I Watched an Episode of The Goop Lab so You Don't Have To - But Maybe You Should
Gwyneth Paltrow's show, The Goop Lab, went up on Netflix this morning. As promised, I watched it, so I can tell you how absolutely horrible it is. I started with the thing I'm most interested in, the episode on orgasms featuring Betty Dodson. If you have read my blog or heard me speak at all, you'll be familiar with how I feel about Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow, so I'm going to suggest that you sit down and take a deep breath before you read the next sentence.
I really liked this episode.
No, I am not setting up a punchline. Yes, I actually did really like this episode.
I think the reason I liked it so much it that the vast majority of the time was given to Betty Dodson and her business partner Carlin Ross. Paltrow and one of her Goop associates have a discussion with Dodson and Ross about their Bodysex workshops and many many things to do with being comfortable with one's body, being comfortable with one's sexuality, and techniques for learning how to have an orgasm. To my great surprise, Paltrow really gives them the floor and lets them guide the discussion, serving only to react and to interject with the occasional question or observation.
I did find Paltrow's naïveté about the subject a little hard to buy. The woman talks about these things like this all the time and yet she's never heard the word 'vulva'? But it did come off as mostly genuine and I think she was actually playing the role of someone who was very new to all these concepts. I thought this could be helpful to viewers who are really new to this information.
There are clips of the BodySex workshops, some of which show both Dodson and Ross and other participants in various states of undress - really nice to see women with all kinds of the different bodies (and skin colours and ages) without their clothes on. Betty Dodson is 90 years old and there she is naked as a jaybird. They were appreciating their bodies rather than talking about what's wrong with them which is so unusual and refreshing.
There is a sequence which shows pictures of many different kinds of vulvas. I was both surprised and impressed that these pictures were included. I would have been disappointed if they spent 30 minutes talking about vulvas and then never showed one.
Even though I have been a sex educator for more than 20 years, and am quite used to discussing these things and encouraging people to shed their shame about their sex lives and their bodies, I have been intimidated by the idea of the bodysex workshops. I am quite a private person and I know that I have internalized a lot of body shame from the culture around me. I've even seen videos of bodysex workshops before and still felt it wasn't for me. But there was something about this show (and maybe it's also the 'fuck what you think, I don't care' age I've gotten to) that made ME feel like I could do this. It was very gentle, respectful, positive, and just plain lovely.
The other person featured on this episode is Isabella Frapier. I had never heard of her before. She describes herself as a sexuality and women’s health writer, podcaster, tarot reader, psychic medium, and “Sexuality Doula”. You know some of the things in that description are going to raise a few red flags for me......but she was also lovely. Now I don't know anything about her practice at all - just what I saw in these few minutes on this show. But what I saw in this show was a woman encouraging other women to appreciate themselves and teaching them some great tools to communicate their feelings and desires.
In one segment, she takes photos of the group participants as they try to reach for the 'sensual' inside themselves. Far from being your typical boudoir shoot, she seemed to really be encouraging the women to tap into their own feelings of sensuality and portray that. One of the woman did very athletic poses - boxing and yoga - as she said this is her sense of sexy and when she loves herself most. And you know what, she was totally hot and sexy in those pictures because she was really feeling herself - not performing for someone else.
My only major criticism is the cis-centric language that was used through the whole episode. I understand there are reasons why they use the word 'woman' so much and that there is some value in that. But it's really important to remember that not all women have vulvas and vaginas and that not all people who have vulvas and vaginas are women. That was completely ignored in this episode. I really think they needed, at the very least, to mention that. (would have been even better to have some trans women and non-binary folks included).
So yes, I admit, I actually like something that Gwyneth Paltrow did. But I am giving that only to the fact that she chose some great guests and just let them do their thing. I don't know if I'll watch the rest of the series as I think this is the only one that relates specifically to sexuality. I would recommend also, that if you watch it, watch only this episode and just watch it if you've never had the chance to see Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross in action.
Oh yes, one more criticism, the disclaimer at the beginning of the show is bullshit. It says the shows are meant for 'entertainment and information purposes only'. Well which is it? Is this pure entertainment? Or is it information? To me, the word 'information' implies 'factual'. From what I've read about the rest of the series, there's a lot in it that could hardly be considered fact.