"If you’ve been having a bad time at home in the butt department, maybe watching a man eat chocolate sauce out of a woman’s buttcrack in Sex/Life feels like incredible wish fulfillment," says Scaachi Koul. "But I don’t actually hate my husband or his penis so the show’s tone and content feel a little regressive." Koul adds that Stacy Rukeyser and Belle Nuru Dayne's adaptation of B.B. Easton's novel 44 Chapters about 4 Men "cannot possibly be for adults because any adult watching this would see it as the men’s rights thriller that it actually is. Right?! It puts forth a child’s understanding of marriage, one that kills sex drives and makes you choose between 'fun' you (stoned at a sex party where your friend’s husband aggressively pursues you) and 'boring' you (not being a f*cking creep at work with your hot boss). How else do you explain this show’s popularity on Netflix while barely anyone I know has even heard of it? The framing of the entire show — that you can either have a nice husband who takes care of the kids and has a steady job, or you can get f*cked, like raw-dog f*cked by some music producer who has the personality of an old leather keychain — is like an incel day-mare. Here’s the big spoiler, if you need protecting from the end of this show: Billie chooses to stay with her husband while also fleeing to Brad’s weird-ass abandoned factory condo to demand he f*ck her. Did her husband consent to this? He did not! Do they ever get better at communicating their sexual desires to each other? They don’t! Is Cooper painted as the nice guy who gets nothing except a half-hearted emotional affair with a colleague? Sure is! Is there anyone worth rooting for in this show? I dunno, maybe their 3-year-old, who waddles around all eight episodes asking if they’re getting a divorce while Mommy sits at the kitchen table fantasizing about being eaten out by someone who could be the mascot for Outback Steakhouse. I’m not against streaming shows becoming hornier. Honestly, it saves me a lot of time…googling. But if a show purports to put plot first and erect nipples second, there actually has to be a story to hold onto."
Sex/Life's use of the "nice guy" trope is exhausting, revealing how it's really about male entitlement: Mike Vogel's Cooper "exemplifies pretty much everything wrong with the trope of the 'nice guy' — starting with the reality that most 'nice guys' aren't actually all that nice," says Kylie Cheung. "Instead, they're pretty much just perceived as 'nice guys' because they thrive off of the laughably low standards society assigns to men to be considered "nice," which women are socialized to accept. The bar is so low, and the minimum so bare, that Cooper is repeatedly called the 'perfect husband' throughout Sex/Life for the grand act of . . . *checks notes* . . . being a man with a pulse, and wanting to marry and have kids."
It wouldn't be a stretch by any means to credit much of Sex/Life's instant success to pandemic-borne thirst: "For more than a year, the general public health directive was to avoid or minimize social contact in order to flatten the curve of the coronavirus; we couldn't even see hang out with others, much less kiss or sleep with them," says Ineye Komonibo. "As the social distancing protocol loosens over time, so have our inhibitions, giving many of us the opportunity to finally act on those carnal instincts that we'd been holding back in quarantine. This summer has already been declared the 'summer of casual sex,' and the limit does not exist on the amount of 'Thot Sh*t' and hot girl behavior I'm predicting that the world will get into in the next few months...Sex/Life does what other steamy Netflix projects like 365 DNi, Too Hot to Handle, and Elite also accomplished: turning us on. But the Stacy Rukeyser series hits differently now that outside is (technically) open. Don't just watch real-life lovers (Sarah) Shahi and (Adam) Demos do it on camera — it might be time for you to go be the main character of your own love life. Netflix will still be waiting for you when you get back, I promise."
Sarah Shahi admits "I was praying a lot" filming Sex/Life: It helped that Shahi was surrounded by women like co-creator Stacy Rukeyser and only female directors while filming sex scenes. “It’s a very emotionally charged role,” she tells TVLine. “I was a ball of nerves, honestly, between that and the amount of nude scenes and sex scenes, and the raw emotional breakdown scenes. I was a God-fearing girl when we were doing this. I was praying a lot.” Shahi adds: “To have women behind the camera, and something that was this centered around a woman’s point of view, I don’t think I realized how great that was until after the fact, the safety that comes with being able to talk to women about those sexual scenes. I don’t know if I would have been that comfortable opening up in that way if it was a man. A lot of times, when we have shows or movies that are very sexual, it’s still told through the male lens, but now we have something that’s the female point of view.”
Adam Demos on going full frontal: "I was okay with it because you read the script and know what you're getting yourself into from the start, so I don't think you would sign on to a show after reading the scripts and then say no last minute," he says. "That doesn't mean you can't have discussions about comfort level, which they allowed us to have - and with the intimacy coordinator, so it felt a lot safer."