02 20 20 — Culture
Performance anxiety can be painfully real—just add in a camera crew or a sold-out audience and hiding under the sheets feels more natural than ruffling them up. So now, there’s an extra set of hands helping out, and making sex scenes as seamless and safe as they are sexy. Intimacy coordinators (also called intimacy directors in theater) are teaching the art of boundaries—and proving that they’re a thing of beauty indeed.
According to the New York Times, there are at least 45 intimacy coordinators working across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.—you’ll find them on sets for TV shows like Euphoria and Mrs. Fletcher and stage productions like Jeremy O. Harris’s acclaimed Slave Play. Their job is to make sure all actors are comfortable and to choreograph and direct all kinds of intimate interactions—from simple kisses to simulated sex. Previously, this task fell to directors (who may not have offered much advice beyond “just go for it!”) and hair, costume, and makeup designers, who offered modesty garments and stood with robes at the ready for in-between takes. The extra level of planning that intimacy coordinators offer is a good thing: That way, no one’s stressed about where to put their hands (cue the awkward yet adorably polite porn scene from Love, Actually).
And the result is anything but vanilla. “What I'm doing is giving a shape, a pure form; there is agreement and consent to touch and there's a clear shape to the physical journey,” Sex Education’s intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien told The Hollywood Reporter. In this show, sex ed happens both on and off-screen, as actress Aimee Lou Wood adds that O’Brien’s coaching helped her to push aside her hangups and push deeper into her character’s desire.
Intimacy coaches may be a fairly recent phenomenon—fight choreographer Tonia Sina started developing a set of intimacy protocols about 14 years ago, and founded Intimacy Directors International in 2015 alongside Siobhan Richardson and Alicia Rodis—but as their presence grows backstage and behind the scenes, one thing’s certain: Planning makes perfect and those quickies you see are anything but quick.