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Health & Sex

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What We've Learned From 'Sex and the City'

From sex toys to infertility, HBO comedy raises awareness of sexual health.

More Than Just Fun and Games

"Right now, the show is teaching women to go and get a mammogram, and that's fantastic," Cadell says, referring to the current storyline in which the promiscuous Samantha Jones (played by Kim Catrall) is diagnosed with breast cancer after consulting with a plastic surgeon about breast implants.

That said, "Samantha is not that realistic, and very few women can really relate to her sexual behavior," Cadell says. "I would have liked to have seen a little more realism and maybe to see her promiscuity get her into trouble."

"She was always having the best sex, and there should have been some consequences attached to one night stands," she says.

Such as? "Sexually transmitted diseases would have been good, or maybe rejection in the middle of sex or lack of lubrication," Cadell suggests.

"While the Kim Catrall character may carry it too far, the message that women can enjoy sexual pleasure for themselves is a good one," says New York city-based psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Gail Saltz, MD, author of the forthcoming Becoming Real.

"Samantha is a great model of owning your sexuality being proud of who you are and what you want to do and taking on the world in your own terms," agrees Pepper Schwartz, PhD, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and author Everything You Know about Love and Sex is Wrong.

But Sex and the City covered more than sex; the show also tackled infertility. According to RESOLVE, a nationwide infertility association, 6.1 million women in the U.S. are infertile, and on the show, Charlotte York (played by actress Kristin Davis) represented these women.

In her quest to have a child, Charlotte tried hormone treatments, acupuncture, and considered adoption. The show deftly illustrated that there are not necessarily quick fixes to this problem. As the series draws to a close, Charlotte is still trying to conceive even after a devastating miscarriage at the close of season five.

"The Charlotte character was great to have because on the outside, she looked perfect from her job at an art gallery, a Park Avenue apartment, and a gorgeous doctor husband, but she has her own issues -- he is impotent and she infertile," Saltz says.

While she did encourage her first husband to seek therapy for impotence and he was eventually able to have sex, it did not save their marriage, and Charlotte ultimately wed her divorce attorney (with whom her quest to have a baby carries on).

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