Broad City Helps Us Come Back
Broad City’s “Witches” is everything I need right now, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s what a lot of us need right now. In this Season 4 episode of Broad City, Ilana visits a sex therapist, Betty, because she can’t cum. I should say this now: get used to the word “cum,” because it’s going to be used a lot in this piece.
When Ilana first arrives at Betty’s, she’s reluctant to admit that this problem is hers. Instead, she tries to convince Betty that Abbi is the one having the problem. She explains, “She hasn’t orgasmed in months, and she’s too embarrassed to come…here to see you. I just wanna help her be a cum queen like her best friend, me, is.” Betty clearly knows that Ilana came (no pun intended) for herself, but she doesn’t push her to admit it.
So why can’t Ilana cum? I’m glad you asked. Finding the answer to this question is the next part of her session. Sitting on the floor, pants-less, holding a mirror so she can look at her vulva, Betty instructs Ilana to name her vulva (Ilana chooses to name it “Abbi”), and tell it how she’s feeling. After Ilana’s initial bout of anger and frustration aimed at “stubborn” Abbi, Betty urges her to go deeper. Ilana looks into the mirror and says, “Abbi, I know it’s not you, it’s me. I increased my dosage of anti-depressants, and I’ve also just been more anxious and depressed this whole disgusting, gross year. And now I have dead pussy.”
This struck a chord. Without an explicit reference, Ilana speaks to a yet-to-be-named but very present phenomenon that’s arisen since Donald Trump’s election: people experiencing things like increased anxiety, feelings of depression, a sense of cynicism, and fear. For Ilana, this has manifested in an inability to reach orgasm. While I don’t doubt that orgasms have been down since last November, I also think that the “orgasm” in this episode refers to something bigger. An orgasm is a moment of release, relief, and joy—something that’s difficult for many of us to achieve in this current political climate. Often it feels impossible to be truly carefree or joyful.
When Ilana realizes that Trump is to blame for what Betty calls “pussy constipation,” she exclaims, “Oh my god, I haven’t cum since the election! And cum is a lot of who I am. I’m a cum queen.” As a cum queen who can’t cum, Ilana is speaking for a lot of us who haven’t been feeling like ourselves. Maybe you’re an optimist who’s having trouble feeling optimistic, or a religious person who’s lost their sense of faith, or an activist who’s burned out and starting to wonder if it’s worth it to keep fighting … you get it. It’s infuriating to think that someone as vile and base as Trump has the ability to negatively impact our very identities, but it’s hard to deny that this is happening.
The next step is for Ilana to, vibrator in hand, try and achieve orgasm. Betty advises, “Orgasms are a journey. They start in your mind. You’re traumatized by the fact that a sexual assault-bragging-steak salesman has become our President, but you need to find a way to rise above that in spite of him.” Ilana replies, “Fuck you Trump! I’m going back in.”
What happens next truly had me on the edge of my seat. While masturbating, Ilana starts to see images in her mind, but not just any images; no, she starts to see image after image of powerful women: Michelle Obama, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Beyonce, Malala, Elizabeth Warren, Betty Friedan, Serena Williams, Rosa Parks, and more. The montage ends with Ilana finally, and gloriously, achieving orgasm.
When recounting her experience to Abbi later (real Abbi, not vulva Abbi), Ilana says, “[Betty] tapped me into this ferocious female current that is just constantly zip-zap-zoppin around the universe at the speed of light! It was just the most incredible thing. I saw shit, man…witches, who run the world, and witches aren’t monsters they’re just women … who cum and giggle and play in the night.”
What finally allowed Ilana to cum? POWERFUL. WOMEN’S. STORIES.
These witches didn’t simply lead Ilana to orgasm—they inspired her, they gave her hope, and perhaps most importantly, they made her feel like herself again.
So, next time you’re feeling anxious, hopeless, or frustrated, harness the power of the witches to help get you through your malaise, Trump-induced or otherwise. (I recommend browsing Jewish Women’s Archive to help get you started.) These women haven’t sacrificed so much and fought tooth and nail for everything they achieved for us to just give up. They are here for us, and they show us that anything is possible. And with their help, we can all be cum queens again.
How to cite this page
Klebe, Larisa. "Broad City Helps Us Come Back." 6 November 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/broad-city-helps-us-come-back>.
Wowza. Great read. Great message.
Shabbat Shalom to all the powerful women making sh*t happen. Like this author. Getting the word out there in style.