Sean Bean is wrong – intimacy coordinators are #MeToo’s greatest legacy

·5 min read
Actor Sean Bean in 2015  (Getty)
Actor Sean Bean in 2015 (Getty)

Sean Bean has shared his thoughts on intimacy co-ordinators. Let’s just say, they’re less than glowing. And also… a bit silly. The Game of Thrones star has appeared in several love scenes across his 40-year career, and he thinks the professionals being brought in to choreograph such moments are, frankly, ruining the mood.

While many recent TV hits have employed specialists to manage sex scenes – Normal People, I May Destroy You, Industry,and Sex Education are a few recent examplesBean has reservations. He recently told The Times that having intimacy co-ordinators on set would “spoil the spontaneity”. He said their presence “would inhibit me more because it’s drawing attention to things. Somebody saying, ‘Do this, put your hand there, while you touch his thing…’ I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise.”

But here’s the thing – intimacy co-ordinators are actually one of the best innovations that the industry has ever introduced. Instead of leaving actors to their own devices during some of the most exposing moments of their careers, a professional choreographer can ensure that everyone has adequate guidance and comfort. It’s not merely an imposition, or an example of people becoming more sensitive. It’s something that gives actors dignity and safety in wildly unfamiliar territory.

The use of intimacy co-ordinators has pretty much become standard since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements exploded in 2017. They ensure the wellbeing of actors during the filming of sex scenes, something that was previously largely unregulated. Before #MeToo, a culture of silence in the industry made it difficult for actors to express discomfort during such moments. Now, performers can count on an expert who is employed to ensure their personal barriers are not breached. With an intimacy co-ordinator, the opportunity for confusion on-set is limited; the guidelines of exactly what can take place are made crystal clear. Fight scenes require planning and rehearsal to look impressive – that way, there’s as little risk of the actors hurting themselves as possible. Why should a sex scene be treated any differently?

Bean’s objections came from his own experience of filming intimate scenes with Joely Richardson in the 1993 film adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. They were “a joy”, he said, which he believes is down to the fact that they worked without prior coordination. “We had a good chemistry between us, and we knew what we were doing was unusual. Because she was married, I was married. But we were following the story. We were trying to portray the truth of what DH Lawrence wrote,” he told the interviewer.

His own experiences may have been positive, but Bean’s statement doesn’t account for the untold numbers of other performers who have felt differently. In response to Bean’s remarks, West Side Story star Rachel Zegler explained how having an intimacy co-ordinator on set while making the 2021 film made her feel safe when filming her first-ever love scene. “I was extremely grateful for the one we had on [West Side Story] – they showed grace to a newcomer like myself + educated those around me who’ve had years of experience,” she tweeted, before imploring Bean to “wake up” to the fact that spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe.

Similarly, Jameela Jamil hit back at Bean’s belief that co-ordinators for love scenes make the process feel technical, stating: “Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope…” Some of Bean’s fellow Game of Thrones alumni have previously commented on the show’s lack of organisation in that regard, with Gemma Whelan revealing that shooting sex scenes for the series could be a “frenzied mess”, while Emilia Clarke said of filming some moments, “I was so desperate to be the most professional actor 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.”

The benefit of these professionals is clear from the women who’ve spoken out publicly – but intimacy co-ordinators can help everyone. The Haunting of Hill House actor Rahul Kohli praised the addition of these figures on set as a way of making performers feel safe during a vulnerable moment. “At 36, I’m still uncomfortable with my body and the social anxiety/awkwardness of scenes that call for nudity/lovemaking etc,” Kohli wrote on Twitter. “I can only imagine just how terrifying it is for younger actors, and I’m glad we now have a system in place to protect them.”

Sure, acting is probably one of the most fun jobs a person can have. But make no mistake, it’s a job – and safety at work matters. Of course, performance can gain from unplanned moments: an unscripted comic quip, or an improvised dramatic dialogue sometimes make for the most memorable moment in a scene. But intimate scenes are best not left to chance. What’s merely an annoyance to Bean can be a professional lifeline for someone else. Thankfully, intimacy co-ordinators are here to stay.