CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour's new show takes her network's motto — "Go there" — to a whole new level. The groundbreaking television correspondent, who became famous for her war reporting, is investigating a different kind of story. Amanpour is turning her attention on sex and love around the world, and her candid, carnal, and decidedly NSFW show definitely goes there.
"This is about the emotions around intimacy," Amanpour tells Bustle. "It's about how you speak up for what you want in terms of your own happiness and your own fulfillment, whether it's emotionally, spiritually, or physically and sexually." The first episode of "Sex and Love Around The World" was shot in Tokyo and explores everything from why some women choose to work in the sex industry to why others stay in sexless marriages. Amanpour and her executive producers, Anthony Bourdain and Lydia Tenaglia of Zero Point Zero, also leaned on female talent to direct and produce this six-part series. "Sex and Love Around The World" premieres on Saturday, March 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNN and will stream on CNNgo.
Throughout the six-episode series, Amanpour travels to Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East to investigate how ancient and erotic traditions inform an understanding of intimacy and pleasure, and how women are pushing the boundaries today. In bars, clubs, and red light districts across hemispheres, she sits down with women and men of all ages to look at how they're challenging the rules of sex, gender, and relationships. Her interviews are filled with questions that could make anyone blush.
"I'm definitely a little more tentative in terms of my comfort with the subject," Amanpour admits, but she doesn't look so shy when she's holding court at a high-end Tokyo club, sipping soju on the rocks. "I sort of developed that as I go on with the six weeks," she says. "I get more and more comfortable talking about these intimate things."
In the West, conversations about sex tend to be relegated to awkward sex-ed classes in sweaty gymnasiums. That's because, Amanpour says, the whole topic is still "pretty much taboo." But according to Amanpour; having "the talk," is essential — and there's a good chance Americans are doing it all wrong.
"I mean, there's mechanical chats about how you do it," Amanpour says. "There's all sorts of informational talks at schools about the birds and the bees [and] what you shouldn't do to make sure you don't get pregnant, make sure you don't get a sexually transmitted disease. Make sure — nowadays — that [there's] consent and respect." As she rattles off what sounds like a basic high school curriculum, she points out what all these conversations are missing.
"But what about actual feelings, what about happiness? What about intimacy?" Amanpour asks. "What about a woman in these parts of the world where women don't have their legally protected rights?"
Amanpour adds that the topic isn't exclusive to people in certain age groups or stages of life. "What about in the home, in the marriage bed, in their personal relationships, how do they define their happiness?" she asks. "How do they make their partners understand that they want and deserve also to be happy spiritually, physically, you know, fulfilled, both emotionally and sexually? And these are very difficult conversations [even] for people in the most advanced societies in terms of women's rights."
Amanpour's talks with women in six different cities — Tokyo, New Delhi, Beirut, Berlin, Accra, and Shanghai — show that these questions can go not only unanswered, but unasked over the course of a lifetime. That's why she's especially eager for millennial women to watch the series.
"[It] is vastly different than any kind of sex education they may be getting at school," Amanpour says. "Even from their own parents and families, and especially from online."
The issues surrounding teens who take cues from what they see in online porn is heavily documented. Researchers have pointed out that the huge array of porn available to young people at the click of a button can make the extreme look routine, and can leave young people confused about what their partners want.
Amanpour says her series shows a different side of sex and relationships that can be eye-opening for young people. "It's not just about pleasing the guy, or your partner or whoever it might be," she says. "It's about a mutual experience."
"You have a right to your own fulfillment," she says. "That's what I want young people to get out of this."