Is Sex in Shameless Really Shameless?


If you haven’t watched seasons 1-4 of Shameless, stop reading immediately. I will ruin everything for you.

While binge watching Shameless, I often think to myself, “why is there so much sex? Can’t they get their point across without the nudity and vigorous copulation?” Then it hit me: a big fat no.

Intercourse plays an enormous role in Shameless for many reasons. It’s not just to kill airtime, or for filler when there’s nothing else going on. It’s to represent a deeper side of each character.

For Frank, sex is a way to gain trust and empathy from other people. When he was living with Sheila, he gave into her erotic fixations in return for her affection, home cooked meals, hot water, and a key to her house. Despite Frank’s worries and terrors regarding Sheila’s ideas in the bedroom, he took it like a man (literally) because he knew what he’d get in return.

Frank can also be seen behaving the same way with Dotty, otherwise known as ‘Butter-face.’ Dotty is dying, and Frank knows that she has money to leave behind for her daughter. So, the sadistic alcoholic sees her impending death as an opportunity to marry her, so that she leaves the money behind for him. Dotty decides to ask Frank to sleep with her until her heart fails (it’s so hard to be mature right now), which it ultimately does, but not before she tells him where she has left money for him.

While Frank is usually the culprit, Karen took it upon herself to take advantage of a drugged-up Frank, all due to her many daddy issues. To seek revenge on her father for shaming her for her sexual engagements, Karen broadcasts herself essentially raping Frank on a live-webcam. She uses intercourse as a weapon to get a rise out of her father and his insulting and unsupportive behavior.

Then there’s Mickey Milkovich. Unable to openly admit his sexuality, Mickey acts as a lady-killer, but behind closed doors, he is heavily linked to Ian Gallagher. When Mickey’s father arrives home to discover the two in the nude, he calls a hooker over to engage in intercourse with his son. Ultimately, to get his father to believe he is straight, he proceeds to be intimate with the hooker right in front of his dad and a sad Ian.

On the other hand, Ian tends to surround his thoughts on Mickey. When he notices Mickey’s façade of being intimate with other women, Ian decides to fire back. He uses sex as a weapon, as he brags about Lloyd and the relationship they have formed. Mickey gets secretly upset about this, and ends up in a confliction with Lloyd.

As for Fiona, her and Jimmy-Steve always seem to be in a rush. In order to show that she never has time for herself, every intimate scene in her house is made to seem urgent and desperate. Right when she’s about to get things going, one of her many siblings calls out for help. Or, of course, Frank.

Essentially, Shameless doesn’t just throw sex around as a way to make their content rated X. There is reason behind the rigorous and explicit scenes that make the show a little more compelling, and often times, stomach churning (I’m talking to you Karen and Frank).