Netflix’s ‘Sexify’ Is a Wild and Fun Exploration of the Female Orgasm
The new eight-episode Polish series features a trio of women trying to create an app that revolutionizes the Big O for women.
Arriving on the heels of last year’s tawdry sensation 365 Days, Sexify proves yet another Polish Netflix offering with carnality on its mind. However, whereas Barbara Białowąs and Tomasz Mandes’ feature-length riff on Fifty Shades of Grey took itself oh-so-seriously, Piotr Domalewski and Kalina Alabrudzinska’s eight-part series (premiering April 28) is a far more lighthearted—and inspiring—sex-positive affair, charting the efforts of three college students to create a revolutionary new app. The purpose of their innovative tech creation? To optimize the female orgasm.
Tackling what the show considers the final frontier of pleasure, Sexify is a story about female agency, friendship, and self-discovery. At a university where she’s the star pupil and proud of it, Natalia (Aleksandra Skraba) has dreams of winning an academic competition with an app that perfects the act of sleeping. Those plans are squashed by new adviser Dr. Krynicki (Wojciech Solarz), who informs her that to triumph, she needs something sexier. He doesn’t mean that in the literal sense, but after the umpteenth straight night listening to her dormitory neighbors rattling the walls and yowling uncontrollably, she realizes that nothing consumes young people’s minds more than sex, and that devising a device that can augment it is the way to go.
Additionally motivating Natalia is the fact that she’s a virgin who has no erotic experience of any kind, and consequently her app—initially dubbed SEX—will afford her a window onto a larger world that she currently views from a demure remove. Since she’s a rookie when it comes to all things hot-and-bothered, Natalia’s project requires intense research. It also, invariably, necessitates enlisting some help. That first comes in the form of best friend Paulina (Maria Sobocinska), who spends most of her time in the apartment of her boyfriend Mariusz (Piotr Pacek). Unlike Natalia, Paulina has plenty of sex. Alas, it’s of the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am variety, with Mariusz skipping foreplay to dutifully thrust his way to completion on top of Paulina, who—always left unattended to and, as a result, unsatisfied—idly lays there waiting for this missionary-position pastime to finish.
Just as vital to Natalia’s project is Monika (Sandra Drzymalska), a spoiled rich girl who’s cut off by her domineering corporate-bigwig dad (Cezary Pazura) and forced to re-enroll at school, where she promptly moves in next door to Natalia. Monika does nothing but have sex, be it with men she randomly meets during her day or via online platforms. Though she and Natalia don’t immediately hit it off, they eventually come to see the potential of teaming up on SEX. Sexify thus swiftly establishes itself as a saga of three underdogs trying to blaze a pioneering trail, and per formula, it concocts a host of obstacles and antagonists to stymie the trio’s forward progress. At least initially, their primary adversary is Rafał, who believes he’ll come out on top in the competition with his idea for a hair gel that changes color via Bluetooth, and whose desire to crush Natalia is exacerbated by an early incident in which Natalia rejects his advances, thus squashing a potential partnership between the two.
Sexify quickly piles on more problems for its heroines, be it Monica’s issues with an ex-boyfriend (Bartosz Gelner) whose affections she can’t quite shake and a mother (Malgorzata Foremniak) who just doesn’t get her, or Paulina’s stress over having to conform to both familial designs for her nuptials and cultural expectations for her betrothed life. Natalia, meanwhile, simply finds sex a difficult entity with which to grapple, both because she’s never been under the sheets with anyone, and because she’s too analytical to let herself feel uninhibited, spontaneous passion—an issue that starts to change thanks to her relationship with Adam, a sex-shop employee with whom she begins a not-so-subtly charged relationship. Complicating their quest most of all, however, is their need for research data for their app, which compels them to allow students to have sex in Natalia’s dorm room (dubbed “The Copulation Station”) in exchange for them filling out a questionnaire about their wants and needs.
Helmed with bouncy verve by Domalewski and Alabrudzinska, Sexify is a frothy, funny lark that strikes a balance between seriously and goofily celebrating female sensuality, liberation, and independence. Trips to X-rated expos and a scheme to 3D-print the ultimate dildo are all part of this amusing package, which integrates into its narrative a cornucopia of explicit sexual subjects—masturbation, toys, kinks, and porn—with a refreshing lack of pretension or judgment. In a manner that most American shows probably wouldn’t, the series accepts that 21st century young women (and men) constantly think about, discuss and do all sorts of sexually wild things. It then mines that shared experience for good-natured laughs about desire, identity and the process of understanding our bodies in order to comprehend ourselves—a pursuit that’s inherent to growing up, especially at that formative moment when college kids are on the cusp of graduating to the adult world.
Digital graphics, snappy editing and an electronic theme song of remixed female moans further amplifies Sexify’s upbeat tone. So too do lead performances that are charming even when the material renders their plights a little too obvious and/or unfinished, which is most true when it comes to Monica, whose tensions with her mom come across as half-formed. As is so often the case with Netflix endeavors, things drag a bit in the middle; the fourth and fifth installments feel like wheel-spinning segments designed to pad the series’ episode count. Nonetheless, the material’s buoyant feminist spirit keeps things moving at a zippy clip, and in the final tally, there are more smart visual jokes (like the sexualized sight of a credit card being inserted into a reader) than lame ones (namely, a brief scene in which impotent Mariusz can’t shoot his gun at a firing range).
Despite its protagonists’ dream of providing women with a novel means of sexual gratification (and, with it, self-actualization), Sexify hews to plot conventions too frequently to be considered groundbreaking. Still, its investigation of sexual bliss—and the intersection of emotion, physiology and psychology that leads to a truly great climax—is as breezy as it is forthright. And it suggests that those looking for the ultimate bedroom kick should keep their eye on the app store.