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'Sex Lives of College Girls' cast snaps back at criticism of intimacy coordinators ahead of brilliant Season 2

Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble's HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls is back for Season 2 (premiering on Crave in Canada Nov. 17) and continues to be the funniest, most real show about college life for women you’ll see.

The show begins with the return to Essex College after Thanksgiving break.

Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) is trying to figure out how to make enough money to stay in school after losing her scholarship at the end of Season 1, and she doesn’t want to put that financial burden on her parents. Leighton (Reneé Rapp) feels more confident about her sexuality and is ready to, essentially, “make up for lost time” with the women on campus. Bela (Amrit Kaur), after speaking up about a member of the campus comedy publication The Catullan’s sexual assault in Season 1, has decided to start an all-female comedy magazine. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is trying to expand her skills outside of soccer, including enrolling in the very difficult biochemistry class.

All the actors were excited to take their characters into new spaces as the series continues.

“I like Leighton’s hoeing around, just in the sense that she gets to just be out and do her thing,” Reneé Rapp said. “It's really nice to see that sort of self-acceptance of like, oh I actually don't care how somebody else is going to do this, I'm going to do it anyway. That is really special to me.”

“Whitney [is committed] to self growth and discovery, she's kind of forced to be in the unknown space rather than move with this hyper-confidence that no 18-year-old should have,” Alyah Chanelle Scott added.

“I was really proud this season of Whitney. I am Black and I also went to school at a predominantly white institution… I remember being 18 and realizing I was in the situation before I knew I was in the situation… Then there's a whole part of self-growth and self-actualization that comes with that. That's a conversation that I was really eager to have with Whitney and it comes naturally, just given that she is there and that's always happening around her.”

Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur in
Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur in "The Sex Lives of College Girls" on HBO Max and Crave (Courtesy of HBO Max)

Criticism of intimacy coordinators on set is 'ridiculous'

The way the show displays and talks about sex is revolutionary, even if it shouldn’t be given that it just recreates reality. It’s women understanding their sexuality, trying different things sexually with different partners, and navigating intimate relationships.

One thing that goes hand-in-hand with being able to do that is having an intimacy coordinator on set to support the show. The Sex Lives of College Girls actors were quick to criticize anyone who questions the legitimacy of an intimacy coordinator on set, like Game of Thrones star Sean Bean's comment to the The Times earlier this year that intimacy coordinators "spoil the spontaneity" of scenes.

“My thoughts are that it's ridiculous and it pains me to even have the discussion, truthfully,” Reneé Rapp said. “I also feel like anybody who raises a question about it,...we have intimacy coordinators because of people like you.”

“That is why we have intimacy coordinators, so that no one is taken advantage of or feels uncomfortable to speak up about themselves, their body and the things that are around them.”

On our show our intimacy coordinator, Kelley Flynn, she's so skilled at what she does and is able to operate in the space in a way that no one else on our set can, because it's a third party. It's someone who's removed from the relationship, power dynamics of like director-actor. She advocates for us and also for the scene… I feel like we couldn't do it without her.Alyah Chanelle Scott, Actress, 'Sex Lives of College Girls'

Amrit Kaur as Bela in
Amrit Kaur as Bela in "The Sex Lives of College Girls" on HBO Max and Crave (Courtesy of HBO Max)

'It's a human approach that Bela chooses to take'

Not only does The Sex Lives of College Girls tackle the complexities of sex, but Season 2 also thoughtfully moves Bela’s storyline forward, following her sexual assault in Season 1.

“I too have, unfortunately, like many women, gone through difficult situations of assault and harassment,” Amrit Kaur said. “If it encourages someone to not stay silent, that's also beautiful, but I want to be careful and not advocating that there's just one way to do it, or that Bela's response that was written was the right way to do it."

"As an actor, I was very conscious about that being possibly a fairytale ending… I had serious discussions with my coach and we spoke about, how do we deal with someone who has been sexually assaulted, and so many other things beyond that, the nuances of being called so many names behind her back, being shut down for being a sexual person."

For Bela in Season 2, she takes the approach to be more “alpha,” as Kaur describes, after the events of Season 1.

“Now, we could have taken the approach of everything's fine,” Kaur explained. “But I took a conscious decision to go the opposite route, which is not the most noble approach, but I thought was one representation of how it could be true, which is something that I've done, tried to become more alpha, tried to [be] in the boys club and...trying to objectify men now as a revenge tactic.”

“That's not necessarily, again, the right approach. There is no right approach. It's a human approach that Bela chooses to take because she is not fully healed, and it will take years, possibly a lifetime, to deal with that.”

Ilia Isorelýs Paulino and Pauline Chalamet in
Ilia Isorelýs Paulino and Pauline Chalamet in "The Sex Lives of College Girls" on HBO Max and Crave (Courtesy of HBO Max)

The reality of the financial burden of paying for college

When it comes to Pauline Chalamet as Kimberly, what stands out is that The Sex Lives of College Girls doesn’t play into the trope of the “poor” student that is othered by her peers. While in Season 1 a boundary was established when all the families went to dinner and the other roommates tried to cover Kimberly and her mother’s tab, in Season 2, Kimberly is figuring out how to deal with the loss of her scholarship with the support of her more financially secure roommates.

While many shows often either depict their college characters as financially stable, or presents financial insecurity as some sort of anomaly, The Sex Lives of College Girls doesn't shy away from the reality of the financial burden of paying for an institution like Essex.

“I tell myself that the reason that these girls don't kind of other her is because of how young they are and everybody is new to ethics,” Chalamet said. “By the end of Season 1, the financial difficulties do arise for Kimberly and Season 2, I relished the opportunity to play someone who, not dissimilar to my own college experience, had to understand how much money they had."

"Even if you take Bela's character, I'm not sure that Bela comes from wealth…but there is a certain advantage or ease where she didn't lose her scholarship and Kimberly did... How do you face that at 18 years-old? How do other people, who are not maybe in the same situation as you, understand what that is? I think Season 2 does a pretty good job of exploring that.”

Amrit Kaur, Pauline Chalamet, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Reneé Rapp in
Amrit Kaur, Pauline Chalamet, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Reneé Rapp in "The Sex Lives of College Girls" Season 2 on HBO Max and Crave (Courtesy of HBO Max)

'The Girls' bring the comedy

While the serious topics in The Sex Lives of College Girls are covered with care, it's also absolutely insanely funny.

From Bela and Leighton's idea to have a "sex-positive, female-forward strip-tacular" that's also a fundraiser fro climate change, to how the roommates respond to the attractive “climate refugee” who moves into the room next to them and is regularly having loud sex, the humour is an absolute highlight.

Kimberly, in particular, really amps up the comedy in Season 2, including when she gets a job closed captioning for a reality show called “Sex Paradise: Australia."

It's all a testament to the fantastic writing on the show and the ability for the cast to execute comedy with such ease that's so enticing to watch, including a strong supporting cast outside the main group of roommates.

The Sex Lives of College Girls is a show that almost makes us want to go back to college, but only if we can live with Bela, Leighton, Whitney and Kimberly.