Outlander: “The Wedding”

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Outlander: “The Wedding”

The female gaze for days

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Caitriona Balfe (Starz)
Caitriona Balfe (Starz)
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Outlander

"The Wedding"

Season 1 , Episode 7

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It’d be easy to call OutlanderGame of Thrones for ladies,” but such a description would be reductive and insulting to the people who make and watch the show. Outlander is for anyone, and gender-specific television isn’t a thing—or, rather, is only made to be a thing because of socially constructed assumptions about gender. But I do think it’s fair to say Outlander is “for women” in the sense that it gives women something most prestige dramas don’t: the right to look. The show—through its writing and direction—privileges the (heterosexual) female gaze in a way television doesn’t often allow for. And this week’s episode makes that explicitly apparent with what are some of the sexiest scenes of television this summer.

When Daenerys watches Daario take off his clothes in season four of Games of Thrones, it feels significant. It’s an obvious departure from the show’s sex scenes, which cater to heterosexual males, employing everything from camera angles to character positions to reinforce control and pleasure. Daenerys’s brief moment as the voyeur in “Mockingbird” grants straight women with access to that same sense of control and arousal. But like I said, it’s fleeting. One tiny moment among a sea of GOT scenes in which women are objectified and exploited—not only by the male characters, but by the camera and direction, which marginalizes female viewers. Female viewers, much like queer viewers, often have to hunt a lot harder for erotic pleasure than straight male viewers do.

Outlander, on the other hand, gives women something to be excited about. This is a series that began with an entirely woman-controlled oral sex scene (lest you ever forget about cunnilingus in a castle). And now, in this very hyped wedding episode, we get even more where that came from.

On their wedding night, Claire nervously drinks and distracts Jamie from the awkwardness of their speedy betrothal and all the weighty expectations it comes with by asking him to tell her about their family. At first, it looks like Claire is nervous because she doesn’t want to go through with consummating the marriage. But as the scene progresses, it becomes clear that Claire definitely wants this, that the intense chemistry that has built between the characters since they first met is very real. She’s only nervous because she feels guilty about her own desires.

“It’s my turn,” Claire says after Jamie starts to undress her, and just like that she becomes an active player in the eroticism and not just an object things are done to. After, Jamie—all starry eyed and puppy-like—asks if she liked it. Claire hesitates, and Jamie takes it as a no, remarking that the other clansmen told him women don’t care much for sex.

But Claire did like it. Because she’s a human woman with human desires, something that the men of the Scottish highlands don’t seem to understand, but also something television doesn’t always understand. The aggressive male gaze of Game of Thrones—and Mad Men and True Detective and House of Cards and even True Blood—stems from the misguided assumption that women don’t seek sexual thrills from television. And it all goes back to the patriarchy telling women they shouldn’t want sex too much.

Outlander critiques that, allowing Claire to explore her own sexual fantasies. Later in the episode, she asks Jamie to undress. It reminisces of that Daenerys-Daario scene, but Outlander lets Claire linger even longer. She circles Jamie slowly, and the camera follows, adopting the perspective of the female viewer. It’s one of the most blatant manifestations of the female gaze I’ve seen on television in a while. Outlander sexually empowers Claire, and because of the way the series positions us to intimately experience everything Claire experiences, it also invites viewers into the irresistible erotica. Only with Outlander, it’s not just the straight dudes who get the invite.

Stray observations:

  • It was worth the wait!
  • Yes, other stuff besides sex happens. But honestly, that other stuff feels like filler.
  • Did anyone else hate Jamie’s slicked back bangs as much as I did?
  • Dougal, STOP.
  • In the first sex scene, it was so hilariously obvious that this was Jamie’s first time. From his complete bewilderment at what to do with his hands to the fact that he lasted approximately 90 seconds, it was cringe-worthy and perfect.
  • That being said, the vast improvements Jamie makes for round two are quite impressive.
  • Do combination whorehouse-wedding dress stores still exist? Let me know.
  • The overlit wedding scene was ridiculously cheesy, but I will forgive it because Claire looked amazing.
  • “Does it happen every time?” - Jamie, on orgasms. Oh, you adorable, sweet little naive boy.
  • Jamie’s blowjob face.
  • “Is there anymore whiskey?” - Claire, asking the same question I always ask