Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop reigns supreme among health and wellness brands — she even has a candle that smells like her vagina. Goop, created in 2008, spearheaded an up-and-coming subculture of holistic wellness that has come to rule current health trends, including crystal use and detox shots. The fun in Paltrow’s spin on self-care has often been clouded over the years — the brand was sued by the Consumer Protection Office and settled over false advertising claims — but at the same time, the criticism of Goop is often conflated with criticism of Paltrow and misplaced in misogyny, with the brand having a clear intention to create a safe space for women to tap into their eroticism and wellness.
In an attempt to get an inside scoop on Goop, or maybe even to rehabilitate its parodied image, the brand leaned into its own judgment with the 2020 Netflix docuseries “The Goop Lab,” which was met with mixed reviews. A year later, Goop is back, this time with a six-episode series titled “Sex, Love and Goop” that follows a group of couples and their journey to achieve more harmonious sex lives.
“Sex, Love and Goop” is a bit unconventional at times, but aspires to normalize the conversation about the possibilities of sexual pleasure. The series mainly focuses on removing the facade of Western practices that come with feelings of shame or trauma. The couples’ diverse backgrounds and ages give the show a relatable and sentimental charm that isn’t usually found within the brand that sells $70 “Beauty in a Bottle” vitamins. Otherwise, “Sex, Love and Goop” successfully paints the brand as relatable, providing a heartwarming, somewhat educational story along the way.
Couple Erika and Damon lead the first episode, with an introduction to somatic sex coach Jaiya. Erika and Damon are not shy to confide in Jaiya about their intimacy — every couple’s candor breaks down a barrier necessary to make the show successful.
The camera’s shots are often tasteful, highlighting emotional breakthroughs rather than sexual ones. The couples’ stories are easily relatable and movingly vulnerable, such as when Erika relays feelings of being “broken” because of her current inability to orgasm. Between the different exercises, the camera cuts back to a conversation between Paltrow and sex expert Michaela Boehm in the minimalist, practically sterile, dystopian setting of Goop headquarters. Although Paltrow is the face of Goop — and often bears the brunt of the backlash against the brand — her involvement in the success of each couple’s sexual breakthroughs is clear and refreshing.
Discussing sex can be awkward, especially watching strangers play with sex toys or speak about their sexual escapades. The outrageous moments of the show toe a thin line between unbelievable and uncomfortably pedagogic. In one scene, Jaiya and her partner practice an “energetic orgasm” with Damon and Erika observing. The scene is filled with Jaiya’s loud and seemingly performative moaning, with shots cutting to the couple giving each other the side-eye.
In another scene, older couple Joie and Michael take part in a playful exercise of reintroducing their primal side, acting like animals crawling on the floor. Their older age adds to the show’s modernity as it unpacks not only issues of sex, but also those of ageism that shadow older couples and their sex lives. Joie stares at her reflection with her assigned coach Amina in a heartwarming moment that tackles internalized fatphobia and ageism when it comes to the body.
Another couple, Shandra and Camille, confronts religious shame and the taboo of sex. In these moments, the show finds itself exploring very real, difficult conversations that push personal boundaries and promote future development regarding sex from an emotional standpoint.
“Sex, Love and Goop” is uncomfortable at times, and rightfully so. Sex, and everything that comes with it, is a difficult subject to broach, especially on camera and for all Netflix subscribers to see. Yet, it’s inspiring to watch the cutting-edge work of multiple sexologists to create a society comfortable with sex and pleasure. While the show is firstly a form of entertainment, it also teaches important lessons and tools that any viewer can learn from.