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The sex lives of Australians under the microscope in ABC's Luke Warm Sex

Australia is a fairly liberated nation when it comes to sex. But that doesn’t mean most of us are necessarily comfortable talking about what we do or do not do in the privacy of our own bedrooms (or kitchens, bathrooms, on-premises sex clubs, the great outdoors etc.). 

Luke Warm Sex, ABC’s new six-part docu-comedy series, aims to get Australians expressing themselves sexually with more confidence, and make us better at the act of sex itself, with the kind of sex education you don’t get through school or porn.

It takes its tone and general structure from previous ABC docu-comedy shows like Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey and Judith Lucy is All Woman: a series of interviews interspersed with a comedian host embarking on a variety of unusual and often discomforting experiences related to the show’s theme.

This journey into sex is led by 30-year-old Luke McGregor, who has relatively limited experience in the area and all kinds of hangups about his body, bodily contact and nudity. He might seem like an unlikely host — most of his schtick as a comedian is about his awkwardness — but by having McGregor talk about his own shortcomings and striving to overcome them, the series suddenly has real emotional stakes.

In the first episode, McGregor overcomes his fear of nudity by consulting a range of experts (or, sexperts) and participating in a series of activities, which end with him at a nudist resort, playing a match of nude tennis.

It’s not until the second that the series really finds its groove when McGregor conquers his fear of bodily contact, firstly by taking place in a kissing technique class (using a slice of tomato), then by joining in on a “cuddle party”, and then experiencing an ancient Tibetan ritual called “Pulse of the Dragon”, which involves intense pelvis-to-pelvis contact. McGregor lies flat on his back while his teacher Barbara straddles him and performs a series of movements, forcefully and rhythmically bumping and grinding her pelvis against his for 30 minutes. The practice is designed to unleash sexual energy … or something.

He encounters all kinds of experts along the way with their own sex philosophies, from a sex positive educator/lubricant evangelist, to the members of a bondage and S&M club.

McGregor’s own journey is probably the most compelling aspect of the series. But because his awkwardness and anxiety is the major source of comedy, there are moments when you wonder just how genuine it all is. He’s clearly set himself the goal to be as honest as he possibly can be about his own feelings and experiences, and while there are some very intimate revelations, you get the impression that what you’re often watching is his honed and developed stand-up persona, rather than the “real” Luke.

But he’s still an endearing presence, and the show is consistently entertaining and revealing, even for those who think they know a lot about sex.

Luke Warm Sex airs on ABC TV, Wednesdays at 9pm

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