Sex scene experts help reshape Hollywood power dynamics in the #MeToo era

Los Angeles (AFP) – Since discoveries of sexual assault in Hollywood sparked the #MeToo movement five years ago, demand for “intimacy curators” has skyrocketed — but resistance, power imbalances, and fear of saying “no” to sex scenes are deeply rooted in the business world, according to experts say.

An emerging industry of professionals designing intimate scenes, providing equipment to protect actors’ privacy and discussing consent with filmmakers, has grown since the 2017 investigation into Harvey Weinstein forced a broader reckoning.

“It was an amazing difference, because when it was first introduced, there was a lot of resistance from the industry – from directors and some actors and producers,” said Claire Warden, New York intimate relations coordinator.

Warden estimates that about 60-80 experts are now working on groups, and she’s working with Intimacy Managers and Coordinators (IDC) to train more quickly.

“After years of screaming into the void and pushing as hard as we can in the industry to educate,” the industry began to listen, she said.

Prior to 2017, intimate relationship directors existed primarily in the theater, and were conspicuously absent in film and television, where actors were often isolated and relied on wardrobe sections to improvise basic “modest clothing” to cover their genitals in nude scenes.

One of the first major transformations came from HBO, which, in the wake of Weinstein’s allegations, brought an intimacy expert to the set of “The Deuce” – a candid show about the porn industry in 1970s New York.

Since then, the network has expanded its policy to require intimacy coordinators on all of its shows.

And in specialized equipment companies, all offers of strapless pants, padded bags, silicone “barriers”, as well as body straps of different skin tones are available.

In a recent interview with Variety, “Euphoria” star Sidney Sweeney, 25, said she “never felt uncomfortable” thanks to the constant presence of intimacy coordinators.

“It’s a very safe environment,” she said. “I’m very fortunate to have come during a time when there is a lot of thought in the process.”

“Even if you agree to something, they immediately ask you back in the day, ‘Did you change your mind? Because you can. “It’s really nice.”


Like Warden, others in the industry argue that progress on approval is long overdue, while recent events have shown that not everyone welcomes new roles.

In the same Variety interview, “Yellowjackets” actress Christina Ricci, 42, revealed that she once told a movie group that she wasn’t comfortable with an intimate scene, and “threatened to sue me if I didn’t.”

“It’s not that actors suddenly started talking in 2017…we’ve been talking for so long, just no one was listening,” Warden said.

“The industry has been actively trying to silence those voices.”

She said actors are often taught to disregard or compromise their right to consent, and that “no” is a “dangerous” word.

“We are conditioned … that you will be called a singer. And that you will not get jobs, and no one will work for you.”

Intimate relations coordinators also told AFP they were still overcoming fears that their presence might stifle creativity, or expose actors and crew to the dangers of “abolition of culture”.

“Because of Harvey Weinstein’s historical background, many people were afraid of being seen as predators,” said Jessica Steinrock, who gathered half a million followers to discuss the intimate coordinator’s work on TikTok.

Rather than serving as an arm of HR, intimate relationship coordinators are in place to reduce risk and improve performance in the same way a motion coordinator does.

“I think the exponential growth of the last few years has been painful for many but really rewarding overall,” Steinrock said.


Still, there are high-profile naysayers.

Earlier this year, actor Frank Langella was fired from Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher for allegedly unacceptable behavior on set, including sexual harassment of an actress.

In a column on Deadline, he criticized the intimacy coordinator’s instructions about where the actress could touch her leg during an intimate scene, calling them “ridiculous” and “ridiculous.”

“It undermines instinct and spontaneity,” he wrote.

But for Warden, reading this opening, “it is clear that his resistance does not come from a lack of understanding.”

“It comes from not wanting to consider the approval of others. It comes from a toxic sense of entitlement.”

Steinrock said intimate coordinators alone could not solve the kind of harassment explained by Weinstein, whose abuses generally did not occur on filming sets.

“The way we approach scenes of intimacy is going to have ripple effects in every other way, on how consensual we talk, how we prepare for things, how actors view their physical independence,” she said.

“But I think it’s important that we don’t treat intimate facilitators as a panacea for all the power, harassment, and abuse of power that has occurred in the entertainment industry over the past century.”

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