for them :8

    As I’ve said a few times, I haven’t seen much of Friends – a few episodes was enough to make me think the show itself was tripe – but Richard definitely stood out for me with his attitude. There was a bit I liked when he offered to have a child with Monica because it was something she wanted, even though he didn’t. It’s one of the few storylines I can remember when a guy is prepared to make a sacrifice like that for his girlfriend/wife. But from what I saw, Richard as a character was an anomily in what I thought was an inane show.

  15. scarlett says

    (And also another reason I’m still a bit annoyed that the healthiest relationship that show ever had didn’t make it.)

    Heh, something I just didn’t get about the show was how much tension was in so many of the relationships, usually over the dumbest things. I satrted watching it when another channel bought the syndication rights off the channel initially owned the broadcast rights in Australia, and in teh dozen or so eps I watched, I don’t remember laughing once. I didn’t get why these people would stay together. I know I’m bound to offend someone out there, given its popularity, but I don’t think it was a very good show.

  16. Gategrrl says

    Scarlett, my *mother* mentioned liking this show to me on more than one occassion. I watched it a few times, here and there, just to see what she was getting out of it, and could never figure it out.

    My best friend and cousin from childhood adored Sex in the City, the ONLY television show I ever heard her mention watching with any regularity: I watched a bit of that, and all I saw were women having sex, thinking about men, sexing it up more, and thinking about men. Again, I didn’t “get” it.

    But then, I’m weird: I like SF/F shows, which neither of them “gets” either.

    For what it’s worth, after the seventies and early eighties, sitcoms in the USA took a huge nose-dive. I think I stopped watching sitcoms after Cheers went off the air, and rarely went back.

  17. scarlett says

    Heh, I quite liked SatC, but that was before THL. A lot of my fandoms bit the dust after I started applying a feminist critique to things :p

    I think other than The Simpsons, the last comedy I followed regularly was an Australian series called Hey Dad. I tend to like satire, the darker the better, so a bunch of vacous people squabbling over condoms isn’t really my cup of tea :p

  18. MaggieCat says

    I loved Friends when it started (I was just starting h.s. at the time) and I do still love the early seasons, but I never liked Ross and only liked Rachel for about the first 8 episodes. I did and still do love the way that Chandler was written for most of the series, early not-completely-idiotic-Joey, early not-horribly-inconsiderate
    -and-mean Phoebe, and early not-shrill Monica. (She lost me sometime around the period when the writers started going to the “fat Monica flashback” well a little too often. Actually twice was too often for that poisoned well, but you know what I mean.)

    For what it’s worth, I still think it had one of the best sitcom pilots I’ve seen in the last 20 years, despite the severely diminished quality even before I finally gave up on it. And if the story about NBC distributing the questionnaire to the live audience at the pilot taping is true, I give the writers a lot of credit for not caving.

    However I never really saw the appeal of Sex And The City, and I’m still trying to figure out how that show convinced everyone that Patricia Fields is a genius….

  19. says

    So am I the only one who heard tons of people – young women particularly – going on and on about how adorable and sweet Ross was, and what a mean self-centered bitch Rachel was for not noticing that this Nice Guy ™ wanted her?

    Because that was pretty much all I heard, and I’m kind of wondering if the agreed-upon anti-Ross sentiment here is typical, or just another manifestation of how people who read this site tend to see things differently from the majority.

  20. scarlett says

    I never heard the sentiment about how Rachel was an absolute bitch, but I heard a lot about h0w they were meant to be, but when I watched the show I saw Ross as someone who treated his girlfriend badly and it was supposed to be cute or funny.

    I’m curious what women my age – mid-twenties – and older thought/think about the Ross/Rachel storyline because – and I don’t mean to generalise or be dismissive about teenage girls – the ones I’ve met tend to have a somewhat skewered idea of what’s romantic. I don’t know if I myself would have found it romantic when I was younger.

  21. MaggieCat says

    So am I the only one who heard tons of people – young women particularly – going on and on about how adorable and sweet Ross was, and what a mean self-centered bitch Rachel was for not noticing that this Nice Guy ™ wanted her?

    Speaking for the general population at my high school, I almost never heard this. Most of the people I heard talking about the show (and that was quite a lot at the time) thought Ross was pathetic for pining over her for so long without saying anything and that Rachel was just oblivious because she wasn’t psychic. There was a small but loyal group who supported Ross, but those people were generally looked upon as sad and melodramatic.

    Speaking for the girls, the attention was mostly split 50/50 between Chandler and Joey. Ross was an afterthought until he actually started dating Rachel, and then it was because he was screwing up every other week and the audience started arguing about it between the people who thought he was being an idiot and (mostly) the entitled teenage boys who actually were trying to justify his behavior.

    I do recall a few people of both genders who were in the “Jealousy= Tru Wuv” camp but I do not truck with those people, so I started ignoring them after that.

  22. scarlett says

    <<>>

    I had a friend who would pine after a girl for years, he’d measure the value of his days based on his interactions with her and could crap on about hew new bag if I commented I’d bought a new bag. I hadn’t really thought about it on a larger level, but bloody hell, it’s not romantic when a man pines over a woman for years, it’s obsessive. For me, there are two options: get over it, or ask them out and, if they say no, get over it. Anything else is a waste of emotion and I don’t get how people can think it’s romantic to be pined over like that.

  23. says

    My friends and I started watching Friends in it’s second year and our first year of college. For that first/second year, we all thought Ross was cooler cuz he was the nerd and we were all nerds.

    But that didn’t last long. And it was mostly because of this season 3 story line – Ross being overly needy/cheating the first second he had an excuse to do so/being a jerk about all of it – that made us see him as a jerk and not a nerd.

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