Let’s talk about Sex Criminals.
The premise is simple: a couple has sex, it stops time, and they rob banks. What a wonderful hook to bring in readers. People love time travel, crime, and sex. But what Sex Criminals gives us that we don’t often see in comic books and media is a realistic portrayal of female sexuality.
FYI: like the comic book, this column is going to be rated M today. Readers beware.
From the cover image, you can tell that the female protagonist, Suzy, will not be shying away from sex. With a whip in one hand and a gun in the other, Suzy storms into the comic book world as the First Lady of Masturbation. Fraction and Zdarsky introduce us to a woman who experienced confusion at a young age about sex (with no where to turn, I might add) and worked through most of her issues the same way young women have for decades: word of mouth. Specifically, from the most “experienced” teen girl in school. Rachel, member of the humorously titled Dirty Girls club, is the girl we’re all familiar with from our school days. Fraction writes her for what she is: a teenage girl who doesn’t have all the answers, but isn’t afraid to make them up as she goes.
Suzy is more than just a young woman in school learning about what sex is from the Dirty Girls club. We see her grow in just a few pages into a woman who cares about her local library. She’s not robbing banks for fun; she’s trying to keep the library open and available to the public. We’re all familiar with the sexy librarian stereotype, but Suzy is able to dodge that trope by being herself. Within one issue, Fraction and Zdarsky have done more for female sexuality and expression than most comics over seven decades.
We’ve seen women explore and demonstrate their sexuality in comic books. Think Starfire (but don’t think New 52 Red Hood and Outlaws; remember Perez’s run on Teen Titans?) and She-Hulk, two women who were interested in sex but not portrayed as sluts. There’s a fine line between writing women’s sexuality and men’s perception of women’s sexuality. Too often, we see female bodies contorted to accommodate the male gaze in the comic book. Women who enjoyed sex used it for manipulation. Sex Criminals, on the other hand, is a book that mature, intelligent readers will enjoy. I’m looking forward to reading more about Suzy and her mission to save her precious library.