The Sex Lives of College Girls Recap: A Massive Win for Straight Sex

The Sex Lives of College Girls

Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 3 stars

The Sex Lives of College Girls

Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 3 stars
Photo: HBO Max

Being involved in Greek life as a woman makes you attuned to being alive in the way only a few places are capable of. You might feel hyper-aware of your body, your mind on high alert for stray hands and passed drinks you never saw being poured. The rest of your senses get smothered by the teenage bullshit around you — the suction cup stick of the floors, the head-size hairball in your shower drain, and the fact that everything smells just a little bit too much like piss. Just a liiiittle too much piss.

It’s like being in a fish bowl, and you’re the prized plump goldfish. Sorority girls know this better than others, and in this episode, which has our girls challenging and submitting to the various men that try to rule them, Leighton gets a bitter taste of why that is. Comedy ensues.

It’s rush season at Essex College, and both Leighton and Whitney get slipped an invite to the Kappa Beta Rho “pre-rush brunch.” Kimberly dismisses Greek life as exclusive spaces that promote “woman on woman warfare,” but really, she’s just grumbly that she didn’t get an invitation herself, and Bela, also left out, commiserates. Leighton is shocked that Whitney will be brunching with the Kappa girls because Whitney “wears sneakers with dresses” and not a TJ Maxx cardigan that says “I AM FROM NEW YORK” on the sleeves like her. I guess Leighton has never had brunch in Bushwick.

But let’s pause here. I have questions. Is Kappa the only sorority at Essex College? Why did all four roommates with very different personalities (and pockets — there’s no way Kimberly can afford sorority dues) hope to rush the same sorority? Does Kimberly know not attending one pre-rush event won’t disqualify you from actually rushing? Of course, I don’t expect any show to be 100% accurate to real life, but this one could at least make jokes about college that demonstrate it knows how college works.

In any case, Whitney and Leighton go to brunch, Leighton makes more aggressive comments about sneakers, and, as expected, the sorority is mostly populated by blonde white women wearing knee-length florals from The Pants Store. Whitney rightfully calls the whole thing “Get Out shit,” but I am somewhat surprised at her naivety at what a New England sorority looks like. Especially since she’s a senator’s daughter — isn’t she used to seeing that many Ella Emhoff’s in one place?

She has a horrible time schmoozing with the Kappa sisters that drool over her. There’s a two-minute bit about everyone in the sorority being named “Ashley,” which is famously my name. Whitney talks to an Ashlee, an Ashleigh, an Ashleye, and finally, an Ashlie, and looks like she’s about to puke a physical copy of Ashlee Simpson’s 2004 album Autobiography, or, even better, a link to a The Daily Mail article about Ashley Olsen’s Lyme disease. What can I say? We were all born in the ’90s.

The sisters complement Whitney’s infamous sneakers that I assume are Yeezys made out of ground Cheetos or something else like that on the brink of culture and technology. Thoroughly Ashley-ed out, Whitney leaves early to catch the soccer team’s bus to an away game, leaving the embarrassingly earnest Leighton to fend for herself. This brunch is our first time seeing Leighton express explicitly positive emotions: excitement and uncomplicated desire. Maybe her body isn’t used to it, and that’s why she goes a little overboard with the sisters, desperately willing them to like her and failing.

The sister she looks up to the most, um, “Quinn Canon” (let’s rename her to Ashley Ashlerson), pulls her aside to tell her that. Quinn also discloses that Nutrigrain Nico’s frat brother that gave him COVID (COVID namedrop!), Colby Strong’s Cory, has a huge straight crush on Leighton, who then depressingly pretends to have a huge straight crush on him to get the sorority sisters to like her. By forcing herself to have sex with a random, COVID-spewing frat brother. Is he even vaccinated?

Honestly, I found the whole thing hard to watch. It was bound to happen since Leighton’s so far deep in the closet she’s about to become a lost sock, but still, it does not feel good to see Leighton betray herself and her body.

Dalton and Whitney’s continued romp similarly makes my tummy gurgle, mainly because I feel like the show wants us to think it’s cute. The two share a yucky little steamy kiss in the bushes before Dalton gets excited about “all the hot hotel sex” he plans to have with Whitney during their away game. Whitney, bless her heart, is still completely convinced that Dalton will leave his wife, who he is not going to leave. The show then tries really hard to convince us that Dalton is desirable.

When he stands up in front of the soccer team on the bus to tell them to adhere to their curfew (unless it’s to have hot hotel sex with him), a few girls call him — hold on, I’m swallowing my acid reflux — “daddy,” tell him to take his shirt off, and ask him why he’s “so fine.” He tells them that he’s not their — sorry, there’s that reflux again — “sexy daddy” but their coach, who deserves respect. What we’re looking at here, folks, is just your regular “sexual harassment disguised as a joke because it’s happening to a man,” but with the complicated additional layer of “the man in question is also using his power to prey on a teen girl” and “we’re supposed to think this whole thing is hot.” Just smile and keep walking. Maybe it won’t hurt us.

Whitney accidentally ends up spilling the beans about her affair to teammate Willow (Renika Williams) by scrolling too far and showing Willow a shirtless Dalton pic she had saved to her camera roll. She tries to defend herself by crying, “I can’t help myself! I think I, like, love him!” Whitney, don’t try that shit with me. On the other hand, Willow is a disconcertingly supportive friend, assuring Whitney that she won’t spread her secret and encouraging her to have “gross straight sex” with their coach. If nothing else, this episode is a massive win for straight sex.

While everyone does missionary, Bela and Kimberly spend the episode preparing for and then attending a Catullan alumni event where Bela hopes to convince a fictional comedy god to be her mentor. Unfortunately, like many men in comedy, he turns out to be a misogynist and a racist and gets Bela’s hopes up by calling her funny, only to use her as the butt of his alumni speech jokes. He says that “people like her are the future of comedy,” but only because she’d be able to sell a TV show “about a quirky ethnic woman trying to balance her love life and her career.” Okay, Woody Allen, just rewatch New Girl if you want a show about a quirky white woman.

Bela is devastated that her idol would so publicly humiliate her (not to mention, in such a lazy, deeply unfunny way), but, putting aside all the self-deprecation of previous episodes, she’s completely confident in humiliating him right back. She calls him an asshole, funny like a “toxic podcast,” and, just to make things really clear, instructs him to eat shit. Sex Lives can certainly be shallow in its interpretation of feminism, but sometimes you just want to enjoy a girl telling an old guy to eat shit, and this was certainly a satisfying moment.

Kimberly is mostly just along for the Catullan ride this episode, and we don’t get much of her. She does, however, buy an expensive LBD at Bela’s urging with the intention of returning it, only to rip the tag right off when Nico leaves this comment on her Instagram: “That dress tho. 😳” God. Who let him out of the Guys Who Love NFTs Of Animals Vaping Weed convention early? Put him back and take away his phone. She did look great in that dress, though.

Each girl begins to show more of her emotional core in this episode, although much of it seems to be made up of bad men and the girls’ developing relationships with them, except in the case of Kimberly and Nico, of course, who will probably grow up to own land and a muesli cabinet in Idaho. He’s a muesli man. Let’s keep the feelings coming.

The Sex Lives of College Girls Recap