Whether you're a straight Korean kickboxer, a gay Mexican actor or a trans lesbian hacktivist from San Francisco, there's one thing we all have in common. No, it's not our overwhelming need to see Sense8 Season 3 avoid the perilous depths of cancellation hell, although that too unites us all. What binds us together most tightly as a species is our love of sex (aside, of course, from the asexuals among us).
Gone are the days when TV shows were afraid to show couples sleeping together in the same bed. Honest and graphic depictions of the beast with two backs on shows like Sense8 are revolutionizing TV, and providing insight into one of the most intimate human acts. However, shows as brutally honest about the realities of sex as Sense8 are few and far between. Instead, shows are far more likely to include watered-down or overly stylized sex scenes, which are used to boost ratings or stir up controversy, rather than to advance the plot.
While there are those who would morally object to the idea of seeing more explicit sex on our screens, the reality is that there's nothing inherently wrong with showing sexual relations. In fact, shows like Sense8 prove exactly why we need to see more sex on TV, providing viewers with far more than just a naughty peek at some hot, naked people. Sure, there will always be an element of titillation for some, but you don't need the combined intellect of eight people to realize that there's so much more to sex than that.
Sense8 Was Groundbreaking In Its Portrayal Of Sex
Netflix and chill took on a whole new meaning when Sense8 debuted on the streaming service in 2015, breaking barriers both literal and metaphorical with its unflinching portrayal of humanity.
From transcendental fight scenes to those uplifting musical moments, Sense8 had people talking all across the world, connecting audiences much like the titular sensates themselves. However, amidst all of the progressive cultural representation, there was one thing that uniquely captured the hearts and minds of viewers, and that was the show's unadulterated portrayal of sex.
Freed from the restrictions of network TV, Sense8 took great delight in filling our screens with copious amounts of flesh, bringing dongs and breasts of various shapes, sizes and colors into homes worldwide. While the nudity became a key talking point early on, fans of Sense 8 will be quick to argue that any sex depicted on the show always served a purpose, one far more justified than the usual token penises that appear regularly in the post-Game of Thrones world that we live in.
Sex As A Positive Affirmation Of Life
Case in point; That orgy scene from the Season 1 episode titled 'Demons'. Affectionately referred to by some as 'Episode Sex', the sixth chapter of Sense8's opening season included an eye-popping orgy, intertwining people of different ethnicities, genders and sexualities in a literal explosion of pansexual intercourse that knew no boundaries.
Lasting for over five minutes, the orgy quickly became a signature scene for the show, one where every character involved celebrated the act of love in ways never seen before on TV. Sweat was dripping and pulses were racing, but this scene is so much more that pure titillation or headline bait. The creators behind Sense8 bravely chose to depict the rarely charted territory of sex as an act of love, exploring all that this entails.
As early as the first episode, Sense8 wasted no time in revealing the realities of sex too, baring all during an intimate scene shared by trans actress Jamie Clayton and Freema Agyeman, who play a lesbian couple on the show. While some may have grimaced at the sight of a used dildo, the realism of such scenes is commendable, and lends them their own kind of beauty.
Not to mention, the characters depicted in Sense8's sex scenes span a broad range of races, genders, religions and sexualities. In a time where white, straight bodies dominate sex scenes across media, Sense8's commitment to showing a diverse range of people living and loving reminds us that everyone is worthy of sexual love.
Actor Max Riemelt who played Wolfgang Bogdanow in the first two seasons explained to Attitude how Sense8 explored sex as a means of connection:
"It’s more like an oil painting you like to look on, not the physical act of two people putting something into each other. It’s like a melting pot that shows what’s possible when you just think about what you feel when you have sex. It’s not that very simple, single image you have of sex; it describes a feeling you could have when you have someone you feel connected to. It’s a beautiful sex scene, which is really rare nowadays; it’s not something people like to think of as pornographic."
Full of emotion and joy, sex scenes such as the now-iconic orgy are indeed far too rare nowadays, often deemed too "unsavory" or even "immoral" by those with a more conservative disposition.
How Does The Sex On Sense8 Compare To Other Shows?
Never before have we seen men and women from such a wide variety of ethnicities and sexualities engage with each other in explicit sex scenes on TV. For the most part, TV still adheres to more old-fashioned depictions of intercourse that are worlds away from the likes of Sense8.
Even teen shows such as Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars cash in here, portraying a toned-down version of lovemaking from an underage perspective. Understandably though, little is shown in these programs aside from the occasional bare chest, followed by a cut-away to the teenagers lying beside each other post-coitus. A rare exception to this rule is Riverdale; the cast themselves revealed to Glamour that the show intentionally chose to circumvent the issue of portraying teen sex by almost avoiding it completely.
However, shows designed with a more mature audience in mind have finally begun to push boundaries in the sex department, such as #OrangeIsTheNewBlack. By featuring graphic nudity of an adult nature, these programs have begun to reflect the complexities of sex in real life, moving away from the PG-13 kisses of yesteryear.
Saying that though, none of these shows still come close to the innovation of Sense8, aside perhaps from the time travel drama #Outlander. However, while Outlander has broken new ground for its willingness to depict more realistic sex and the female gaze, Sense8 still represents a far wider spectrum of sexuality that's often overlooked or ignored on TV.
Sense8 Proves Why We Need More Sex On TV
However, there are also people who object to the idea of seeing more sex on TV. According to a report released by Ofcom last year, a third of UK TV audiences do not wish to see physical relationships play out on their favorite shows, despite the fact that there are studies which suggest that this can have beneficial results. Bustle reported that watching sex on TV can also improve bedroom shenanigans in real life, while also educating young people about the potential dangers of unsafe sex. Sex on TV can be more than just arousing, or even informative. Sex on screen can also save lives.
While that may sound somewhat sensationalistic, the truth is that there are literally millions of people in the world who still don't see themselves and their sexual desires reflected in the characters they watch onscreen. Much like the characters who star in #Sense8, these people come from all walks of life, yet still feel ostracized by their "otherness," something which is rarely accounted for in mainstream media. In turn, this can factor in as one of the many reasons why #LGBT people, particularly those of a younger age, are more susceptible to suicidal thoughts (The Trevor Project contains more information on this right here).
The sex scenes depicted in Sense 8 help to normalize relationships that deviate from the stereotypical norm, revealing to the world that LGBT people are exactly that — just people — and that love is love. In a world where Beauty & The Beast courted controversy for one tiny #gay moment, representation of this nature continues to be of paramount importance.
Yes, a number of other shows do contain queer characters, but few deviate from the sexless depiction of LGBT people that's pushed to the fore in family-friendly programs such as Modern Family & Will & Grace, many of which barely feature so much as a kiss. There are welcome exceptions, such as the aforementioned Orange is the New Black and HBO's Looking, but most of these exceptions predominantly focus on one facet of sexuality, rather than the full spectrum of human desire.
Sense8 has been instrumental in helping to normalize relationships from all corners of the world, regardless of the individual's sexuality, and the sex scenes played a huge role in this. This should hardly come as a surprise given that the show was co-created by the Wachowskis, two trans women who took the opportunity to depict versions of their own realities on screen.
Losing a show like Sense8 was a huge blow for everyone concerned. Not only will we never see how Season 3 could have played out, but the progress made by Sense 8's depiction of sex was halted just as the show hit the peak of its power.
Not all is lost, though. Just like the Homo Sensoriums represent the evolution of humanity, so too does the show itself represent the next step of diversity and sex on TV. Actor Brian J. Smith responded to the cancellation on Twitter by describing Sense8 as "a kind of Unfinished Symphony,' but that doesn't mean the show's legacy is unfinished. Sure, Season 3 will probably never happen now, but failing a full-blown renewal, we'll settle for one more good cluster-fuck in a final Christmas Special.