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Two Sexual Health Professionals Weigh in on Goop’s New Netflix Show: Sex, Love & Goop (You May Be Surprised)

November 25 2021 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her)

Wolverine claws, blindfolded energy orgasms, and sniffing butts - Goop has forayed into the sex therapy realm with its new show. All jokes aside, it has received both warm and totally confused reception from critics and viewers. I spoke with Evangeline Plumb, a sex educator and Clarke Rose, a sex and pleasure coach to understand the the professional community’s opinion on the six episode series. Was it helpful, or just a big pile of...Goop?

I’m not sure if this week’s blog needs much of an introduction - after all, I am *very* certain that all of you have seen the reaction videos, read the reviews, or seen a trailer featuring the “touchless orgasm”, or as some prefer to call it: “the airgasm” (more on this later!)

Sex, Love & Goop is a six episode series (Is it limited? Has it been renewed? Come on Netflix, I need answers!) that centres around couples who learn lessons and methods to enhance their relationships through more pleasurable sex and deeper intimacy with the help of experts. It currently holds an 83 on Rotten Tomatoes, and of course, a melange of mixed reviews.

 

Let’s pause for a second and consider that this seems like some pretty courageous stuff, I mean raise your hand if you’d be willing to have your big television break as a seeker of sex therapy. Sex is...complicated, and media and society’s relationship with sex is even more complicated. 

I digress, I was skeptical about the entire thing. Why? One word: Goop. Yes, that Goop. 

Goop is a wellness and lifestyle brand that was founded by Oscar-winning actress turned entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow in 2008. It started off as a weekly newsletter but quickly, it became a media sensation for its polarizing and often zany products that cater to a particular type of lifestyle. The Goop lifestyle. 

The Goop camp boasts a head-scratching line up of Vagina candles, jade eggs and most recently, a dietary supplement called “DTF” that is supposed to be a libido lifter for some. But let’s get one thing clear: I’m a skeptic, not an all around naysayer. After all, I write for a sexual health company. Pushing the boundaries of sexual health conversations is what we do best!

But enough about me.

I spoke to two intelligent and all around insightful ladies who specialize in sex education and sex coaching to get to the bottom of things. 

Evangeline Plumb is a digital and creative strategist, sex educator and founder of Cliterally the Best. 

Evangeline Plumb (@clitterallythebest)

Where is your practice based?
I do not have a practice, my teaching is all online on my Sex Ed Platform and Instagram.

How long have you been practising?
I have been qualified for a year in Sex Education and teaching online for 2.

What’s the best romance movie of all time?
Ooh, I’m personally not a massive romance movie fan (lots of unrealistic expectations) but my guilty pleasure is The Holiday - especially this time of the year.

What inspired you to pursue this career path?
The lack of sex education in my own life and wanting to share what I had learnt through mistakes. 

Best midnight snack? 
A good cheese and cracker feast.

Clark Rose (@clarkrosethesexcoach)

Where is your practice based?

My practice is based internationally. I see clients from India, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Paris, Berlin, basically all over. I also work in a psychosexual clinic based out of Melbourne, Australia. I work eight clinical hours for them. My clients either see me through Facetime or Zoom.

How long have you been practising?

I feel like I have been more or less practicing since I was quite young, either giving sex advice, love advice or dating advice to friends. But it has been 2 years since I have been running my own business and giving full time sex and pleasure coaching. 

What’s the best romance movie of all time?

Serendipity, Definitely Maybe- I really like complicated love stories where the first marriage doesn’t work out and then maybe they find love afterward, I find those more realistic. And An Affair to Remember- it gets me everytime. 

What inspired you to pursue this career path? 

It was the experience of growing up as a young girl and feeling so horny and sexual and not knowing what to do with all this energy- I got into a lot of troubling situations because I didn’t know how to masturbate, communicate what I wanted, or take care of my own body.  So, I was used to pleasing men and seeking male validation. This was frustrating, I wanted better for myself and other women. Everytime I’m with a client I feel blessed that I even get to spend time talking to women about sex.

Best midnight snack? 

Honestly, I don’t know (laughs). I like getting up and having a second dinner. Eating pasta leftovers in the middle of the night is quite fun. Or maybe even a vegan Del Taco meal. 

Here’s what they had to say: 

*Disclaimer: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.*

What’s your take on the show’s redefinition of an orgasm to being something more “energetic?” 

EVANGELINE: The ‘energetic orgasm’ is definitely something you can have, it’s a common focus in tantric sex. This wasn’t a redefinition, however, just the name for a ‘full body orgasm’. It’s important to remember that the orgasms shouldn’t be the sole focus of your sexual experiences, as long as you’re all having fun that’s all that matters. 

CLARKE: There’s something beautiful in it, I think. Energy is involved in orgasms, and checking in with mood, energy, and surroundings, is important before having a sexual experience. Energy is our first erotic zone, our first step of arousal, so it’s important. Do I think people should be chasing blindfolded energetic orgasms? No. It’s definiely a thing in neo-tantric cultures and various holistic practices, but if you’re going to work with a sexologist or sex therapist, we’re gonna focus on other things like sexual communication, regular orgasms, pleasure, etc. It’s possible, but not all orgasms are energetic and people should strive for whatever pleasure they want. 

Is it normal for sex therapists/coaches/sexologists to get as “hands-on” with clients in a regular setting? 

CLARKE: No. Sex therapists and sexologists do not get naked with our clients, ask clients to get naked. We might walk them through a meditation and have them think about their genitals. We don’t ask them to touch themselves in front of us. What we saw in Goop, were somatic sexologists/sex therapists- so that’s different, where the pracitioner does touch the client, or has the client touch themselves. 

EVANGELINE: No, not at all. This adds to the misconception that sex therapy is about showing you how to have sex or even getting involved themselves when this is not the case. This kind of practice can happen with ‘somatic body workers’ and should involve strict ethical guidelines and consent but this title is not protected or regulated. This means anyone can label themselves as a ‘somatic body worker’ which can put those seeking this type of ‘therapy’ in danger.

Accredited psychosexual therapists and sexologists practice in a way that is very similar to when you would see a therapist for say depression, no touching will ever be involved and I strongly encourage people who are seeking out sex therapy to research credentials.

Were the show’s case studies of struggling couples realistic in your opinion? Or did it seem just for entertainment?

EVANGELINE:  These case studies did seem real in my opinion and it was nice to see these common scenarios being represented and discussed.

CLARKE: The case studies were extremely realistic. Painful sex, two vulva bearing bodies not knowing what to do, varying libidos, etc. I think that was extremely realistic, and not playing up anything for entertainment. Most couples have these issues in some capacity. 

Do you think our erotic tendencies can be encapsulated into a “blueprint?” as easily as it was done on the show?

EVANGELINE: It’s definitely a simple and digestible way of looking at our turn-ons. Someone’s preferences and desires would definitely need to be broken down in more detail than they did with Damon & Erika and people can definitely change their ‘blueprints’ over time.

CLARKE: While interesting, it bothered me a bit. There were only five or six blueprints, which is very limiting. Though I appreciate it was on a scale, however, we could be a hundred different types of things and this could vary day to day. We don’t operate on the same level all the time and this approach is a bit limiting. 

Is there an idea, discussion, topic on the show that you were surprised with?

EVANGELINE: Mainly the way they portrayed the somatic bodywork style of therapy as something so normal without highlighting what the viewer should be mindful of whether they are looking for this. Also, they made it seem so easy to have a full-body orgasm, when in reality it can take time to get out of your head to reach that point - so if you are wanting to give this a go, don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

CLARKE: I was impressed by the family constellations episode. The family therapy work was very impressive. When this show came out, I imagined it to be very different and was hesitant-but the professionals brought on were interesting. Keep in mind that a lot of these practitioners were not sex therapists, they were tantric practitioners, healers, somatic body workers- but the great thing is that the field of sexuality is still developing, and many people engage in it from different avenues and this doesn’t mean that their work isn’t valid and their voices shouldn’t be heard. 

Professionally speaking, to reach a broader audience or to stretch the conversation further, what else could the show have touched on?

EVANGELINE: They could have definitely paired some couples with psychosexual therapists to see how they compare to the holistic approach. Not everyone gets on with those methods, for example, if you have been through trauma or your issue is more complex than compatibility. It would also be good to see some different couple types, for example, two men, trans couples, polyamorous relationships etc. 

CLARKE: The show could have featured a gay couple, transgender people, or people of color. Also, it could have been marketed away from the focus of “Goop”- because from a sexuality professional realm, many of us were hesitant to watch because of the celebrity factor. If they marketed it with a focus on the professionals they featured, it would have brought in a wider audience. 

Overall, for an everyday person not immersed in the realm of sex therapy, it was good. I know a lot of people who learned a lot from it, but keep in mind that despite the advice given in TikToks, Instagram accounts, podcasts, books-sex is subjective. Watch Goop, but don’t expect Goop to change your sex life. If the blueprints don’t make sense to you- don’t internalize them. Always question what you hear, take what you like and get rid of the rest. 

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So, is this a slam dunk for Goop? I’d say so, and here’s why. The company’s first Netflix show, “The Goop Lab'' which premiered in January 2020 explored the effectiveness of alternative therapies for physical and mental illnesses. Though well intentioned, it did not come without professional and expert disapproval. England’s National Health Service Chief Executive Simon Stevens called the show a “considerable health risk.” Stevens accused the show of spreading misinformation. In 2018, Goop agreed to pay $145,000 in a lawsuit for making unscientific claims about its jade egg product which was supposedly advertised to help curb hormonal imbalances and regulate menstrual cycles if you inserted the egg vaginally. 

This time around, the Goop team has done a bit of reflection on the current pace of its legacy, and whether they wanted to falter into old habits of unfounded weirdness, or, carve a new era. Sex, Love & Goop is what I’d consider the company’s first honest approach to improving health and wellness. To say we know exactly how the show has impacted a broader discussion about sex and sex therapy is too large a task.

But what did it do? It highlighted the vulnerabilities of the individual sex experience, it expanded the idea of an orgasm, not confusing it with the by-product of a sexual encounter, and yes, wolverine claws aside, it opened the door for us to not be afraid to talk about what it is we want out of sex, and perhaps the quirky and unconventional ways we can go about getting what we want. 

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