Critics were quick to praise HBO’s Big Little Lies when it premiered earlier this year in February, but for anyone who hadn’t read the book or doesn’t subscribe to HBOGo (what’s wrong with you?), the show seemed innocuous at best. Despite at its core being a commentary on sexual politics, Big Little Lies’s marketing campaign revealed little of its plot; instead the show’s trailers relied on revealing two Oscar-winning A-listers, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, in their roles as two suffering, rich, white women who live on the beach—material that is by no means relatable in a time of economic disparity, when wealth and power polarizes more than it inspires. The filmmakers also peddled a behind-the-scenes narrative that the series was really, really difficult to make, because woman made it. (Kidman and Witherspoon both served as executive producers; Liane Moriarty, author of the book from which the series was adapted, maintains a writing credit.) The show’s two big male leads, the bruting Aleksander Skaarsgard, fresh off tumbling shirtless in 2016’s The Legend of Tarzan, and the squirmy Adam Scott, were positioned as bit players early on, underlining the fact that Big Little Lies was, through and through, a female operation.

Historically, such messaging has rarely built toward massive success on television, save for say Girls–another HBO joint. Indeed, it would have been easier to exploit the show’s actual premise for increased viewership; Big Little Lies is a sexually charged murder-mystery dripping in melodrama. But week by week, as its high-tension plot unfolded, the drama shattered expectations and left massive craters of discussion on social media. Over the show’s seven-episode arc, casual viewers became die-hard proselytizers, trumpeting everything from the series’ soundtrack to its snappy one-liners to its message about aging, autonomy and desire. The show about rich, suffering women became an overnight success in a time when streaming and excess permits few shows from maintaining a foothold in the zeitgeist.

Today, Big Little Lies received 16 Emmy nominations. It’s a huge feat, although that figure trails behind HBO’s sci-fi behemoth Westworld, whose Jonathan Nolan-directed pilot cost the studio $25 million. The success of Westworld will be long-term: it has the benefit of a second season (debuting in 2018), higher production budgets and crossover appeal with Game of Throne’s nerdy fanbase. But Big Little Lies will be the show that metastasizes a revolution in TV, leaving a bigger imprint on the medium than any other show of the past year—yes, even Stranger Things. And yes, that’s definitely because it’s a show about sex.

Pleasure has never existed in a vacuum; television shouldn’t pretend it does.

Though sexuality pumps as the impulse of characters in both Westworld and Big Little Lies, each show handles it is vastly differently. On Westworld, sex is a reward, transactional and represents escapism; on Big Little Lies, sex is a prison. The same can be said for how it’s represented on The Handmaid’s Tale, another dark, intriguing drama, this time from Hulu, which received 13 Emmy nominations. The critical and social successes of Big Little Lies and Handmaid’s Tale have suggested an uncomfortable reality: in 2017, we’re willing to accept that sex doesn’t just exist as a vehicle for, and of, men’s pleasure, as so often depicted in blockbusters. (Blockbuster nominee Westworld itself served as a clever critique of sex-as-male-pleasure, as well.)

That reality is no doubt informed and fueled by our current state of politics and deeper down, just how severely pleasure has become politicized. Our country largely ignores the whistleblowing and protests of sexual assault victims, denies access to contraceptives and pins third-wave feminists against fourth-wave feminists, causing many to believe that gender equality is a lost cause. The Washington Post’s recently adopted slug, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” exemplifies our greater paranoia of a breaking system. That pessimism may explain why today’s most-talked-about shows today aren’t sexy but fantastical or darkly prescient. On the one side you have Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and Westworld. On the other, you have Blackish, Veep, House of Cards and Black Mirror.

This is why the success of Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale is as subversive as it is fresh. These programs have forced us to ingest honest depictions of sexual politics in a time when the traditional human relationships are, for the first time in decades, being overhauled by everything from non-monogamy to restrictive health care to the nebulous definition of consent. Pleasure has never existed in a vacuum; television shouldn’t pretend it does.

This changing tide is a result of Hollywood–at least the televised version of Hollywood–finally allowing women to dictate stories about the harsh, albeit real, underbelly of human sexual desire in modern America versus relegating them to the genres of comedy or science fiction. Not only that, but these stories are now watched, celebrated and rewarded equally among male-driven narratives about lawyers (Better Call Saul), murderers (Fargo) and rappers (Atlanta). To note, half of the Emmy-nominated directors in this year’s drama category are women. Every woman nominated in the Best Actress, Limited series category is over the age of 40, and eleven nominated actresses are women of color. This isn’t just representative of a tip in a greater number of women, or women of color, or older women being employed. It’s a celebration of previously unexplored narratives.

This is a celebration of previously unexplored narratives.

It seems to almost be a requirement that when an actress wins gold at the Oscars, she mouths a stump speech congratulating filmmakers for all the great roles they create for women. The axiom that television offers second-tier value as entertainment versus film has been challenged for years, thanks to networks like Netflix and HBO and film actresses like Viola Davis, Claire Danes, Robin Wright Penn, Kidman and Witherspoon crossing over. No doubt, if more women take the lead both behind and in front of the camera on stories about sex, the entire system will blow up. Therein lie the seedlings of TV’s impending female sexual revolution. Let it rain.