Being thrown into a sex scene without consent or preparation is a nightmare that should have never happened.
Intimacy scenes are like a carefully crafted dance choreographed by an intimacy coordinator. The intimacy coordinator is there to guide the actors through each movement, constantly asking the actors involved if each movement is okay while preserving the illusion of sex with each step.
There is a lot that goes into a sex scene, and the intimacy coordinator is there to make sure every actor is safe and comfortable the entire time.
But what happens to a sex scene if there is no intimacy coordinator there?
In a recent interview for The Guardian, Gemma Whelan talked about her time as Yara Greyjoy on Game of Thrones while promoting her upcoming role as Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins in ITV’s The Tower, adapted from Kate London’s novel, Post Mortem.
During the interview, she opens up about what it was like to shoot intimate scenes—including that awkward one with her character’s brother, Theon—without an intimacy coordinator.
At the time of filming, intimacy coordinators were not common in the entertainment industry, until the demand for them grew in 2017 due to the Weinstein scandal and the rise of the #MeToo movement. Still, the mishandling of the sex scenes in Game of Thrones shows us why intimacy coordinators are needed.
The actors, including Whelan, were left to figure it out on their own, acting as their own intimacy coordinators minutes before the camera started rolling.
Whelan recalls in the interview, “They used to just say, ‘When we shout actions, go for it!’ and it could be a sort of frenzied mess.”
While the directors were not concerned with consent, the actors were constantly checking in with each other, acting as their own intimacy coordinators.
In one intimacy scene, Whelan said, “There was a scene in a brothel with a woman, and she was so exposed that we talked together about where the camera would be and what she was happy with. A director might say, ‘Bit of boob biting, then slap her bum and go!’ but I’d always talk it through with the other actor.”
The directors seemed to lack any sort of sex on-set safety, focusing more on how good the scene looked on camera. Whelan and her fellow actors were left to figure out the best way to perform safe, intimate moments by asking each other for permission and consent before starting.
Whelan isn’t the only Game of Thrones alum to talk about how sex scenes were mishandled.
In an interview for James Hibberd’s oral history Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon: Game of Thrones and The Official Untold Story of the Epic Series, Jason Momoa shared that he was pressured to remove his intimacy pouch by David Benioff. Momoa removed the pouch that covered his genitals and handed it over to the Game of Thrones co-creator.
Emilia Clarke also told James Hibberd for his book about her experience shooting sex scenes, saying, “I was so desperate to be the most professional actors I could be that I’d be like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ for anything they threw at me. I’ll just cry about it in the bathroom later, whatever, you won’t know.”
Sex scenes are difficult to navigate, but there is a difference between difficult and neglected. No one deserves to be taken advantage of or violated for the sake of a shot. Making an actor do something that they have clearly stated they didn’t want to or didn’t say anything about is unacceptable and shameful.
Today, intimacy coordinators are here and should be on set if intimate scenes are happening. Actors should be asked constantly if they are comfortable and feel safe. If they change their level of comfort the next day, then the choreography can be altered.
People deserve to feel safe on set. Conversations about comfort, consent, and safety should have always been there, but now there is no excuse for them to not be happening.
Let us know what you think about Game of Thrones' lack of conversation on sex scenes in the comments below!