Sex/Life Has Hotter Sex Than Bridgerton. This Is Why It’s Not Just “Eye Candy”

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
“We would say, ‘Okay, I’m comfortable with you touching the left side of my breast, but I don’t want your whole hand on my breast,’” Sarah Shahi recalls with a smile over a Zoom call with Refinery29. “Or, ‘My right ass cheek is a little bit better than my left ass cheek, so can we just position that way?’”  
For Shahi, such a conversation was business as usual on the Toronto set of Netflix’s Sex/Life, which premieres its lusty-as-hell first season on Friday. Shahi leads the fearlessly explicit drama as Billie Connelly, a postpartum mom-of-two whose fantasies about her hunky ex-boyfriend Brad Simon (Adam Demos, who is also Shahi’s real-life partner) start to affect her marriage with Cooper (Mike Vogel). The first time viewers meet Billie, she’s in flashback, passionately making out with Brad in a club; in the heat of the moment, he goes down on her in the packed venue. Five minutes later, the Sex/Life series premiere runs through Billie’s sexual history in a no-holds-barred flashback supercut, confirming the Connecticut mom really did experience “73% of the positions in the Kama Sutra,” as she says in voiceover. 
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Bridgerton’s “Wildest Dreams” sex montage looks positively prim in comparison. 
“I had to have so much sex on this show. We have a sex montage where I had almost a different actor each day. Sometimes there were multiple actors a day whom I had to fake sex with,” Shahi says. Then there are her season-long on-screen hookups with her professionally good-looking co-leads. “I would call my mom sometimes on my way into work and she’d be like, ‘Who are your scenes with?’” Shahi continues. “I’d say, ‘I have one with Adam, one with Mike.’ She’s like, ‘Honey, that’s not called work.’” 
While viewers will likely agree with Shahi’s mother and see Sex/Life’s many erotic entanglements as a sexy gift rather than the product of thesbian toiling, Shahi herself hopes fans understand Sex/Life’s robust sex life isn’t simply meant to be “eye candy.” Each sex scene is a painstakingly designed window into the inner lives of the characters. 
“Women love to be touched and eaten out. Oral is a big part of our stimulation. It’s sex represented by women for women,” Shahi says of the series’ sexual oeuvre. She credits intimacy coordinator Casey Hudecki for ensuring “super in-depth” conversations around intimate moments were the norm during filming. “What was important for me was the detail of the kind of sex that we were having — the breath,” Shahi says. “Is it very intimate, quiet breathing? Or is it a little bit more graphic?”  
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Adam Demos and Sarah Shahi practicing more "graphic breathing" in Sex/Life as Brad and Billie.
This method of exacting thinking was particularly helpful when it came time to film the sure-to-be-talked-about sex party in Sex/Life’s seventh episode “Small Town Saturday Night.” Billie and Cooper walk around a room filled with people in various sex acts until they begin undressing each other. They attempt to have sex, but once strangers start surrounding them with hungry eyes, Billie ends the encounter. Upset and still aroused, Cooper accepts a blowjob from Billie’s frenemy Trina (Amber Goldfarb). Even Shahi laughs that she was “in shock” while reading about the encounter in her script. 
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“I thought to myself: Are you sure we can put this up on TV?” she says. “The way that episode was written was quite courageous and very ballsy.” 
Shahi sounds particularly awed by Sex/Life creator Stacy Rukeyser’s show when she ponders her previous life as a procedural star on comparatively straight-laced series like Fairly Legal and Person of Interest. Those shows, Shahi jokes, “were paying me to keep my clothes on.” Now, she talks about using a modesty garment the size of a compact clutch — “that was supposed to cover everything” — with the ease most of us reserve for describing our coffee order. 
“I had so many nude scenes in succession that by the end, I was just like, ‘Well, a body’s a body,’” she shrugs. “But the intimacy part of it — that was always nerve wracking for me.”  
Still, Shahi is thankful for the effect “dynamite-in-a-box” Billie has had on her life off camera. “This character, from the beginning, was somebody that took over my heart, body, mind, and soul from the moment I inhabited her,” Shahi says. “I got to know myself in a more spiritual way, in a more sexual way, and become more uninhibited myself.” 
Now, she wants viewers to take their own lessons from Billie’s many (many, many) sexcapades. “Being a mother myself, those parts of yourself don’t go away. Just because you are a mother doesn’t mean you can’t be this sex goddess at the same time,” Shahi says. “I hope women realize that our sexual prowess is something that should not be thrown away. We really should be valued and honored through our partners. Dammit, if you’re not, you gotta go out there and get it.”  

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