If one thing is for certain, streaming services have been the one thing keeping most of us going throughout the never-ending lockdowns. The UK’s first lockdown saw the introduction of the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s beloved novel Normal People to raving critic reviews. At Christmas, no one could have expected the absolute bombshell which was that of the popularity of Shondaland’s adaptation of the Bridgerton book series. While I flat out refused to watch Normal People with my parents, as I was forewarned about the copious amounts of sex involved in the viewing, I was already 4 episodes deep into Bridgerton before my friend erratically messaged me to warn me not to watch it with my parents. It is safe to say that episode 6 was skipped through almost in its entirety. Netflix’s show Sex Education is becoming a particular cult classic for both Millenials and ‘Zoomers’ alike and a third season is in production. The heaping amounts of positive reviews these TV shows have been awarded hasn’t been for no reason, the sex scenes in particular have received very high levels of praise. Something these productions are doing seem to be hitting the nail on the head.
The intimate scenes in all 3 of these recent TV shows have had intimacy coordinators, which has become a requirement from the Screen Actors’ Guild following the #metoo movement. They help the actors feel comfortable and natural when filming those oh so awkward scenes and their work really seems to pay off. Viewers are loving the natural, realistic and honest portrayals of the otherwise fairly uncomfortable scenes, and in the case of Sex Education, the open discussion of sexual problems, consent, sexuality and body image has brought a fresh perspective to the everyday viewing experience. The increase in TV shows with diverse characters with different body types, skin colours, disabilities and sexualities in normal intimate situations has been praised and it could mean that people are finding more characters they relate to.
As the requirement of having an on-set intimacy coordinator is fairly new, it comes as no surprise that one of Hollywood’s biggest names has sworn off sex scenes in films directed by men. On a recent Chanel connects podcast, in an interview with director Lulu Wang and writer-producer Diane Solway, Keira Knightley cited the ‘Male Gaze’ as the reason why she feels uncomfortable in nude scenes directed by men. She said that she was fed up with standing ‘in front of a group of men naked’. She also stressed that the male sexual experience is ‘so explored’ in many forms of media and hinted at a lack of a similar exploration of female sexuality. The new Screen Actors’ Guild legislation should help actors like Knightley gain back some of their sexual autonomy when they are part of an intimate scene on set.
When the actors are comfortable and feel safe on sets during intimate scenes, so does the audience and the recent popularity of the TV shows who use these intimacy coordinators backs up this claim. We can hope for a new wave of film and TV, full of realistic, safe, relateable and consensual relationships-they will probably be no less awkward to watch with mum though! As the old adage says, consent is sexy, both on-screen and off.