When it comes to sexual content, intimacy coordinators should be the norm

By Riley Dauber

Opinion Editor

Sexual content in television shows and movies has increased recently thanks to the variety of streaming platforms that allow creators and producers to “push the envelope” with what they can show on-screen.

However, in a post-#MeToo Hollywood, it is important to ensure that actors and crew members feel safe on-set.

Thanks to the role of an intimacy coordinator, the romantic and sexual scenes are much safer and more developed than they once were.

According to a W Magazine article by Emily Maskell, intimacy coordinators were originally utilized in theater around 2017. Now they are becoming a core role on television and movie sets to keep cast and crew members safe and comfortable.

The importance of intimacy coordinators was first recognized and discussed with the release of the Netflix original series “Bridgerton,” based on the Regency-era romance novel series of the same name by Julia Quinn.

Intimacy coordinator Elizabeth Talbot worked closely with the show’s cast and crew to guarantee that everyone felt comfortable with the romantic and sexual scenes in the show, according to Maskell.

“On set, Talbot’s role is nuanced, but the focus remains on ensuring the actions performed in front of the camera are consensual. After extracting intimate scenes from the scripts, she holds creative vision chats with each director and the cast prior to filming to discuss how she can support them,” Maskell said.

Talbot would not just handle the sex scenes in the show; she also focused on romantic and platonic scenes, as well as any scenes with nudity, like “bathing or birthing scenes,” according to a Today article by Maddie Ellis.

“Whenever you know that there is harm being done to actors, it pulls you out of the story,” Talbot said. “When you are watching a simulated sex scene and you know the actors had fun, and they really enjoyed doing it, and everyone was working as a team, you can really lose yourself in them so much more.”

Keeping actors comfortable during intimate scenes not only guarantees their safety and success, but keeps the audience engaged while watching the show.

Additionally, the new “Game of Thrones” spin-off show “House of the Dragon” shows the importance of an intimacy coordinator when it comes to the show’s content.

Actress Emily Carey, who was only seventeen when cast in the role of Alicent Hightower, recently opened up about how nervous she was auditioning for the show, given how notorious “Game of Thrones” was for its violent scenes against women.

According to Jezebel, Carey said, “We have an intimacy coordinator who was amazing. The first scene that I read from the show was my sex scene and my intimacy scenes, that includes the scene where I’m bathing the king – anything that feels intimate was considered an intimacy scene, which I thought was great.”

Having an intimacy coordinator, as well as female writers and directors, led to conversations about how the scenes should be acted and shot, according to Carey.

“Because of the coordinator, Carey said filming her intimate scenes ‘was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,’ and created an ‘open dialogue’ where she felt free to ‘talk everything through,’” according to Jezebel.

While the number of intimacy coordinators in Hollywood are increasing, some actors disagree about their importance. For example, “Game of Thrones” actor Sean Penn stated in Aug. that he believes they take away from the “spontaneity” of sex scenes, according to Jezebel.

Actresses like Emma Thompson and Rachel Zegler fortunately spoke up about the importance of intimacy coordinators on set, speaking from personal experiences about how it made them feel more comfortable.

“I was extremely grateful for the [intimacy coordinator] we had on ‘West Side Story’ – they showed grace to a newcomer like myself and educated those around me who’ve had years of experience,” Zegler tweeted.

Although many actors who have recently spoken up have been women, pop star Harry Styles, who has two movies coming out this year, also talked about intimacy coordinators in a recent GQ interview.

His most recent film, “Don’t Worry Darling,” did not have an intimacy coordinator, despite two sex scenes toward the beginning of the film. Intimacy coordinator Ben Wright worked on the other film, “My Policeman.”

“If you remember that the most important thing on the set is the two human beings doing it. If at any point either one of you is uncomfortable, I think having the conversation where it’s like, ‘It doesn’t matter if they’re getting great stuff, if you don’t feel good, you tell me and we’ll stop,’” Styles said.

The inclusion of intimacy coordinators on set proves that safety and open conversations are becoming a norm in Hollywood. Seeing the care put into an intimate scene and knowing that the actors were enjoying themselves in a safe environment also provides for an enjoyable viewing experience.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Actor Sean Penn recently stated that intimacy coordinators ruin the “spontaneity” of sex scenes on TV, leading many actresses and coordinators to speak up about the importance of keeping actors safe on-set.

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