We could all learn something from Sex, love and goop

Gwyneth Paltrow helps real world couples overcome sexual issues with some out-there methods

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Hello, I’m Jared Richards and this, I’m sad to say, is my last Netflix Pause. Wipe your tears: from next Tuesday, you’ll be in the more than capable hands of Joseph Lew, Netflix ANZ’s new Culture Editor, whose words you might have read at Vice, Fashion Journal, and T - The New York Times Style Magazine. Be sure to subscribe to Netflix Pause, if you haven’t already.

Given our conscious uncoupling, I couldn’t ask for a better swansong than writing about Sex, love & goop, the new five-part series from Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness empire, which sees a bunch of real-life couples navigate their sexual disconnects with help from experts. 

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Sex, love & goop

Early into Sex, love & goop, mononymous sexologist Jaiya tells one of the show’s participants Damon that it’s ‘totally normal’ if he gets an erection during the next part of their workshop. He’s in his underwear, and about to lay down on a massage table, as Jaiya teaches Damon’s wife Erika ways of communicating with his ‘erotic blueprint’, which is sensual touch. There’s more than a little bit of apprehension on his face: he doesn’t say it, but it’s clear he’s thinking that he doesn’t want to get a hard-on while filming a Netflix show.

Hats off to the couples in Sex, love & goop who, despite agreeing to sex workshops in front of a global audience, otherwise seem like completely normal people. That’s kind of the whole thing about the show: despite the goop of it all (and trust me, there are a lot of new-age concepts thrown around), the series is here to prove that sexual problems are normal, and come in all shapes and sizes. 

There’s a 30-something couple who realise they’re sexually incompatible but are otherwise happy; 60-year-olds who have been married for decades but missing a sexual spark; lesbians who are sexually honest and open with each other, but seem to have barriers they can’t unpack. It’s a lot to reveal to the world – especially while pretending to be a dog and sniffing your wife’s butt, or practicing a sexy strut before straddling your husband. 

We don’t see Damon’s erection, but we do see his whole body convulse as various fabrics and materials are draped over his skin: he cries in pleasure. It’s a lot to take in, as is Jaiya’s later sexual demonstration with her own partner, which reminds me of something Kath & Kim’s new-age counsellor Marion might do. 

The methods are ‘unusual’, sure, and they’re definitely not for everyone, but the destination –connection and communication – is universal. If Sex Education and Big Mouth have moved the needle on awkward conversations around sex and puberty, then this series continues to push our boundaries even more, as we watch real couples who love each other enough to confront their sexual demons in front of a crowd. It’s not just teenagers who need help navigating sex: relationships remain complicated.

Gwyneth might be the initial draw, but it’s the couples’ growth across the series that really takes centre-stage. While she’s still prominent, popping in for debriefings with the sexperts and a round-table with the couples, Gwyneth knows that Sex, love & goop isn’t really about her. If anything, the show might be one of the most grounded goop products she’s ever released.

Sex, love & goop is now streaming.

Watch these too:

  • The goop lab with Gwyneth Paltrow, a six-part series exploring unconventional wellness trends and methods, from psychedelic drugs to energy healing and anti-aging. Its episode on female sexuality is a highlight, as 90-year-old sex educator Betty Dodson clears up common misconstructions about vulvas.

  • Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo and Tidying Up, two series that see Japanese organisational wiz Marie Kondo help everyday people sort through their possessions and physical mess. Meditative, funny, and life-changing for many.

  • Queer Eye, if you’re eager for more transformations. The fab five have travelled across the US, Japan, and NSW’s Yass, to change people’s habits, decor, and wardrobes to help them embrace their best selves. Heart-warming, wholesome, and filled with avocado recipes.

  • Cooking With Paris, as a way to ensure you’re sliving (a portmanteau of ‘slaying’ and ‘living’) your best life in the kitchen. Each episode, Paris Hilton invites her friends and family over to cook a feast, with guests including Demi Lovato, Kim Kardashian West, and Kathy Hilton.

  • Down to Earth with Zac Efron, where Troy Thee Bolton travels the globe to learn more about sustainable living and eco-practices across different cultures and communities. (And Season 2, coming next year, was filmed entirely in Australia.)

The internet can’t stop talking about:

  • Shalita Grant, who steals the show as mum-influencer Sherry in S3 of You. This Refinery29 interview with Grant is excellent (and spoiler-filled, FYI), as she describes the process of adding depth to what could have been a one-dimensional mean girl. Then again, she does admit “I had a really good time being horrible because I’m not like that in my life. Women are not allowed to be mean.” Victoria Pedretti, who plays Love, is getting her dues, too.

  • Adele, who has returned with ‘Easy On Me’, her first new song since 2015. She reunited with Quebecois wonder-twink director Xavier Dolan for the music video, but don’t sleep on her video with British Vogue where she blind-tastes classic British dishes. Adele screaming over ‘British bacon’ is culture.

  • Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, who, not to be shown up by the other ‘hot girl, emo guy’ power couple of the moment, got engaged on a beach this week (with a $1M(USD) ring, no less). I’m happy for the She’s All That actress, but I do have one question: is Travis weed?

  • Those very ‘memorable’ English speaking characters in Squid Game. The Guardian tracked down the actors, who explained how the show’s changed their lives and why they sound like ...that… in scenes.

  • ‘Go To Bed, Jessica!’ IYKYK, and if you don’t, you obviously weren’t watching NSW TV during the late ‘90s: this frankly iconic phrase was screamed at a small child in a PSA against drink-driving, and years later, the real Jessica has given an interview about how it’s followed her for the past 20 years.

To finish, a tweet I can’t stop thinking about:

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Jared Richards is a critic living on Gadigal Land who has written for The Guardian, The Monthly, Junkee and more. He tweets at @jrdjms
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