In ‘Planet Sex,’ Cara Delevingne Goes to Sex Parties for the Good of Science
The second episode of Planet Sex—multi-hyphenate Cara Delevingne’s new docuseries, streaming Feb. 14 on Hulu—opens in wildly hedonistic fashion. We’re treated to scattershot glimpses of Delevingne surrounded by women in various states of undress, pleasuring each other under neon-hued lights. “I know it looks pretty steamy,” Delevingne narrates in a voiceover, “but I am doing
The second episode of Planet Sex—multi-hyphenate Cara Delevingne’s new docuseries, streaming Feb. 14 on Hulu—opens in wildly hedonistic fashion. We’re treated to scattershot glimpses of Delevingne surrounded by women in various states of undress, pleasuring each other under neon-hued 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. Having someone like Delevingne, who has become as known for her wild persona and partying as she has her work, host a show covering such sensitive and hot-button subjects might seem like a strange choice to some. But, truthfully, if there’s a proper person to cover sex and gender with a distinct cheekiness, it’s Delevingne.
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). Instead, Delevingne travels all over the globe, seeking genuine insight into the ways different cultures address gender and sex, while examining how the knowledge she gains affects her own sense of identity. Each episode tackles a different facet of sexuality, creating an accessible entry point to help destigmatize the subject at hand. 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 seems as though it’s deliberately chosen to open the series because of its approachability. “Out and Proud?” tackles the modern expansion of queer identity and what it means to live openly as yourself. By no means is the conversation surrounding queerness anywhere close to where it needs to be to achieve a modicum of equality to conventional heterosexuality, but compared to something like the female orgasm and different facets of the porn industry (which are covered in later episodes), queerness is a simpler subject for audiences to tackle while they settle into Planet Sex.
At least, it might seem like that. Delevingne and the producers surprisingly are not half-assing this. 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. The main focus at the start is getting viewers acquainted with Delevingne herself, as Planet Sex is just as much for its host’s benefit as it is for its 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.
It turns out that Delevingne has never been to any kind of Pride event, nor any space where sexuality was the focus of the celebration. 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. To do this, she hops around the world to interview artists and teachers who have devoted their careers to breaking laws and stigmas in equal measure. A stop in Japan is particularly illuminating; Delevingne interviews the sculptor Rokudenashiko, a woman once arrested for making art in the form of her own genitalia, in a country that censors all female sex organs.
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. Scenes like this highlight exactly why it’s so important for knowledge-seekers to sometimes defer to others to document, rather than 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. The episode eases viewers who may not necessarily be so comfortable with the topics at hand into full, educated discourse. 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. In one moment, our host will be masturbating in Germany to examine the chemical makeup of her blood post-orgasm. In another, she’ll be getting licked by a gaggle of lesbians and having tequila shots done off her body at a California sex party.
Each episode of Planet Sex has a different balance of informative vs. playful, but it never strikes an off-color tone. Delevingne seems both excited and curious to speak with all of the show’s participants. What’s more, she’s intent on changing public perception of the topics that she covers—even if it’s in her signature, outlandish style. “I honestly think people know more about space than the inner workings of the female orgasm,” Delevingne says at one point. I like to consider myself the rare gay man that tries to be knowledgeable of a woman’s anatomy, but damn it if she isn’t right! There is real merit here for just about everyone.
But what really captures Planet Sex is one enlightening quote, found in the female orgasm episode. 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] are still not at the level of public discourse as some of the stories around pain,” she says.
Watching Planet Sex, that reality is glaring. When we’re harangued by endless reports of conditions for an already-marginalized group only becoming more dismal, a dosage of reprieve at the same level is necessary for survival. 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. Who knew that it would be Cara Delevingne to remind us?