Entertainment Law, Symposium Submissions

Introducing Intimacy Coordinators in Mainstream and Adult Entertainment Film Industries: Towards Legally Ensuring Performer Safety On-Set – By: Brietta Stewart



This paper first addresses legal issues of consent (or lack thereof) during simulated sex scenes in the mainstream film industry. The primary question raised in this essay is: if a performer contractually agrees to do a simulated sex scene, does the performer have legal rights to continuous and ongoing consent throughout the scene? Actresses in particular often provide anecdotal evidence showing that performers struggle to communicate on film sets about boundaries regarding nudity, physical contact, and last moment script changes or improvisation requests from directors. Partially in response to these past traumatic accounts, Canadian and American mainstream film unions recently began incorporating intimacy coordinators into the workforce, with the earliest accreditation occurring in 2018. An intimacy coordinator is the point of contact between the director and the performer during scenes involving nudity, intimacy or simulated sex. They coach and choreograph movements by ensuring that performers are aware of all boundaries while also prioritizing the director’s artistic vision. Accompanying the rise of this new professional phenomenon are legal questions regarding how to regulate intimacy coordinators in the entertainment industry. This includes questions of imposing qualification law, modifying contract law, augmenting tort law, and seeking employment law options for non-union members. By investigating these legal disciplines, this paper demonstrates that more robust regulations or legislation is required for governing intimacy coordinators in the film production workforce. Until policy change is achieved, entertainment lawyers should ensure their clients contract an intimacy coordinator to be present whenever clients perform in simulated sex scenes.

This paper then shifts from the mainstream film industry’s use of simulated sex scenes to the adult entertainment industry’s use of un-simulated sex scenes. While the mainstream film industry takes steps to ensure performer protections, it appears pornography performers remain neglected. Undisputedly, adult film performers who engage in un-simulated sex scenes face greater on-set risks than performers in simulated sex scenes. By evaluating the adult entertainment industry’s general structure for porn performers, I raise questions around obscenity laws and how these claims may offer a future for legislative change requiring intimacy coordinators. Past obscenity claims mainly focus on what is on-screen while I suggest that the focus should transition to evaluating the filmmaking process. Ultimately, I show that sex workers in the adult entertainment industry are often overlooked, necessitating an attitudinal shift that humanizes porn performers and prioritizes their safety on-set. If none of the earlier proposed avenues for legislative change are achieved, a public perception shift may be the last resort for facilitating positive change and ensuring on-set safety for performers from all different film industries.

Author Biography

Brietta Stewart currently resides in Kelowna, BC, on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto, where she was published in the Cinema Studies undergraduate journal Camera Stylo and was an editor of the independent undergraduate journal Cinema 6. During law school at Thompson Rivers University, Brietta received Dean Course Prizes in Constitutional Law and Legislation, Administration and Policy. She co-founded the TRU Law and Film Club, offered tutorial assistance in all 1L and 2L mandatory courses, and led Supplemental Learning sessions in Constitutional Law. Her research interests include advocating for marginalized groups such as sex workers, prison inmates and individuals with non-normative bodies. She will complete her articles at Lawson Lundell LLP in Kelowna, BC, where she hopes to continue pursuing her interests in legal research and writing.


Published to the TRU Law Review Symposium on the recommendation of Professor Jon Festinger, K.C.