I’m fresh off the sofa from watching the new (to the UK anyway) Big Bang Theory episode: The Opening Night Excitation. The characters Sheldon and Amy take a huge step in their relationship when Sheldon decides to give Amy the gift she has waiting patiently for, to have sex with her. This is a big moment in any relationship, but as both characters are virgins, it’s even more of a big deal. Sheldon and Amy’s relationship is possibly the slowest-moving on the show, as both characters begin a friendship based on a mutual dislike of human contact. However as Amy settles into the friendship group, she finds herself yearning for the level at which Penny and Bernadette have built their relationships up to. Bernadette is married and contemplating kids and Penny, despite some rocky moments, appears to be happily married too. Sheldon however has moved through the seasons of show, reluctant to change his opinion on the idea of physical contact. Regardless of whether you as a viewer think it would be plausable for Sheldon to take such a big step, he decides that he is ready.
The episode is based on a dualism comparing sex for Sheldon and Amy to seeing the new Star Wars film for Leonard, Howard and Raj. Both groups go through a stage being nervous about what would happen next and feeling afraid after realising they have built it up so much in their heads. But the end result is happy for both situations. Whilst the set up for the episode is being celebrated as sweet, funny and honest; there’s one part of the episode that I think people should be focusing on and celebrating even more.
Before they move to the bedroom, Amy tells Sheldon that she knows what his plans for the evening are. He asks her if it is okay and in response she flings herself towards him and kisses him. However instead of proceeding, Sheldon stops her and says that he needs to hear her verbally consenting. This is then followed by his thwarted attempts to try and make a contract for this new part of the relationship agreement. The important part is that Sheldon’s character has recognised a crucial step in the build up to having sex with someone for the first time: consent. Despite the fact that Sheldon’s character is notoriously inexperienced when it comes to the dynamics of relationships, even he knows and recognises that both people must consent to an act before it takes place.
This segment is short and forms part of the comedy of the episode, but makes a really important statement to the viewers. The Big Bang Theory has been celebrated for having characters that aren’t stereotypically cool, and making them so. Even the character of Penny who started as an image of the typical highschool ‘cool girl’ has developed into a character who recognises she has more to offer than just her looks. Many of the episodes have taught the importance of being honest and supportive in relationships, from friendships to marriage. In the light of increasing campaigns around awareness of consent and the complexities of sexual activity in the age of intimate technology, this episode serves as a really good example of the respect that should exist between two people entering an intimate relations. It will be really interesting to see the following episodes in relation to Sheldon and Amy’s new level of intimacy. Whether their relationship continues to move as slowly as before, or perhaps it will pick up speed following this momentous step. Regardless of where the storyline goes, I hope to see many more important moments of teaching like this one.