"Sex Education" intimacy coordinator explains her role

She's made it her mission to make sex scenes safer for actors. Meet Ita O'Brien, the intimacy coordinator on Netflix's "Sex Education."

Meeting with Ita O'Brien, intimacy coach of "Sex Education"

It helps actors to manage their bodies during sex scenes. She created the profession of "privacy coach": it’s Ita O’Brien

What's really great about Sex Education is that it tells the story: sex isn't always beautiful, and it doesn't always go smoothly. Most of the time, it's weird. Ita O’Brien is an intimacy coach, notably on the set of the Sex Education series. In other words, she choreographs the sex scenes.

A real choreography

If there is a choreography for a dance, we will need someone to create the choreography. If there is a choreography for a fight, someone has to be careful, because there are risks. The risk with intimacy scenes is that it is your own intimacy, your body that is at stake.

Ita O’Brien created this profession in 2014. She makes sure that the actors are comfortable. Sometimes it just takes sex covers that protect privacy, but it's also about making sex scenes believable without compromising the consent of the actors

"Part of what we do as an intimacy coach is to invite open conversations and transparency. This must start from the start of the project. Everyone needs to understand what’s different about this scene, and it’s a long time before we hit the set. We discuss with the director, on his vision of the scene. Then we discuss with the actors, we check their degree of vulnerability, which worries them. We will really work together to maintain a really safe and respectful atmosphere on the set."

Consent at the heart of his work

She notably worked on a masturbation scene with the characters of Otis and Ola. "During this episode, Otis "learned" a technique, and he tries to put it into practice. I break down the scene at different times. This is the evolution of what we say: someone who is excited, then nervous, then in action, then disappointed, who does not know how to handle the situation… And then who asks: "Ok, can we stop? "

Ita O'Brien always checks with the actors where they agree to be hit. "We want physical reality to tell a story, but we want to be sure that the actors do not put themselves in danger. We wonder how we can "cheat". We are trying to find marks on the body, like the hip bone, the thigh … It’s very important. And then we create the choreography clearly: I look you in the eye, we kiss, I start to lower my hand under your pants, I continue to descend, then in the choreography, there is this moment of masturbation.

The study of animal respiration

To improve the acting, she has developed a surprising technique: the study of animal breathing. "For example, a dog has a quick and short breath, like a young person. For someone older and more confident, we can take the example of the gorilla. It helps the actors to expand their range of possibilities.”

"With Aimee Lou's masturbation scene in season 1, it was even more important not to feel like you were exposing your privacy. We’ve studied just about every animal, and that has helped Aimee Lou to play this character who explores all that masturbation can bring to her orgasm. We knew that this scene was going to be very important, that it was a work of art that would be liberating. And it was. I ran into Aimee Lou last year, and she told me that she had hundreds of messages every day thanking her for this scene."

Today, Ita O’Brien has a will: to profoundly change mentalities and practices

"No one should just grab someone and kiss them. You check that you can touch the person and you get used to it. When it becomes inherent and ingrained as part of the job, it doesn't slow things down, it's just a change. It is about agreement and consent, working with respect and helping everyone to be professional in order to work better. That's what I want."