Emily Writes reviews the now infamous orgasm episode of the even more infamous Netflix show The Goop Lab.
It was four days after the fourth person asked me to review the orgasm episode of Netflix’s The Goop Lab that I finally sat down to watch it.
I don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow but I also don’t like the public dislike for her. She doesn’t seem to deserve the vitriol against her. If being basic meant you’re worthy of a public crucifixion well, hell, there wouldn’t be enough room on the hill for us.
Still, I avoid films she’s in and I’ve not had any interest in watching The Goop Lab. I hate the idea of Goop. The whole premise, the whole concept – it irritates me. A bunch of rich white women floating along “optimising” themselves. It’s just so fucking insufferable.
So, to say I wasn’t feeling charitable toward The Goop Lab would be an understatement. I’ll be honest and admit part of me was just looking forward to slamming it.
But you know what – it was fine. Just fine.
I only watched one episode; I could not handle watching the drugs episode. Because if I take mushrooms I’ll get arrested but they’re allowed to call it therapy. I could not watch the therapy episode because He Ara Oranga : Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction has screeds on how long it takes to access even the most simplified mental health care, so I have no interest in watching people who can afford it get it free. A bunch of privileged folks trying out culturally appropriated methods as a lark when the He Ara Oranga report referred to over-medicalisation or, simply, medicalisation of mental health responses as inappropriate, and inconsistent with holistic te ao Māori and Pacific views – it just feels gross.
So, I skipped these episodes knowing I’m truly not the target audience. And the others, which cover things like swimming in cold water? I live in Wellington, I’m good.
I settled on the orgasm episode – ‘The Pleasure is Ours’.
I’ll get it out there straight away: I’m thrilled that any person with a platform is talking about the gendered orgasm gap. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – there’s a massive orgasm gap out there. An analysis of over 30 studies performed over the past 80 years found only 25% of women are consistently reaching orgasm during vaginal sex.
This is full on. It means only a quarter of women are climaxing regularly. Twenty percent of us (cis women) don’t have orgasms when having vaginal sex with a cis man. And 5% of us never climax. Cis men, on the other hand, are having orgasms at least 90% of the time. I get messages and emails daily about it from women all around the world.
It’s something we really need to talk about. My hero Betty Dodson, who I have also written about before, is featured in the episode. She’s a sex educator who has taught thousands (if not millions) of women how to orgasm. She has a patented method called The Betty Dodson Technique that has actually been studied. Of the 500 women who tried it 465 reached climax. She has her own barbell sex toy. I mean – she’s incredible.
And she’s the star of the episode, honestly. Betty Dodson wearing a denim jacket telling Gwyneth Paltrow that women need to learn to “run the fuck” is quite entertaining.
She’s partnered with Carlin Ross, a former lawyer who monetised Betty’s work and created DodsonRoss with her. Porn immediately came up in their discussion of shedding shame and loving our genitals. I’m not sure Carlin has ever seen porn since the 90s because her comments about labia lips being cut and burnt off, dyed pink, and other tales of genital mutilation sounded like your grandfather talking about the demon weed and how it can kill you.
Statistics about a 45% increase in labiaplasty held no context. Is that an increase of 50 more surgeries? 50,000? 500,000? How many were for medical reasons?
The point – that all vulvas are different and it’s awful that people worry about how theirs looks – is a valid one. But we’re intelligent women, aren’t we? Do we need to be scared into agreeing with that statement? Do we need to shame sex workers who are probably doing more to combat that stigma than anyone?
I watch porn that I pay for (Erika Lust if you’re asking) and I have seen dozens of vulvas and they all looked different. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a labia that looked surgically altered? No surer way to know all vulvas are different than to see a bunch of them in porn.
It just seemed so strange that of all of the legitimate critiques of porn – consent, people being paid properly for their work, safety – the focus was on performers getting labiaplasty which just doesn’t seem like a thing? Or maybe I’m extremely wrong. I recognise that the “It’s not a problem for me, so how is it a problem for anyone else” is very on-Goop brand so I’ll stop there.
What the episode gets right is showing a bunch of vulvas up close in all of their beauty. And showing the clitoris and identifying vulva and vagina. It’s unsurprising to know that 60% of women surveyed (according to Goop) couldn’t identify their vulva. All of that is Good Stuff.
The other star of the episode is Lexi, a queer woman from Shanghai. She talks about feeling shame and feeling disconnected from her body. They introduce her to a sexuality doula who gets them to make lots of eye contact which teaches them vulnerability. According to the doula, the left eye is your feminine side which seems like absolute garbage to me. They give each other massages which teaches them communication. It’s all fine. Just fine.
Lexi then went to New York for a session with Dodson and Ross. And then for the climax of the show: Dodson coaches Ross to climax on air.
It was all fine, but it left me wondering again, as I always do with these kinds of shows – about accessibility. It’s a short show that obviously can’t cover everything. But a bunch of conventionally attractive thin people sitting naked in a room and loving themselves isn’t that revolutionary.
What about fat women? What about disabled women? Trans women? Can you talk about loving yourself and your body while excluding the people most hurt by a society that prioritises white, thin, cis? If you want to talk about shame, stereotypes, hatred – to leave out these women is absurd.
Every woman is shamed in some way for having sexual desires that aren’t in service to men. But there are levels here – and the shame heaped on women increases the more marginalised you are. ‘The Pleasure is Ours’ gets a “you tried” medal. And that’s about it. It isn’t the revolutionary television people think it is. But it’s a start.
Let’s just not settle for scraps though. We want a full going over, thanks. Not just the tip.