The much-loved period drama with a fantastical twist is well-known for featuring very female-friendly sex scenes that are designed to do more than just titillate.
For the first few episodes of the series, we watch an extraordinarily beautiful woman, Claire Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe) sponge down an extraordinarily beautiful man, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), in her role as nurse to his sword-prone Scottish highlander. But the line is never crossed. Claire’s married, after all, to a man who lives 200 years in the future. And Jamie, we learn, is a virgin.
But then, well. The line is very much crossed. Over and over and over again, and often, in a feminist way with a female gaze.
What we see on our screens, however, is the result of a lot of hard work and planning, as Marie Claire discovered when the magazine spoke to cast members and creators.
Here’s a look at what went into the show’s most iconic sex scenes:
The post-wedding love-making. Season 1, Episode 7.
This was the first time Claire and Jamie made love and a lot of preparation went into making it perfect.
Producer Matthew Roberts told Marie Claire the term “wing it” never came into play, with the actor’s moves carefully choreographed and rehearsed.
But that didn’t mean there was any less work when it came to filming, with director Anna Foerster saying the sex scene required three of four takes.
“The reason you do it a lot of times is not because they didn’t hit their mark, or the camera was in the wrong spot—most of the time we go again to get a great different performance,” she said.
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The actors and crew even make up their own positions.
“We’d come up with funny words for specific positions. One was called the Dolphin—Jamie was trapped with his arm under the bed. It helped tremendously. Like, ‘Oh I think we’ve got to do the Dolphin again.'”
And if that sounds like something that would make you laugh, you’re not alone.
“There are giggles in a lot of the scenes—sex scenes or not. They have to become quite uninhibited with each other. I’ve seen multiple scenes where they break into laughter. It’s not uncommon,” Roberts said.
Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Fraser, said the “least sexy thing” about the filming sex scenes was the paper underwear – which is there to ensure all nudity guidelines are met.
“Just flesh coloured underwear in general should be banned. Sometimes it’s very helpful, but it’s just so unsexy,” she said.
Thankfully for the actors, as few crew members are in the room as possible to make them feel more comfortable. Roberts said on set will be just the two actors, camera operators, and costumers, with the director the only one watching on the monitors.
Third base in the woods. Season 1, Episode 11.
This is the one where Jamie, ahem, pleasures Claire with his fingers – a sex act we don’t see often on TV.
However, writer Toni Graphia told Marie Claire that the method of pleasure was one the writer’s agonised over.
“There were some dissenting opinions in the writer’s room. We were three men and two women on the writing staff—but our staff doesn’t always divide along the male/female line.
“It’s not black and white—often the men argue for the more female-centric perspective.
"There were a couple people who were like 'Oh come on now, what man is going to do this and not just roll over and finish the job for himself?' But that's not what the scene is about."
She said it's about Jamie wanting to make a memory of Claire, thinking he may never see her again.
And while it was sexy to watch, Graphia said it really wasn't that sexy to act out.
"This scene was extra hard to perform because they didn't have a romantic setting at all. They were in a tiny corner of the stage with a fake backdrop."
That sex scene with the knife. Season 1, Episode 9.
For most of us, this was the most shocking Outlander sex scene: when Claire holds a knife to Jamie's chest during sex. This wasn't about BDSM, say the crew, but about Claire asserting herself shortly after Jamie spanked her.
"Claire and Jamie are becoming equals, is what I saw, in that sex scene," says Roberts.
As you'd imagine, a lot of time was spent choreographing this one so the actors felt comfortable - but of course, the knife was dulled so there was no chance of injuring Sam Heughan.
The pregnancy sex scene. Season 2, Episode 4.
Not since Knocked Up have we seen as realistic a portrayal of pregnancy sex - and even in that comedy flick, the protagonist's bump wasn't shown in all its glory as in Outlander.
"There was never discussion about not showing the stomach," Graphia told Marie Claire.
"Pregnant women are beautiful, and it wasn't even an issue—other than, 'Hey, we have to get down to business and get the prosthetic made'."
Another consideration when writing and filming this scene was that Jamie had been sexually assaulted at the end of season one.
"We wanted to do justice to that, and didn't want him and Claire to just jump into bed and resume their sex life like nothing happened," the writer said.