Caught between reality TV titillation and earnest exploration of sex and relationships, the show’s unlikely to convert goop skeptics.
Netflix’s new series Sex, Love, and goop follows Gwyneth Paltrow, the goop team, and a myriad of experts (or “sexperts”) to help couples in crisis and lead them to pleasurable sex and deeper connections in their relationships. Sex, Love, and goop has its own crisis, stuck somewhere between madcap reality TV and clinical examination of sex and relationships, energetically writhing around and searching for streaming pleasure. Too rarely, the series combines both drives to deliver mesmerizing moments, like “energy orgasms.”
Sex, Love, and goop follows a handful of engaging, vulnerable couples. It’s refreshing to see a variety of ages, racial, gender, and sexual identities onscreen.
The first couple, married partners Damon and Erica, are looking to overcome therapy stigma in the black community and reconnect in the bedroom. Next, the international Rama and Felicitas, a husband and wife suffering from burnout. Then there’s Camille and Shandra, a newly engaged lesbian couple looking to eliminate their same-sex blindspots, as both grew up with little education on lesbian sex. Fourth, Dash and Sera are a queer couple hoping to examine past traumas and have a deeper relationship. Finally, Joie and Mike, both in their 60s, seek to level out their mismatched levels of desire.
The couples open themselves to methods presented by the experts. This is where the show gets, as Michaela Boehm puts it, “embarrassing and weird.” Jaiya helps Erica and Damon examine their sexual energy levels. She even shows them how it’s done with a bit of help from her business and life partner, Ian. There’s an intense moment where Ian holds his hands above Jaiya’s body, causing her to writhe around in pleasure without touching her. Some skeptics might roll their eyes, but Erica says, “sign me up.”
Rama and Felicitas have blindfolded moments with Boehm, leading to Rama maneuvering around Felicitas’s body. Amina Peterson seems the most grounded of the “sexperts,” having Joie and Mike crawl around on the floor like animals. She acknowledges that everyone always “smells each other’s butts” during the exercise. Darshana Avila takes a hands-on approach—literally, she uses “sexological bodywork” on Camille and Shandra in separate sessions to help them become aware of their bodies and pleasure points.
Sex, Love, and goop probably won’t win over all the skeptics to goop or untraditional relationship therapy, but it does provide some breakthroughs for the couples.
The moment that might make or break folks is Dash and Sera’s “Family Constellation” session with Kato Wittich. “Family Constellation” is a practice that helps individuals investigate their pasts by using group members to represent members of one’s family, so the individual can see the patterns that built up the person they became. Dash and Sera take turns “seeking,” each pulling random members from Kato’s group to represent their mothers/grandmothers/members of generations past. These members then “resonate” as a member of Dash’s or Sera’s family, without prior knowledge of whom they are “resonating” with, seemingly pulling connections of who they are by the “energy” transferred to them.
The “family constellation” sessions appear like a cross between a hokey, possessed TV psychic and an experimental acting class. “Resonating” members will behave as if they’re possessed, like Sera’s “grandmother” transferring all of her depression to her “mother,” to the point where both members’ bodies are shaking. Relationship roles between “resonating” members are made clear by sitting down (like a child in front of a parent) or occupying space (Sera’s “father” wanders around the stage, checking out the other members, perhaps hinting at a past philanderer history). It’s bizarre to see adults who have no past connection stumbling across a stage, acting out odd moments. Yet, something is compelling about these sessions, seeing and naming a past trauma, allowing the healing process to begin.
Paltrow is an enigmatic host, walking a fine line of being a girl boss and girl next door. She’s not afraid to sit in with the couples and get vulnerable, sharing some of her own experiences to connect with the group. However, she’s also a casual, confident host, reclining with her feet up on a plush white sofa while she interviews Boehm in-between segments. Paltrow seems to have a genuine interest in learning about topics like sex and love. Sadly, there’s not a clear thread as to why Paltrow’s goop brand is the best one to lead the way.
Sex, Love, and goop offers an uneven structure, shifting focus inconsistently. Some couples, like Damon and Erica, appear in nearly every episode. Others, such as Dash and Sera, only appear in one. This uneven presentation may be due to the different types of therapy the couples use. However, it comes across as messy storytelling. For a show about discovering wants and needs, Sex, Love, and goop seems unsure about its own desires as a series.
At the end of Sex, Love, and goop, the series catches up with the couples. Damon and Erica are expecting a child. Rama and Felicitas are feeling more connected as a couple. Shandra and Camille are excitedly exploring their bodies. Mike and Joie are meeting each other at the same sexual levels. Dash and Sera even appear more confident, rising above their past traumas and living in a more intimate relationship. Sex, Love, and goop probably won’t win over all the skeptics to goop or untraditional relationship therapy, but it does provide some breakthroughs for the couples. Unfortunately, I doubt viewers will experience the same emotional release.
Sex, Love, and goop opens its doors to the lovelorn on Netflix on October 21st.