In 2018, the female orgasm is still considered somewhat illusive, apparently to the point that actress Toni Collette is convinced she is the first actress to have one on the BBC.
The star of BBC One’s new show Wanderlust spoke with the Radio Times about the new drama, where she praised it for its honest portrayal of female sexual pleasure. She appears as therapist Joy Richards, who is trying to save her marriage to husband Alan (Steven Mackintosh) after she suffers an accident. The show also stars Zawe Ashton, Deborah Bartlett, and Joe Hurst.
“It’s so honest and fresh in the way the women are portrayed,” Collette said. “To be a middle-aged woman, to be in a long-term relationship and to be alive, dealing with a lot of things – it’s tough.
“Certainly a middle-aged woman’s sense of self-esteem, of sexuality, is not often talked about.”
She added: “Someone told me I was the first woman to have an orgasm on the BBC... and I’m happy to take the accolade.”
While it does sound as though Wanderlust has achieved a positive portrayal of female sexuality, TV fans have already pointed out that Collette’s claim can be quickly proven wrong.
Writing for The Guardian, Zoe Williams pointed out that the BBC’s 2002 adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, a show that caused uproar among conservative campaigners, featured more than one female climax. In an adaptation of Alan Tollinghurt’s Line of Beauty, starring Hayley Atwell as Catherine Fedden, the author himself said he was unable to identify whether an audible orgasm was real or fake.
Joely Richardson as Lady Chatterley definitely had an orgasm, thanks to Sean Bean’s gamekeeper Oliver Mellors, in Ken Russell’s 1993 adaptation. And who could forget the moment a BBC Breakfast journalist was interrupted during a live broadcast by what appeared to be the sound of a woman climaxing? In 2009, a BBC radio presenter was also criticised for playing a clip of Meg Ryan’s infamous fake orgasm in the film When Harry Met Sally during his drive-time show.
It was pointed out that Collette’s mistake was an easy one to make given how difficult it is to make that moment clear on-screen: in HBO’s Sex and the City, it was often portrayed by either a dramatic sit-up-and-gasp or a lot of toe-curling and eye-widening.
A BBC spokesperson told Metro.co.uk that, while they were unable to confirm Collette’s remark, Wanderlust was “one of our most frank dramas about sex and relationships”. Collette said she expected it to start conversations around the idea of long-term relationships and whether lifelong monogamy is possible – or desirable.
Wanderlust airs on BBC One on Tuesday 4 September at 9pm.
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