Television

How Sexy Is Netflix’s Sex/Life?

A boyfriend swap, a monster-sized penis, and licking chocolate off a butt crack do not a horny show make.

A white woman in a red plaid shirt straddles a shirtless white man laying on his back.
Sex/Life. Netflix

If there is one thing that the new Netflix show Sex/Life is trying to be, it’s sexy. I mean, it’s right there in the title. The creators are practically screaming, “Ooh, we’re so edgy! The word ‘sex’ is right there, and also we have a slash!” Trying, however, doesn’t mean succeeding, especially in this case.

Sex/Life stars Sarah Shahi as Billie, a woman who seems to live an idyllic life in the suburbs with her husband, Cooper (Mike Vogel), and two kids. However, as her sex life with her husband grows cold, memories of her much hornier ex-boyfriend Brad (Adam Demos) begin to resurface. In her diary, she details her much more sexually active past, with each memory playing out in a soft-core flashback.

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So, how sexy is this show, really? We’re here to find out.

How much sex is there?

The average number of sex scenes per episode is, by my highly scientific calculations, 2.75, which is considerable, given that each episode runs for about 45 minutes. Some sex scenes are brief, some are sex montages, but nevertheless, there are still a lot of them. That’s especially true in the first episode, which manages to pack in a whopping five sex scenes. In other words, this show’s purpose is fairly transparent, i.e., to try putting the “chill” in “Netflix and chill.”

How out-there does the sex get?

Most of the sex feels borderline parodic—the biggest fetish on display is for sex in public places, whether it’s in a pool, in an elevator, in a stairwell, etc. (All three are actual examples from the show, and they aren’t even the tip of the public sex iceberg.) Otherwise, the sex is mostly basic, apart from a brief flashback in which Billie and her best friend swap boyfriends, a scene at a sex party, and a very brief shot of Brad eating melted chocolate off of Billie’s butt. In relation to your typical, largely sexless TV show, it’s pretty nuts, but it’s fairly mundane in relation to a show like Game of Thrones or, you know, actual porn—the desire for which seems to be driving Sex/Life up the Netflix charts.

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How much nudity is there?

Besides one quick shot of a penis (which has caused quite a bit of stir for size-related reasons), there’s no more full-frontal nudity. Bare chests (male and female) and butts, however, are on full display.

So how sexy is the show, then?

This is where things get a little tricky. While the show doesn’t lack for sex scenes and nudity, it doesn’t actually come across as a sexy show. For starters, none of the characters are really interesting, and Billie’s big dilemma basically boils down to thinking that she can’t have both a stable family life and an exciting sex life, a problem that seems to stem more from communication issues than from an actual immutable truth. That is to say, as soon as you pay any attention to the story at all, horniness is off the table.

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Having watched all eight episodes of the show, what I remember from it isn’t how steamy the sex scenes are (not least because they aren’t), but how frustrating I found Billie and all of the people around her. That Billie feels sexually unfulfilled is a problem that doesn’t even come close to meriting just how badly she blows up her life because of it; Brad has no personality beyond being mean and then tearfully apologetic; and Cooper, who is relegated to having a hot co-worker tell him that he doesn’t deserve what’s happening to him, and that if he gets divorced, she’s right there, isn’t much better off, even if he is more pitiable than everyone else involved.

In the end, the show is more soapy than steamy, with groan-worthy lines like, “Time of your life, baby? Yes, please,” spoken without even a hint of irony. If what you’re looking for is to watch people bump against each other while almost fully nude, then Sex/Life has you covered, but if you can’t turn off your brain—or if you aren’t fast-forwarding—you’ll likely be left with a sense of blue balls.

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