Back in the days of yore, it was a rarity to even see a post-sex "we're under the covers" scene on television. But TV has gotten slightly more progressive and open-minded about intercourse (yay!), which makes sense considering it's a daily/monthly (hopefully) part of most adults' lives. In other words, sex is normal, and there's no reason to shy away from it on television.
On that note, here are the most gorgeous, graphic, and in some cases groundbreaking sex scenes we've seen on the small screen.
The sex scenes that Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) shares with Luke Cage (Mike Colter) range from empowering (hurrah for women having agency!) to jaw-to-the-floor epic. And honestly it's impossible to pick just one, so we selected a clip with a bunch of ~moments~ above. That said, filming these scenes is not sexy: "It's so choreographed, there’s really nothing sexy about it," Ritter has said. "If you’re going to have to do a scene like that, it’s not terrible to do it with Mike. He’s alright looking. But he is also just a nice guy and always has your back. I always felt really safe and protected."
If you haven't seen Sense8's orgy, you haven't lived. It's truly iconic in the world of TV sex, and a must-watch for people into orgies (anyone?). Enjoy this video, and this quote from Jamie Clayton, who plays Nomi Marks: "It was mainly just Lana [Wachowski, a co-creator] off-set telling us, 'Okay, Jamie go in. Okay, now Jamie go out.' There she was just on the side shouting out directions at all of us—like, where our hands should go and who we should kiss."
If there was a Golden Globe for "Best Sex Scene That Also Involves Blood Sucking"—which there should be—True Blood would almost certainly win. Every intimate scene in the show is notable, but you can't beat the one where Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) have sex in a snowy wonderland while covered in fur.
And FYI, Paquin filmed it while in a relationship with her other True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer, and nah—it wasn't that awkward. "We feel completely comfortable together," she said of the process. "Steve and Alex are buddies. It's nothing like, 'Oh, hi, nice to meet you. Now take off your clothes and go into the fog.' Everyone is respectful of each other's boundaries...They're all very gentlemanly about it."
'Game of Thrones'
We've spent a lot of time thinking about Game of Thrones' sex scenes thanks to the show deciding incest is something we should all casually be fine with (which, still no), but this scene between Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is definitely the most gorgeous of the bunch. And weirdly, despite being a couple in real life, Harington says the scene was heavily staged: "It's also a very clinical procedure, you know? It's very strange," he explained. "I've never done a love scene before, and especially a nude scene, so it's very strange being naked in front of a hundred or so people. So we obviously rehearsed it a few times—fully clothed, mind you!"
Talk about breaking taboos. While Marnie (Allison Williams) and Desi's "anilingus" scene isn't exactly the definition of "graphic and gorgeous" we've included it here because it was SUCH a huge moment in on-screen sex. Sure, there are no rules on HBO, but Girls took things to the next level with this honest depiction of intimacy. And no, the actor who played Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) was nowhere close to doing the real thing.
"I grabbed the makeup girl and said, 'I want to smell like a cake,' so we put vanilla cream everywhere so everything smells good," Williams told Vulture. "And then I'm like, 'Grace [in wardrobe], we're going to rig something invisible from the side but that feels like a pillow when he puts his face into it.' And, that's what we did! You wouldn't know; it's total TV magic."
'The Handmaid's Tale'
The sexual tension between Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Nick was through-the-roof during The Handmaid's Tale, and it was all the more potent thanks to the themes of female sexual repression in the show. When the two characters finally gave into their physical desire, it was completely glorious—not to mention beautifully filmed.
"That scene, to me, is really about release for June," explained Max Minghella, who plays Nick. "I felt like I was the least important factor. This society is so terrified of female pleasure specifically, so these moments of reprieve are important. That scene was simple to shoot [because] it was more primal than anything else I worked on. Mike [Barker, the director] is uniquely gifted to shoot such scenes—he's a man with no filter. And Lizzie and I are very close and trust and respect each other. It's was a very effective combination of people to tackle a scene like that."
That's right—Gossip Girl featured a threesome, or as close as they could get to one on a network like the CW. While the sex was only implied, this was a bold move for a show made for teenagers, and helped normalize sexual experimentation.
"The show is edgy, but we have a great relationship with the network's standards-and-practices people," Stephanie Savage, a co-creator, said at the time. "Whenever we do anything where we feel like we might be controversial, we have a lot of conversations. When we did our threesome episode in season three, we definitely caught some flack."
'Queer As Folk'
Brian (Gale Harold) and Justin's first hookup in Queer as Folk's pilot episode was one of the first gay sex scenes between two men on television—and that's a huge deal. "I had done graphic sex on stage already, and I just thought, It's exciting that it's going to exist," said Randy Harrison, who plays Justin. "I mean, I got frustrated with shooting sex later on in the series but, at the beginning, I just remember I was desperate for those images when I was a gay kid growing up. There were some foreign movies at the indie movie rental places that were about gay stories and sexuality that weren't pornography. When you're that desperate—they're so powerful. Especially to me as an adolescent it was—oh my god, life-changing. So I was really excited that I was going to be a part of that for other people and telling a gay story that was going to be on television." (Note: the original clip was deleted so please enjoy this epic fan-made super-cut.)
'The L Word'
The L Word was groundbreaking for lesbian representation on television, and this scene between Bette (Jennifer Beals) and Tina (Laurel Holloman) is one of the best. Mostly because it takes place in a kitchen, and there is no greater combination than food and sex. "We had to watch a sex video because we had to do all these sex scenes," Beals said. "So we could watch the video and see what worked and didn't work and analyze why it didn't work. It didn't work if people weren't fully committed to it."
Hello, did you know Henry Cavill (a.k.a. Superman) was in The Tudors? And that he had a ton of sex in it? And that said sex was so intense he got an actual erection? Yeah. That happened.
"A girl had to be on top of me, she had spectacular breasts, and I hadn't rearranged my...stuff into a harmless position. She's basically rubbing herself all over me and, um, it got a bit hard," he explained. "I had to apologize profusely afterward. It's not great when you're in a professional acting environment and somebody gets a boner, is it? No, not acceptable."
Almost every episode of Outlander comes with a handy sex scene for you to sweat over (YAY!), but nothing beats Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie's wedding night—an epic display of intimacy that took almost half the season to get to. "Caitriona and I had already filmed a scene from episode 10," Sam Heugen (Jamie) said of the scene. "When we were filming, we shot two episodes ahead so we did a scene after [the wedding]—a big breakup. It was very physical and lustful. To do this somehow felt easier, but more intimate because this was more about discovering each other. Yeah, we were both slightly nervous, which I think helps. In the scene, it's part of them finding each other. We worked it out in rehearsals what we wanted the viewer to see and not see and how we wanted it to be portrayed. Again, we don't want [the sex] to be gratuitous but it's very important for the characters and what happens to their relationship."
'Sex and the City'
Who can forget the episode of Sex and the City where Samantha (Kim Cattrall) finds a young farm hand and has sex with him in the barn? No one, that's who. Because it's been etched in our eyeballs for all eternity.
While Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth's (Keri Russell) 69-ing scene is probably the most "OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING?!"-inducing on The Americans, the sexiest sex scene happened way back in episode one—where after a solid hour of resentment and sexual tension, the couple had car sex. And it was so epic.
FYI, the pair are dating in real life—and no, filming sex scenes isn't that weird, though Rhys does get protective: "I get a little protective. I'm like, 'Can someone get her a f*ckin' robe, please?!' She's standing there naked, we've cut for five seconds, Jesus Christ. And they're like, 'Dude, this is the fourth season.'"
'Masters of Sex'
Masters of Sex has plenty of hot and steamy scenes to choose from, but one of the most graphic and, well, scientific of the series came when Lizzy Caplan's Virginia Johnson and Michael Sheen's Dr. William Masters have sex for science while hooked up to monitors.
“There’s a fair amount of sex and nudity in our show, obviously, but it never, never feels gratuitous,” Caplan said of the show's take on sex. “Without fail, when I’m watching television, I struggle to find one example of it not feeling a bit gratuitous. Our show is about sex and intimacy. Most shows are about other things. Maybe dragons? No disrespect at all, but it does feel at times that it’s like time out dragons, let’s watch these people get it on.”
'Game of Thrones'
Yes, we already have Jon and Ygritte on this list, but honestly, there's another GOT love scene that absolutely deserves inclusion on the ground of gorgeousness alone: The tender sex scene between Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson).
These characters have had one of the greatest emotional arcs on the series and when they finally made their relationship physical, it was perfection.
In its third episode, American Gods wowed audiences with a sex scene that was at once touching, empowering, and tender. The scene, between a young Middle Eastern man named Salim (Omid Abtahi) and a god named Jinn (Mousa Kraish), was sexy, sensual, and everything else you could want it to be.
"To portray Salim and the Jinn in a way that's sex positive for a gay man who comes from a country where homosexuality is punishable by death and you can be thrown off of a rooftop, it was very important to us to look at Salim's story as a gay man from the Middle East whose sexual experience was probably relegated to back alley blowjobs and didn't have an intimate personal sexual experience," executive producer and co-showrunner Bryan Fuller explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "In the book, Salim blows the Jinn in the hotel, and then he's gone. It was important for us in this depiction to have Salim drop to his knees and prepare to achieve sex the way he'd been accustomed to, and the Jinn lifts him off of his knees and kisses him and treats him much more soulfully and spiritually to change his perception of who he is and what his sexual identity has become. That felt like it was empowering in a different way, showing a protagonist as the one who is being penetrated. That comes with all sorts of preconceptions of gender roles and what it is to be a gay man at the same time."
During its first season, Westworld went all in on a glamorous, gold-painted orgy scene. The scene was one of the most talked about during the show's explosive debut season and drew comparisons to Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut.
When asked if there was ever concern that the scene went too far, co-executive producer and supervising director Richard J. Lewis told, "I think all of us have a modicum of taste that keeps us from taking it too far into the pornographic world and keeps it in the sensual world. I think that's important."
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
Buffy and Spike's relationship is one of the most controversial on the series (and mainstream television history, for that matter). It was doomed from the start and culminated in a hard-to-watch scene of sexual assault that, for many, tainted the entire coupling. And yet...Buffy and Spike's first "love" scene deserves inclusion on this list for its graphic depiction of sex that served a purpose other than romance for the show's female lead, which was actually pretty subversive in the early aughts. In the scene, described by some as sadomasochistic, Buffy and Spike literally destroy an abandoned building while doing the deed.
Not everyone was a fan, of course, including Sarah Michelle Gellar. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she admitted that she didn't like the season that featured the Buffy/Spike relationship at all. "I’ve always said that season 6 was not my favorite," she said. "I felt it betrayed who she was. Even just getting to talk to Joss and be able to get his opinion was not as easy when he’s not upstairs. He had three shows. He had Angel and Firefly so that was hard."
'You're the Worst'
When it comes to sex on TV, maybe no show has embraced the very real and often not romantic realities of the act more than FX's You're the Worst, which kicked things off in its pilot with a sex scene that set up the entire series.
“Sex is always a tricky balance on television because on one side you have titillation and on the other the narrative rigors of storytelling," creator Stephen Falk explained. "So you go about it as you do with any scene: Is it revealing about character? Does it help the story? Or is it just goddamn entertaining? We clearly started off season one with a strong sex scene between two strangers who became the leads on our show. And since then, we’ve used them very sparingly to help put them in a different context in which to show what’s going on in their relationship."
The sex scene between Luke Cage and Misty Knight is pure fire in all of the best ways. Seriously, there could be no wrong with a sex scene starring these two.
"So often when we watch typical shows, a woman meets a man, they have sex, and now her entire being and existence is dependent on his opinion, how he looks at her, how he treats her. [Showrunner] Cheo [Hodari Coker] and our writers did a really good job putting Misty in a position of power," Simone Missick, who plays Misty, said of the relationship. "Where she’s like, 'I’ll call you. I know where you work. We’ll see each other later. We can keep this casual.'"