Consent and communication: Advice from an intimacy coordinator

This month we’re glad to be partnering with the ERIKALUST non-profit project, The Porn Conversation to talk about sexual health and porn literacy.

With so many young people turning to the internet for answers about sex, being clued up on what's real, what's safe and what to look out for is integral to a healthy, happy, sex life. Just like porn, conversations about STIs and testing are shrouded in shame and misinformation. We think it's time that changed!

So we sat down with Avril Louise Clarke to learn about her work as an intimacy coordinator on adult film shoots. As well as helping performers talk about consent and boundaries, Avril is the in-house sexologist and brand manager of The Porn Conversation.

Hi Avril, so to get started - can you tell us about what an intimacy coordinator does? What kind of projects do you work on?

An intimacy coordinator is a person who acts as a liaison between production team and performers, in this case in the porn industry, sex workers. We assist with upholding the boundaries, sexual health requirements and preferences, and the practice of consent before, during, and after production.

What inspired you to start this work?

The #MeToo movement was really the beginning of it all. I could really see how much this role was needed, and how it could improve the safety of actors in Hollywood when shooting intimate scenes.

I started working with ERIKALUST as an in-house sexologist and wanted to get involved with ensuring performer’s safety and security during shoots. Of course, in porn, it’s not mimicking sex with the use of modesty garments. And it’s less coordinated - there’s real-life sex involved. So processes like STI testing, sexual consent and boundary forms and contraceptive meetings come into play, which typically would not be needed in a Hollywood set.

You work in an industry that faces a lot of stigma, do you think that porn has benefits and can help us have a healthy sex life?

I may be a bit biased here, but I truly believe it can. As a sexologist and intimacy coordinator and brand manager of the ERIKALUST non-profit project The Porn Conversation, I see that if we are conscious consumers of sexualized media, it can be empowering. Through learning and teaching porn literacy I believe that conscious consumerism is all about choosing outlets that align with your ethics and values. Where did this media come from? What messages is it sending me?

Much of the ethically produced porn today depicts a more inclusive approach that aligns with people who didn’t always feel included in the viewpoint, titles, categories, and content that much of free online porn depicts. From body positivity, diverse viewpoints and more women and LGBTQ+ people behind this type of porn, we’re creating a product that can heighten one’s experience with porn and shift the way we feel about ourselves, others, and sex and sexuality overall.

Talking about sex can be tricky, but you do it all the time! How do you help people feel comfortable talking about intimacy, likes and dislikes?

It depends whether it’s an individual or partnered practice. Starting with one person at a time, we explore what feels good to them, the types of physical contact they enjoy, what helps them feel most in the moment and in touch with their senses, and finally what is physiologically arousing for them. This can range from “I like a dark room where my sense of touch leads the way”, “I feel most in touch with my senses when I make eye contact with my partner”, to “Kissing on the neck really turns me on but on my thighs is a hard no”.

When we move onto sharing this with a partner, the communication should be open, honest, and accepting. Using “I” statements is typically a nice way to approach it. “I feel turned on by _” “I dislike feeling _”.

Boundaries only make things sexier - it helps you get curious about your partner, encouraging the question of “What DOES turn you on?” rather than only seeing limits. It’s exciting!. And something we should be asking more and often in our sexual relationships, no matter if they’re new or long-term. There’s always more to learn and explore about oneself and your partners.

Do you have any advice from your work that could help people in their own sex lives? Any tips for a good conversation about what you’re into and what you want to try?

I wish we had more open and honest conversations about STI statuses and boundaries and consent in our personal relationships. Working with sex workers makes me realise just how easy it should be.

Consent and communication are the only way to have pleasurable sexual experiences. It’s not supposed to be a mind game, it’s all about openness and safety and often leads to some really hot sex!

More to explore

Don't miss our free workshop run by Avril and SH:24 sexual health nurse Shauna O’Rourke. They'll be sharing everything about sexual health and porn literacy. Sign up for this free workshop

Check out more from our collab with Avril and The Porn Conversation on .

Learn more from Avril at or as @SexologyGirl on social media. Find out more about porn literacy at The Porn Conversation

Written by Hel Burrough. Senior Content Designer, SH:24 and Fettle
Reviewed by Avril Louise Clarke. Sexologist and Intimacy Coordinator at The Porn Conversation and ERIKALUST
Last updated at: 02 February 2024
Published on: 04 September 2023