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Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Netflix's The Goop Lab wants to give you an orgasm

Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop team sit down with a sexual education expert to talk about taboos and female pleasure.

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Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop Chief Content Officer Elise Loehnen.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

In the new six-episode Netflix series The Goop Lab, streaming now, actress-turned-wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow and her company Goop explore alternative therapies for modern maladies, from psychedelics for treating PTSD to dips in freezing lakes to lower stress. Episode 3, called The Pleasure is Ours, turns its eye toward a more intimate arena: the female orgasm.

Warning: This episode contains nudity and adult content.

The Goop team and the experts they interviewed talk at length about why female sexuality has historically been a taboo topic, and how that has led many women to avoid exploring their bodies and asking sexual partners for what they want. As a result, they don't experience orgasms.

Indeed, women's sexual health has long been ignored or dismissed by experts -- it wasn't until 1998 that a female doctor fully mapped the size and shape of the clitoris

But in 2020, the world is more sex-positive. Women-led startups are building sex tech devices that focus on female pleasure (and those devices are being legitimized at CES). Shows like Netflix's Sex Education are making the topic more mainstream, and companies are tackling sexual dysfunctions with techology. Now, The Goop Lab's frank conversation about female pleasure is contributing to the more open discussion. 

Goop has been under fire for years for recommending and selling all sorts of questionable treatments like vaginal steaming and expensive products like the jade egg to improve sexual health. So, I fully expected this episode to focus on more of the same. What I got instead was an important lesson in anatomy, body positivity and pleasure that should have been included in my high school sex education class. 

I should note that this episode focuses on cisgender women and doesn't discuss any challenges non-binary or transgender people might encounter to achieve an orgasm.

The Goop Lab episode 3 recap: The Pleasure is Ours

In the 35-minute episode, Paltrow and Elise Loehnen, chief content officer of Goop, sit down at the Goop offices with 90-year-old Betty Dodson, a pioneering sex educator and coach (who looks no older than 60 and wears an outfit I would gladly wear at 31), and Dodson's creative partner Carlin Ross.

The four start by discussing the difference between the vulva and vagina, a distinction many women, including Paltrow, are unaware of. They chat about Dodson's workshops, where she coaches women on how to orgasm, something she's been teaching for decades. 

In those workshops, women get naked, use mirrors to examine themselves and try Dodson's methods to "get off," which involves rocking the pelvis forward and backward while contracting the pelvic floor muscles. Later in the episode, we see Ross use this method to experience an orgasm on camera. While the scene isn't graphic, it does feel a little weird to watch someone do something so personal.

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Dodson and Ross talk about how they lead female pleasure workshops.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

My favorite part of the episode is a series of photos of different vulvas to show how much they vary from person to person. These photographs make the point that we rarely see female genitalia in the media, yet full-frontal male nudity is common in TV shows and movies. 

Even worse, Dodson calls out, is that many people only see the naked female body in porn, where female performers often (but not always) wax their pubic hair, bleach their skin and undergo plastic surgery to change the look of their vulvas. And if women only ever see vulvas in porn that don't look like their own, it's no wonder they worry their bodies are "bad" or "wrong," she explains.

The episode also takes viewers to a workshop led by sexuality coach and doula Isabella Frappier for a few female Goop employees. Frappier boosts the women's confidence with a sensual photoshoot (all are fully clothed) and takes them through a few exercises designed to make them more comfortable asking for what they want with a sex partner, instead of faking an orgasm. 

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Frappier leads a workshop on communicating with a sexual partner for a few Goop employees.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

The lack of knowledge of female bodies

This episode rightfully calls out that there is a lack of education and an undeniable taboo associated with female sexual health. Surveys have shown that upwards of 60% of women can't label the parts of a vulva and many are uncomfortable talking about their gynecological health with a doctor. 

That contributes to many women not having orgasms, which the medical community agrees are good for our health. They're said to relieve stress, reduce headache pain and even help lower the risk of dying of heart disease

Data show that heterosexual women experience an orgasm from sex with a partner less often than heterosexual men, homosexual men, bisexual men, homosexual women and bisexual women. All those factors, the episode argues, contribute to having unfulfilling sex lives.

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Ross shows a 3D model of the clitoris, which wasn't fully mapped until the late 90s. 

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

What can you learn from this episode?

The episode does a good job of stressing why women need to become more comfortable and familiar with their bodies. But advice on how to change that is limited.

Dodson's main advice is to first use a mirror to get familiar with your vulva and identify the many parts of it. Second, figure out what kind of stimulation feels good and work on communicating that to your partner. While the first step is easy for anyone, the episode doesn't offer enough details on how to accomplish the second. 

The most we get is a description of Dodson's method for achieving an orgasm, but there aren't explicit instructions. For that, you can check out her website Dodson and Ross (that link is NSFW).

In the end, The Pleasure is Ours offers a blunt and body-positive perspective on female pleasure and calls out all the various barriers that cisgender women encounter in trying to achieve that. While the episode doesn't provide a lot of advice to overcome the barriers to female pleasure, it does present female nudity and sexual gratification in an honest way we rarely see in the media. I'd go as far to say that it's required viewing for any sexually active adult, regardless of gender. Everyone can learn something, whether you have a vulva or not.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.