Planet Sex with Cara Delevingne — a documentary on BBC3 that’s not salacious but is pleasurable

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2022/dec/01/planet-sex-with-cara-delevingne-review-bbc-three

Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne review – her masturbation scenes will send you cross-eyed with pleasure

Yes. Yes! YES!! … Cara Delevingne explores orgasms in Planet Sex.
Yes. Yes! YES!! … Cara Delevingne explores orgasms in Planet Sex. Photograph: BBC

As the model watches porn and explores the orgasm gap, her wit and warmth make for a fun, female-centric documentary – far from the toe-curling experience you might expect

Lucy Mangan, @LucyMangan, Thu 1 Dec 2022 17.45 EST

Ithink we spoke a few days ago in another review, didn’t we, about the beauty of low expectations? Always either met and providing a satisfaction of sorts, or exceeded and providing a degree of actual happiness? And how pessimists have a much better time of it than optimists? Yes, we did.

Well, buckle up, my pretties, because television has pulled off the same feat again. For lo, the prospect offered by the title Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne (BBC Three) did make the spirit quail within me. But lo! The pessimist once more rejoiced. Planet Sex is far better than the frenetic, toe-curling embarrassment fest for which I had prepared myself. It is actually very good! And Cara D is actually very good indeed!

She is the perfect mix of wit, warmth, intelligence and curiosity. More importantly, she manages to be open and vulnerable – especially about the internalised homophobia and shame she still struggles with since coming out – but confident enough to set her boundaries. Never do you feel the discomfort that comes with suspecting someone has been cajoled into doing things for the camera that they would really rather not. As she reaches the critical points – often involving the insertion of a probe, the sight of which makes me hope there is a robust bonus payment clause in her contract – of investigations into female arousal while watching porn or blood flow during orgasm, doors are firmly shut and cameras cheerily seen off. We do get the ghostly outlines of the probe in situ via a medical scanner watched by the researcher (in a sex clinic in the Netherlands, which you probably guessed). “I can see your probe!” she yells happily to Delevingne. “I love that for us!” Delevingne shouts back.

Every episode covers a lot of ground without feeling too rushed. The first is about “the orgasm gap” – the fact that 95% of straight men come during sex, while the same can be said for just 65% of their female partners. She heads to Germany, where research into this is being conducted. “I’m here to have an orgasm and donate it to science.” She is shown into the masturbation wing. “Oh, it is pleasant!” she says. Cara Delevingne is British.

She is told to masturbate for at least 10 minutes and given a whistle to blow when she comes. “I should always have this whistle!” she says. Blood tests are done before and after and we learn that she is one of the 80% of people who produce endocannibinoids – yes, the body’s own cannabis – when they come. Then it’s over to Maastricht and psychologist-sexologist Dr Marieke Dewitte to find out why only 65% of women are getting the chance. You’re never going to guess the answer. Yes, that one. The penis likes the vagina, but it’s the clitoris that should be involved. Historically, sex has been about only le peen. Delevingne nods and literally goes cross-eyed, which is very often all the commentary you need. Men could be given instruction, suggests the doctor. “It’s an ego killer which most men can’t handle,” Delevingne points out in her customarily bracing manner. The good doctor is off camera at that point, but in my heart I know she is nodding and going cross-eyed.

Unlike most documentaries on the subject of sex – particularly from a female point of view – Planet Sex manages not to feel prurient or exploitative, and even more admirably it makes a concerted effort to take in the different cultural prejudices, social prohibitions and legal challenges being faced by women around the world. Radical Japanese artist Rokudenashiko has been imprisoned for her art because it shows vulvas and that is against the law. They used to be an accepted and acceptable part of Japanese art until western Christianity came along. Ain’t that always the way? In Lebanon, the women who have founded an organisation to help women overcome “the one thing that unites Arab countries – our culture of shame that surrounds being in a female body” cannot show their faces for fear of reprisals.

It is not a series designed to dig deep into these issues, but it is rare that they are even touched upon as part of a grand sweep such as Planet Sex, and along with Delevingne’s unexpectedly strong presenting skills and directness, it lifted the whole. I love this for us.

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