Katie Stevens on the candid sexuality of 'The Bold Type'

Season four of the Freeform show continues to tackle topics that are often considered taboo, even among close friends.
Katie Stevens in a scene from Season 4 of "The Bold Type."
Katie Stevens in a scene from Season 4 of "The Bold Type."Pantazidis Panagiotis / Freeform

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By Gwen Aviles

Changes are abound at Scarlett magazine, the publication at the center of Freeform's "The Bold Type," whose fourth season premiered last Thursday.

Jacqueline (Melora Hardin), the formidable editor-in-chief of the women's magazine abruptly disappeared at the end of the last season, and there's plenty of personal drama to accompany the professional turmoil among the show's characters.

Though the show focuses on three women in their twenties as they navigate a precarious and shifting industry, one thing hasn't changed: "The Bold Type's" dedication to tackling topics that often go undiscussed — even among the closest of friends.

"The show talks about sex and sexuality, which I think is important, because it's still a taboo subject and a lot of people are afraid to talk about sex," Katie Stevens, who plays Jane Sloan, a writer at Scarlett magazine, told NBC News. "Younger people shouldn't be afraid to discuss the experiences they're going through and yet there's still much shame attached to young women owning their sexuality."

"The Bold Type's" exploration of female sexuality was presented immediately. In the second episode of the series, Jane is assigned a story about sex, a task she feels uncomfortable with because she's never had an orgasm. According to Elisabeth Lloyd's "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution," only 25 percent of women can consistently achieve an orgasm through vaginal sex and an estimated 5 percent of women have never experienced an orgasm at all. The orgasm gap between men and women has been well-documented, but according to Stevens, television has yet to catch up with portraying the reality of sex for many women.

Aisha Dee and Katie Stevens in a scene from Season 4 of "The Bold Type."Jonathan Wenk / Freeform

"I think what Jane's experienced is actually really common for women, everything you see on TV makes it seem like it's such an easy thing to attain," Stevens, 27, said. "You watch things on TV and it's people having crazy sex and women achieving these crazy orgasms with a one night stand and it's just so unrealistic."

Stevens added that through playing Jane she's been able to show women who may be experiencing similar situations to Jane that they're "not alone" and that there's "nothing wrong with them."

"If you've never had an orgasm before, so what? There's tons of women who haven't either. So how do you get there by yourself or with a partner?" Stevens said.

In the fourth season of "The Bold Type," there will be an episode where Jane and her friends Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) discuss sex toys and sex clubs for this very reason.

Stevens said that playing Jane has not only given her the opportunity to present these conversations in "a sex-positive light" to a wider audience, but to understand how she may have internalized some of the stigma surrounding female sexuality.

"I wasn't afraid to talk about sex, but I felt like it was something that had to be very private and I didn't realize that it was a thing that could be spoken about so openly," Stevens said. "Being on the show has taught me to own my sexuality in a different way and to be empowered by my experiences and I think it's made me feel more sexy in my womanhood to be able to be more free in speaking about that."

More discussions about healthy sexual relationships aren't the sole storylines viewers should expect from season four, however. Stevens also said that fans will get to finally meet Jane's family, who have been mentioned cursorily, but were never introduced.

The storyline builds off what viewers already know about Jane's background. Namely, that her mother died of breast cancer when she was young, inspiring Jane to turn towards women's magazines like Scarlett for the conversations about womenhood she never got to have with her mom. The introduction to Jane's family also comes as Jane starts to seriously think about the steps she needs to take to have a family of her own one day because she tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation, which places her at a greater risk for developing breast cancer.

For Stevens, the storyline about BRCA is personal as her husband's mother died of breast cancer when he was a child.

"I've obviously heard a lot about his experience growing up and without them even knowing that was so close to me they had written this story," she said.

Other season four storylines to watch out for include the fallout of Scarlett magazine's axing their print version, as many publications have done in recent years, as well as Kat's journey accepting her sexuality.

Meghann Fahy in a scene from Season 4 of "The Bold Type."Sebastien Raymond / Freeform

"It's great to be a part of a show where we're playing such confident women in their twenties that are unafraid to ask for the things they want out of life," Stevens said. "I think that's one thing that Jane and the other female characters on the show have taught me is to go after what you want because the worst that somebody can say is no, and there's empowerment to using your voice and speaking up for what you believe you want."

Stevens began her career on "American Idol," where she finished in 8th place on the show's 9th season in 2010. She then starred in the MTV show "Faking It," before undertaking the role of Jane in "The Bold Type" in 2017. The latest season of "The Bold Type" airs Thursdays on Freeform at 9 p.m. ET.