Saying that Nikki Glaser is sex-positive is like calling Frank Lloyd Wright “architecture-curious.”
Sex is the foundational structure on which the comedian builds much of her art. It was the subject of her 2016 Comedy Central talk show, Not Safe. It’s a frequent topic on her current Comedy Central radio show, You Up. And in case the title wasn’t a tipoff, Glaser’s new Netflix special, Bangin’, is an encyclopedic exploration of all things orgasmic (and some things that don’t, uh, rise to that level.)
Bangin’, which dropped online at midnight, is a consistently funny tour de force, but what is perhaps most compelling about it is how Glaser illuminates one under-discussed element of the #MeToo movement without ever mentioning the movement itself.
“It’s a good time to be a woman because we’re setting the parameters now,” Glaser said during an interview earlier this year, talking about sex in the #MeToo era. “I like to be thrown up against the wall, but I have to tell you ‘Throw me up against the wall.'”
Although the interview took place months before Bill Burr recently complained at length about the plight of modern single gents, aka the real victims, Glaser’s statement preemptively answered a question from his special, “What about women who like it rough?” (A heckling audience member responds pretty much the same way Glaser did—”Ask for consent!”—and Burr unloads on him for it.)
Burr and other prominent men aghast at the idea of asking for consent seem to pine for the supposedly bygone social dynamic in which men were mighty seducers, thriving on instinct and rewarded for boldness. You and me, baby, we ain’t nothin’ but mammals, etc. What these men don’t seem to realize is what this dynamic actually felt like for women. (And what it still feels like, because massive change happens very slowly.)
In Bangin’, Nikki Glaser breaks down the traditional mating ritual, not as a newly empowered victim challenging the system but rather as an unapologetically horny woman who has long been resigned to that system. Without ever stopping her jokes to directly address the climate in which we find ourselves, she breezily illustrates the radical idea that sex need not be entirely unwanted in order to be off-putting and wrong.
This has been one of the trickier topics to discuss in the past two years. Unlike your transparently villainous Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys, the perpetrators are everyday dudes: your friends, brothers, fathers, and maybe #YouToo. Early in 2018, a woman accused Aziz Ansari of pressuring her into sex, even though he never used force or threatened her in any way. Taken at face value, the (sloppily reported) story revealed the feminist-presenting Ansari to be not a criminal but rather a sex pest who wheedled, cajoled, and endlessly persisted in his efforts to move the ball across the goal line. In other words, he was a guy—somebody culturally groomed to believe that getting off is the prize that comes at the end of a date, whatever maneuvering it might take to get there.
When the Ansari story broke, a lot of outraged men wondered why his accuser hadn’t just left the apartment. How can a woman play the victim card after she engaged in sex of her own free will? About halfway through Bangin’, Glaser deftly provides an answer to this question, without announcing that this is what she’s doing. She launches into an extended riff on the myth of “blue balls,” and the sense of obligation women feel to help men in this condition. (The comedian Jaqueline Novak covers similar ground in her live show, Get On Your Knees, which will end its run in New York this week.)
It should go without saying that what follows is rather racy and will also spoil a few jokes from the special. If you’re offended by colorful language or spoilers, now would be a good time to bail.
Glaser begins by outlining the unspoken social contract of hooking up.
“If you make a guy hard, you have to see it through or you’re like a selfish c—,” the comic says. “Why did you make it hard if you’re not gonna do it? ‘If you build it, he must come.’ You know the rules.”
She then describes how men act wounded at the prospect of not getting their happy ending, as though an unattended erection were a debilitating ailment. She goes on to diagnose what the sensation they’re experiencing actually is: an internal tantrum of neediness.
“Pleeeease, I want to!” she moans, acting out childlike distress. “Mooooom! It’s not fair!”
So much for mighty seducers. In Glaser’s telling, the men who keep pushing for sexual gratification through soft coercion are desperate, pathetic creatures.
“I get it—I’ve not come before. Almost exclusively,” she says, laying the groundwork for what has historically been her response to this situation.
“So you just make guys come, because you just don’t want to hurt them,” she continues. “I don’t want them to be mad at me or feel bad or sad. So I’ll just . . . ‘Here, take a come.'”
This is the crux of the issue. Sometimes women just don’t want to have sex, and sometimes men refuse to respect women’s wishes on the matter. Most men probably don’t want to admit how many women whom they’ve successfully bedded were just going along with it to be . . . what, a good sport? It’s not a very flattering depiction, but it’s accurate. Without getting pedantic about it, Glaser demonstrates how women are conditioned to be sexually compliant, motivated by the fear of what will happen otherwise. Not the worst-case scenario, necessarily, the stuff of true crime podcasts, but rather the more typical range of reactions from men who feel unfairly scorned.
She describes the act of touching a date’s erect penis as akin to “inviting a vampire into your house,” something she now strenuously avoids doing unless it’s something she is 100% certain she wants to do.
“If you do touch it, you have to either do something about it or tell him you don’t want to do anything with it at this point, like, ‘I just don’t like you enough right now or I’m not comfortable,” she says. “That’s a hard conversation, and sometimes . . . I’m better at sucking dick than I am at sharing my true feelings.”
It’s a savage critique of masculinity, a reversal of the gender paradigm where women are emotional weaklings frequently caught in the steel trap of men’s logic. Glaser’s material suggests that lots of women logically use sex as a means of managing men’s emotions.
Rather than directly fighting to change the status quo of sexual politics, Glaser uses her comedy to mock it. Without ever once mentioning #MeToo, she makes men who act deeply wounded by the movement seem more like they’re just throwing a needy tantrum. Somebody call the whaambulance.