One of my biggest fears used to be that someone would find out that I wasn’t having orgasms during sex with a partner. While it sounds ridiculous now, it used to be one of my biggest secrets. I thought I was faulty, less of a woman. Now I know my beliefs came from the lack of realistic representation and improper sex education. Because of this, my sexual quest started with porn.
As a 90s kid, I had direct access to the hardcore internet. Through porn I absorbed how the industry sees the ideal vulva (white, pink, bleached, and bald, in case you were wondering) and how women experience sex and penetration: loud, squirting, and intense. At that point in my life, the sex I perceived through porn was everything my sex life wasn’t. I hadn’t even learned what I liked, let alone how to communicate my desires to my bed partners. Nonetheless, I did want to be like those women in the porn movies I saw, so I imitated them. Not by faking orgasms — that always seemed inconvenient to me — but faking pleasure? Absolutely.
I stopped faking in 2015, the year I wrote my first stage monologue about sex. In front of a packed theater, I confessed, “I can’t orgasm.” That day I overcame a huge fear, but something bigger also happened. Women from the audience came up to me afterwards to tell me they weren’t having orgasms either, and how grateful they were that I was sharing this story. It wasn’t just those women though. Men, and even couples, came to me. Ignited by my vulnerability, they shared their joys and sorrows over the same affliction. So I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t suffering from some sort of malfunction. We weren’t all faulty. That day, June 4, 2015, I knew for certain I wanted to break the taboo surrounding sex and female sexuality. My vulnerability became my strength.
In the following years, I worked on a documentary surrounding the taboo on female orgasm, I set up an online educational platform, and because of the lockdown, instead of making theater about sex, I got to write about sex for the Dutch daily newspaper Volkskrant Magazine. And that’s how my Dirty Lines adventure started. Pieter Bart Korthuis, our showrunner and director, came across an interview from 2020 in which I explained why I thought talking about sex is so necessary. To quote the article: “People only share the fun, successful sex stories. You never hear: ‘Yesterday sex just didn’t work for me.’” Consequently, for a long time I thought something was wrong with me. After the documentary came out, it turned out many more people were struggling with this, which made me think, Wow, what are we all missing from the media? And, What can I do about this myself?
Shortly after, on September 9, 2020, I met with Tomas Kaan (one of the directors, together with Anna van der Heide) and casting director Rebecca van Unen. I almost forgot to tell you, one of my goals was to star in a Netflix Original before I turned 30. And here I was, just 26 years old, discussing the lead role in a Dutch Netflix Original which would be about sex. It might be easy to say in retrospect, but it felt like everything in my life had led to that moment. This role, this subject, and even the female perspective; this was my role.
I hadn’t even read anything yet, but if you had seen the enthusiasm in Pieter Bart’s eyes, you — anyone, really — would have said yes right then and there. Twenty days later, I auditioned, and after a nerve-wracking process of syncing calendars, my agent suddenly showed up one night with her dog and a bunch of flowers. “YOU GOT THE PART!”
Preparing to play Marly was sometimes quite difficult, because she is so close to my heart. Her Surinamese roots, her discomfort when she has to talk about sex, even though she knows so much about it, her fascination with penises as a child (a really scary similarity that I didn’t even tell Pieter Bart about), and, above all, her search for her own identity. She even looked like a half-sister from the 80s.
That’s why I’m glad she was allowed to transform further away from me. Sometimes the writers would make her do something that I would never do myself, and then I would feel myself becoming very rebellious. Everything inside me screamed: “I don’t do this that way!” It’s something I always find very extraordinary about parts that are so close to the heart. You have to constantly find a balance between placing the character far away from you and using your own power by just simply being.
To me, the strength of Dirty Lines lies, apart from the story, is the young cast. In 2019, I graduated from drama school, completing a sixteen-year period of drama classes. When I finished, I was suddenly the young, inexperienced actor again. But with the cast of D.L., it struck me how, since we all graduated within the same generation, we spoke the same acting language. That didn’t mean we agreed on everything, but everything seemed to be going so organically. It was very clear to everyone what the playing style was. I was allowed to be on set with talented actors such as Laura Bakker (Nina) and Yari van der Linden (Ronnie) who, in my opinion, both took the comedy in D.L. to a higher level.
My best memory of the shooting period, however, is shooting the house party from Episode 2. That was our first day on set with the Teledutch crew. Suddenly I realized: Wow, all these people are so much fun together! On top of that, we were in the middle of a strict lockdown, and suddenly we were allowed to dance for hours in a group together, with all the extras. You just felt the longing for a feeling of euphoria, the touch deprivation, and, at the same time, the nostalgia for the 80s. Not that we were even born then, but still, thanks to our great set dressers, all of a sudden the 80s looked very intriguing.
Dirty Lines has many different storylines. I hope this will attract a wide audience and that viewers will really be sucked into the hectic pace and the humor of an era in which everything changed. As Marly says, “A time of freedom and unlimited possibilities. A time when you could be who you wanted to be, and become who you are.” Apart from this, I hope that through the perspective of a female narrative, we have painted a good picture of what our vision of sex was, and what it eventually became. How our view of sex, thank goodness, also changes over time. And the fact that I can now contribute to that change myself makes my younger self — carrying her big secret — very proud.