The Cosby Show on Sex and First Periods
I was sitting around doing nothing the other night, and watched some Cosby Show reruns – and I just happened to catch the episodes from in which cousin Pam is trying to decide whether to have sex with her boyfriend, and Rudy gets her first period.
I couldn’t find any online video of these particular season 7/1990 episodes – “Just Thinking About It” parts 1 & 2, and “The Infantry Has Landed (And They’ve Fallen Off the Roof)”. Have you seen them?
I really liked, in the episode about Rudy’s period, how Claire insisted that she was not going to have her daughters being as ignorant of their bodies as she had been growing up. Despite the “women as resistors, who never want sex on their own” stereotype of the story of Pam and her boyfriend, there were some really good parts in which she and her friend talked about respect for their bodies and their decisions. There’s also an exchange in which Pam asks Cliff about birth control, and he says he’ll refer her to a gynecologist.
I think I was surprised a bit about some of the frankness and thoughtfulness in these episodes. I was really tickled when Claire ran down a list of euphemisms for menstruation with Rudy; she also gives Theo’s friend a little reprimand after he dismisses another woman’s feelings as being only due to a visit from “Aunt Flo.” After so many years of abstinence-only, the “young people need agency and information” theme that ran across these episodes – in which adults are there to help and guide, not to prevent any knowledge or growing up – was refreshing and sort of shocking.