There’s one great way to watch Sex Love & Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s new, six-part self-improvement show that pairs sexually curious couples with well-intentioned sexperts, and that’s with an ex-boyfriend who’s now pitching for the other team.
“Remember that time we took a long hot sexy bath together and you ended up in the emergency room?” Jim says fondly. “Hey, why is everything so well-lit here? Does Gwyneth think people can only get it on in the blinding sun?”
Jim is unafraid to register the decidedly un-woke reactions the rest of us tamp down. Especially when he gets to a couple in their 60s, who are here to try to balance their very different sex drives. Wearing leisure suits, they take part in an exercise where the sex guru tells them to “introduce your animal to each other.” They circle each other on the floor, growling and sniffing.
And then cut to an earnest Gwyneth: “It’s not customary to see couples in their 60s talking about sex, or thinking about sex…. And it’s probably going to be challenging on some level to certain people who are thinking, ‘I don’t want to think about older people having sex.’”
That was the last I saw of Jim.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s new series, released on Netflix on Thursday, is a lush banquet of woo-woo for the Goopsters, replete with wholeness coaches, erotic blueprints, sexological bodyworkers, and a vulva puppet. Here, over six tumescent almost-hours, deeply attractive, diverse couples—Black, white, lesbian, fit, chubby, and the over-60s (representation, yes!)—confront the various sexual malaises that beset them.
There is a lot of staring at yourself naked in the mirror, and a lot of crying (a familiar combination for me). There’s a lot of cringe, too, unless your idea of sexy can encompass sentences like “He has an erection in every hair follicle.”
Still, there is genuinely useful information here. At one point a sex therapist tells us that women don’t need to breathe the way women do in porn … the sharp ins, and outs, the quick intake of breath. “We’re not out of breath.… It doesn’t make any sense,” she explains. “We’re creating tension.… When you stop that nonsense and move into a deep way of breathing, we open up to pleasure.” (Note to self: kill the heaving.)
There’s a lot of cringe, too, unless your idea of sexy can encompass sentences like “He has an erection in every hair follicle.”
There are also touching moments, even if I fervently wished the camera would go away and leave these people in peace. A couple where the woman sees her mate as just another one of her children—a little boy with little-boy demands—cannot hide her repulsion; the erotic counselor shows them how to shift that dynamic, and it actually works.
And I was startled by Gwyneth’s own raw admission that she struggled deeply with her fear of aging and body acceptance: “I drive myself hard to not be disappointed in how I look.… And I’m still disappointed in the way I look.”
Indeed, I could almost be moved by the bravery of these people, baring themselves for the camera, if I weren’t again and again reminded that the series is one long exercise in product placement. Surely, as I said to my vulva puppet, she couldn’t already be selling the sex toys mentioned in this series? Boy, was I in for a surprise! Every whip, feather tickler, paddler, and wolverine claw (don’t ask) is there, not to mention the $64 VieVision mirror you place between your legs so that you can get a gander of the Beauty That Is You.
Only on Goop would a dildo that retailed for $1,249 be the mid-price choice, with the really classy one—Lelo’s Olga Gold—going for $3,490. You’d think they’d at least throw in some DTF vitamins, or a candle that smells like her orgasm.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a gifted marketer. I just sort of wish someone would tell her, “Darling, you don’t have to sell everything. What if you did a project that was just about the people and not the merch?”
Still, I’m eyeing the $250 beaded lace blindfold. I’m not made of stone.
Judith Newman is a New York–based writer and the author of To Siri with Love