The second episode of Planet Sex–multi-hyphenate Cara Delevingne’s new docuseries, streaming Feb. 14 on Hulu–opens in wildly hedonistic fashion. A few shots show Delevingne in various state of undress and pleading with each other, all set under brightly lit lights. “I know it looks pretty steamy,” Delevingne narrates in a voiceover, “but I am doing this for science!”
That line between science and entertainment is the one that Delevingne is steadily straddling in Planet Sex, which aims to explore sexuality, gender, relationships, and just about everything in between. It might not seem natural to have someone such as Delevingne host a show that covers sensitive topics. Delevingne is a good choice if you want to discuss sex, gender, and humor with an edge.
Those who aren’t as familiar with Delevingne beyond her modeling and acting careers might not know that she was actually something of a queer tentpole in the 2010s. Delevingne had highly publicized relationships with musician St. Vincent and actress Ashley Benson, and publicly identifies as bisexual and pansexual, as well as genderqueer. If you simply must have a famous white woman covering these subjects, Cara Delevingne might be the best option.
Planet Sex, which was co-conceptualized and executive-produced by Delevingne, isn’t designed to be a vanity project; the intention here is not to boost a celebrity’s public profile with a well-meaning but ultimately vacuous docuseries (see: Lindsay Lohan’s Indian Journey). Delevingne instead travels the world to gain genuine insights into how different cultures deal with gender and sexuality. She also examines the impact of the information she gathers on her sense of self-identity. Every episode focuses on a different aspect of sexuality and provides an easy entry point for people to understand the topic. At times, the show’s approach can seem a little rudimentary, but Delevingne’s fearless, tongue-out attitude creates a comfortable grounding point that legitimately could open some minds…and legs!
The first episode feels like it was deliberately selected to be the opening of the series. “Out and Proud?” explores modern queer identity and how it is possible to be openly gay. Although the discussion surrounding queerness may not be as open-ended and equal to heterosexuality in general, it is still a difficult topic for viewers to address while they are settling into Planet.
At least it may seem that way. Delevingne, and producers are surprising not to be half-assing. They’re unafraid to hit every letter in the LGBTQIA+ acronym–at least for an amuse-bouche; deeper dives into transness and queer identities relating to gender will come later. Delevingne is the main focal point at the beginning. Planet Sex is as important for Delevingne as for her audience. And with the premiere finding Delevingne tracking her own comfort level at an all-lesbian and nonbinary festival in Palm Springs, some might be surprised to learn that the quintessential party girl is having a hard time letting loose.
Delevingne had never attended Pride events or any celebration where sexuality was the main focus. It’s fascinating to watch someone who very clearly has few inhibitions struggle with keeping a wall up, when it comes to the most intimate parts of herself. Delevingne’s hesitation at opening up reflects how many queer people feel in these situations, and it’s nice to see the lifelong process of unlearning societal shame on display for those who may not have ever had to think about it.
That said, the premiere is more fundamental in its focus, with the second and third episodes wading into the muck of specificity–with plenty of compelling stops along the way. In episode 2, Delevingne mines the repression of female pleasure and demands more orgasms. Delevingne travels the globe to meet artists and teachers who are committed to breaking both laws and stigmas. Delevingne stops in Japan to interview Rokudenashiko the Japanese sculptor. She was once detained for creating art with her own genitalia in a country where all female sexual organs are censored.
Planet Sex acknowledges that Delevingne’s attempt to gain knowledge about these subjects is a privilege, one that isn’t as easily afforded to someone who is not a Western white woman. Happily, the series refuses to center Delevingne in instances that are specific to other races and cultures. During a sex toy focus group for Black women, Delevingne bows out entirely, allowing only the crew to sit in on the meeting. These scenes are a reminder of why knowledge seekers need to defer to others for documentation, not comment. “It felt really freeing to have that type of discourse amongst women that look like me and remind me of myself,” one participant of the study tells the crew when it adjourns.
Delevingne’s dive into the topic of gender–a contentious issue among conservatives looking to demolish hard-fought trans rights and gender-affirming care for young people–is a necessary watch. This episode helps viewers to feel more comfortable discussing the topic. Delevingne begins the episode by interviewing her friend Gottmik, a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13.
Approaching the subject through the lens of a wildly popular queer reality show is a smart way to ease into the complicated conversation surrounding gender. After Gottmik gives Delevingne the basic lowdown, we’re thrust 300 miles south of Mexico City for a peek at the indigenous Zapotec, who recognize three genders: men, women, and Muxe–a distinct third gender outside of the man/woman binary.
On the other hand, there are plenty of lighter, sexier moments in the show as well. This is Planet Sex hosted by Cara Delevingne after all; if there weren’t a little bit of eroticism and surprising twists, I’d cancel my Hulu subscription. Our host will soon be in Germany masturbating to determine the chemical composition of her blood after orgasm. One moment she will be being licked in Germany by a group of lesbians, while another time she will have tequila shots taken off her body at an California sex event.
Each episode of Planet Sex has a different balance of informative vs. playful, but it never strikes an off-color tone. Delevingne is both curious and excited to talk with the participants of Planet Sex. Delevingne is determined to change the public’s perceptions of the subjects she covers, even if she does so in her outrageous, quirky style. “I honestly think people know more about space than the inner workings of the female orgasm,” Delevingne says at one point. Although I consider myself to be the only gay man who tries to understand a woman’s anatomy, it is a rare thing that she does not know. This has real value for almost everyone.
But the best way to capture Planet Sex is by one simple quote from the episode on female orgasm. Delevingne lets the crew handle a trip to Lebanon, where something as universal as female sexuality is still very much taboo. Sura, the co-founder of a non-penetrative pleasure product called Mauj–who has agreed to talk to producers under the condition that her face not appear on camera–speaks of why she encourages Arab women to talk about their pleasure. “[Stories of pleasure] stories about pain are not as well-known and discussed in the public sphere, she states.
Watching Planet Sex, that reality is glaring. We need to be able to cope with the constant reports about conditions in a marginalized group. The show uplifts and glorifies subcultures, minorities, and pleasure-seekers who have done nothing wrong but seek safety and happiness in their own bodies and identities. Knowing that this giant planet is filled with even more acceptance than intolerance is invaluable. It was Cara Delevingne who would remind us.
The In “Planet Sex,” Cara Delevingne goes to Sex Parties For the Good of Science was first published on The Daily Beast .