Intimacy Coordinators Are Changing On-Screen Sex Scenes in the #MeToo Era

These professionals are making Hollywood's steamiest scenes safer and more comfortable for actors

Intimacy Coordinators
50 Shades of Grey
By Kayla Kibbe / August 19, 2019 10:23 am

The days of married couples sleeping in separate twin beds with a chaste nightstand in between for good measure are long gone. Sex scenes have been a Hollywood staple for years now, and nearly every TV show and movie above a certain rating is bound to feature physical intimacy of some kind. As the entertainment industry continues to see a rise in both on-screen sex and off-screen sexual misconduct, the industry is taking steps to make intimate scenes safer and more comfortable for actors.

Enter the intimacy coordinator — a professional whose job it is to oversee the planning and performance of on-screen sex scenes. According to Vanity Fair, intimacy coordinators are being hired on an increasing number of TV and movie sets in the post #MeToo era, and their role involves a lot more than choreographing a steamy sex scene. Intimacy coordinators liaise between performers and producers in order to establish a safer and more conscientious approach to sex scenes, working one on one with actors to determine comfort levels and set boundaries.

“When I started over 33 years ago, there were no options,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris told Vanity Fair. “I just did what I was told…There were no tools for us, other than if you had the courage to speak up.” Intimacy coordinators have changed that a lot in only a few years.

Vanity Fair credits the growing presence of on-set intimacy coordinators to actress Emily Meade, who requested requested that HBO hire one in 2018 after learning her The Deuce costar, James Franco, had been accused of sexual misconduct. The network subsequently instituted a policy mandating intimacy coordinators be hired on the set of every show containing adult content, and other networks and streaming platforms eventually followed suit. Today, SAG-AFTRA is even working to standardize intimacy coordinator guidelines across the industry.

“My hope and my intention is that, say, in five years’ time, that productions will not dream of doing sex scenes without an intimacy coordinator,” said Ita O’Brien, who works an intimacy coordinator on productions including Netflix’s Sex Education. “It’s so amazing to see how quickly the industry has shifted and changed.”

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