An Expert Reveals What Netflix’s Hit Show ‘Sex/Life’ Gets Right (& Wrong)
If you haven’t seen it, then you’ve probably at least heard about Sex/Life, which has been featured on Netflix’s top ten list for the past few weeks. As we’ve been watching the popular series, we couldn’t help but wonder how accurate it is. For example, is the story based on real events? Did Sex/Life do a good job of recreating the environment of a sex party? And finally, how common is it for couples to experiment outside of their marriage?
That’s why we turned to Karine Bedard, who’s an expert in open relationships, polyamorous lifestyles and ethical non-monogamy (more on this later). She shared must-know details about the show, which follows a suburban mom, Billie (Sarah Shahi), who’s fantasizing about someone other than her husband, Cooper (Mike Vogel). It all begins when she’s taken to a sex party, where she’s introduced to the idea of open relationships.
Here’s what Bedard had to say about what Sex/Life gets right…and what it gets wrong.
1. Is 'Sex/Life' accurate?
At first glance, yes. But there are several aspects that are dramatized for the sake of entertainment. According to Bedard, Sex/Life did a good job of setting the scene at the sex party.
“I was actually quite impressed at first with the accuracy of the house party itself,” Bedard tells PureWow. “People were walking around with different levels of seductive, sexy clothing from dresses to lingerie to only sexy panties and thigh highs. The hostess even came up to them and offered a tray of Jell-O shots dressed in nothing but heels, panties and a pearl necklace.”
However, Bedard is quick to note that Billie’s situation isn’t realistic when she unknowingly attends a sex party with her husband. The expert explains that the show overlooks the initiation process, saying, “What I find so strange is that the friends, Trina and Devon, don’t even tell [Billie and Cooper] where they are going as they head up to the house. No explanation, nothing. Once they get inside and realize where they are, Trina says that they can do anything they want, watch (be voyeurs) or be watched (be exhibitionists).”
Bedard goes on to explain why this is an issue, adding, “This all seems good and well, but the reality is that you don’t bring new people into this world without setting them up for success. What is wrong is not explaining anything to them about the lifestyle and bringing them to a house party while they are vulnerable.”
She continues, “Even at a sex club you don’t walk right into sex happening right there at the door. There is usually a playroom at the back that is more private. Usually, a host makes sure that the environment feels safe for any new people coming in. Often there is a tour of the club or party and a run-down of the rules and courtesies. At a club you sign documents and are usually required to be a member before entering the club. It is very important to protect other’s privacy, and this is taken very seriously.”
2. What did 'Sex/Life' get wrong?
There are two key aspects that need to be addressed: shame and consent. To start, there’s a big emphasis on shame in Sex/Life, since it highlights the secrecy of sex clubs but ignores the community aspect. Per Bedard, the embarrassment that Billie feels when she decides to explore her sexuality doesn’t typically exist in these environments.
“Swingers/Lifestylers are average people. They are made up of soccer moms, executives, blue collar workers, your neighbors, lawyers, business owners, church goers and many other types of people,” she tells PureWow. “From the outside, you would never ever know that they are a part of this world and enjoy the more hedonistic pleasures of the world. They simply love life and are sex positive. They don’t allow shame, guilt, society or religion to decide what they are allowed to do and not do.”
And secondly, Sex/Life is a poor representation of consent. As Bedard notes, “Respect is one of the most important things.” This isn’t reflected in the show, where the characters are often pressured into risqué situations. “No means no, and people don’t pressure you to do things you don’t want to do,” Bedard explains. “You can remain clothed with no pressure or walk around with nothing on. It’s all based on your comfort levels.”
3. What can we learn from 'Sex/Life?'
One of the biggest lessons is that non-monogamy is more common than you think. “There are not a lot of statistics regarding the actual numbers, likely due to the more secret nature of this lifestyle, but it is believed to be anywhere from two to ten percent of couples,” she says.
As Bedard points out, there’s also no reason to be ashamed of sexual fantasies, adding, “Sex is something that we are all wired for. It is a natural urge that almost everyone has. Some have learned to push that desire aside or to have tremendous shame around desire.”
Another key theme is that there’s a difference between cheating and ethical non-monogamy (ENM). “Our society however has a framework for cheating,” Bedard says. “It tends to lump all non-monogamy in with cheating, which is completely false. Just because someone desires more than one sexual partner and chooses to act on that does not mean that they are cheating.”
The alternative is an ENM approach, which Bedard sometimes recommends to her clients. “ENM has the word ethical right in the name. Monogamy means that you have one sexual and romantic partner at a time. Non-Monogamy says that you can have multiple sexual partners and emotional loving partners/connections at the same time,” she explains. “Non-monogamy is most often seen as cheating in order to have ‘everything’ you want, but ENM says there is an ethical way to get everything you want without cheating. It’s really the best of both worlds.”
Regardless of your stance on non-monogamy, it seems the number one takeaway from Sex/Life is that communication is key. “It’s important to be honest with each other about our fantasies. It’s important to discuss these things together,” Bedard says. “It opens the door for novelty and excitement. Even if you never act on the fantasies, just being able to discuss them with your partner can take you to a whole new level of intimacy.”
“It’s not wrong to fantasize about others. It’s not wrong to long for something we don’t have. It’s not even wrong to reminisce about what we used to have,” Bedard explains. “What is wrong, is to act on those things without telling your partner. To go out and cheat or start talking with them and reestablishing a relationship without the consent of your partner.”
Season one of Sex/Life is now streaming on Netflix. Although the streaming service hasn’t officially renewed the show for season two, it’s only a matter of time before Netflix gives the people what they want.
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