Intimacy coach tackles sexual harassment on stage and screen


The #MeToo movement and high profile sexual harassment cases in the entertainment industry have highlighted the need for practical advice and intervention.

Since returning from London where she completed training as an intimacy co-ordinator, Banas has been helping to choreograph intimate scenes between actors.

“My job is to facilitate safe intimacy work,” she said.

“Nothing has been managed in this way before, unless you have a great director. But even great directors aren’t comfortable and find it awkward.

“For a long time actors and directors have been left to their own devices in this work.”

Banas, who was born in New Zealand and is based in Melbourne, will be among speakers addressing the Not In My Workplace Summit in Sydney on Tuesday to discuss ways of tackling sexual harassment.

Her new job involves getting actors to have conversations about what they are comfortable doing and showing when it comes to physical touch and nudity. She said it is important to get their consent as to how a scene should be performed.

“I am choreographing the scenes rather than leaving actors to just free form,” she said.

“A script says ‘have sex’, but how do we do that logistically?

“Younger actors particularly need this support.”

When an intimacy co-ordinator steps onto the set, the importance of consent and appropriate conduct immediately come into focus.

“I was worried that there would be push-back, but it has been the absolute opposite. It has been absolutely embraced and a relief for actors in particular,” Banas said.

Amy Schumer and Bill Hader hook up in the 2015 comedy Trainwreck.

Sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, who will also address the summit, said her agency’s inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has received 460 submissions.

The final report, to be released in February, is expected to include recommendations to government on how to update and improve sexual harassment laws and provide better guidance for workplaces on what they can do to prevent and respond to these situations.

“We recognised the current system, which has been in place since 1984, no longer suits Australian workplaces and needs to change, and so do we,” Ms Jenkins said.

“Our survey report and the Not in My Workplace Summit was called ‘everyone’s business’ because we know sexual harassment happens right across our community, in every industry, and in too many businesses.”

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