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The Erotic Education of Anna Silk: the Lost Girl star on playing a bisexual succubus

The Erotic Education of Anna Silk

A woman in a leather miniskirt and stilettos staggers down a darkened corridor and rings the buzzer beside a bolted door. The man inside interrupts his bare-chested boxing workout to let her in. “I’m busy,” he grumbles. “Please,” she pants through gritted teeth. Then she jumps him. They square off in a round of violent yet balletic sex. He hoists her off the ground and onto a counter; she retaliates by slamming him into a wall. He paws at her breasts while she claws at the tattoos on his back. Off comes her shirt, and he stealthily peels off her underwear. Soon they’re naked on the bed and she’s straddling him. They growl, groan and grunt like the Williams sisters at Wimbledon. As they arch together in one final thrust, the whites of her eyes turn solid black.

The woman is Anna Silk, star of the Toronto-produced Showcase fantasy series Lost Girl, and her scene partner is the absurdly chiselled Kris Holden-Ried, who plays her wolf-man lover Dyson. Silk’s character, Bo, is a succubus—a supernatural entity that feeds on sexual energy. In this sex scene—the kind of encounter that occurs in almost every episode—an injured Bo visits Dyson for some sexual healing (literally). Before the hour is out, Bo will also have knocked boots with her other love interest, the doctor Lauren (played by Zoie Palmer).

Since it premiered two years ago, Lost Girl has become an international hit. Its debut on Showcase was the most-watched Canadian drama in the channel’s history. It’s now broadcast in the U.K. and Australia, and has fan clubs in Brazil and Russia. Early last year, the NBC-owned Syfy network picked up the series in the U.S., where it dominated its 10 p.m. time slot, netting an audience of 1.5 million viewers—an impressive haul for basic cable. The show has ranked as one of the 10 most pirated TV series in the world, and when TiVo released a list of the programs people watch before bed, Lost Girl was the only scripted drama to crack the top 10.

These aren’t just casual viewers: Lost Girl is the kind of show that inspires obsessive, all-consuming fandom. Devotees have been known to live-tweet episodes scene by scene, then spend hours on message boards and fan fiction sites analyzing what they just saw. They swarm Silk and the rest of the cast at conventions like Comic-Con in San Diego and Fan Expo in Toronto, lining up for hours to get autographs from the cast—some 2,000 fans showed up to the Fan Expo panel discussion and signing last August. The show’s central love triangle—Bo, Dyson and Lauren—has sparked a divisive civil war within the fan community; competing factions rip each other apart online and post hundreds of videos on YouTube, cut together from various scenes that highlight their chosen pairing (often set to songs by Adele).

Lost Girl capitalizes on the contemporary sci-fi/fantasy formula established by Buffy the Vampire Slayer—hardcore heroine, elaborate mythology, monster of the week. Like Buffy, Bo solves mysteries, offs villains and throws out quippy rejoinders, all while doing high-kicks in skintight pants. Although the setting is never established, the show often uses Toronto streets—Queen West, Yorkville, Church Street—for its location shots. It takes place among the Fae, a secret supernatural society, equipped with its own rules and prickly political trappings. Like many cult hits, the series taps into the sweet spots of drama, fantasy, comedy, action and procedural, making for a crowd-pleasing genre mash-up.

Where Lost Girl sets itself apart is the sex, and not just the sheer quantity of it, though Silk fakes more onscreen copulation than any other TV actor not contractually bound to HBO. Rather, it’s the series’ overarching erotic ethos that makes it stand out, a general attitude toward sex that saturates every scene. There are plenty of graphic shows on TV right now—filled with writhing and moaning and creamy nudity—but they all tend to shame their female characters for having sex and condemn them for liking it. On Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls, sex is an awkward, humiliating sacrifice the main character endures for the sake of having a boyfriend. When True Blood’s clean-scrubbed Sookie Stackhouse submits to the carnal advances of the vampires Bill or Eric, it signifies a loss of self-control and self-respect. Game of Thrones is in a whole other league of misogynistic degradation, in which almost every woman having sex is being violently raped, paid for her services, or both (in one scene, the teenage King Joffrey forces a prostitute to violate another with a sceptre). In 2013, television is a deceptively puritanical landscape—shored up by an equally judgmental cultural climate in which Rush Limbaugh calls contraception advocates “prostitutes” and U.S. congressmen tout the notion of “legitimate rape.”

Though Bo is the first bisexual lead character on mainstream television, her orientation is never mentioned on the show. She sleeps with whomever she wants, unrestricted by the shackles of monogamy. Moreover, she likes it (a lot, judging from her vociferous orgasms) and suffers no censure or slut shaming. The show lingers lecherously on the supple, sweaty bodies of its comely cast, but never attaches any moral value to the act itself. Lost Girl seamlessly unifies sex and sexual politics, delighting in the pleasure of the former and taking a stand on the latter. Somehow, a humble, medium-budget fantasy show from Toronto has become the most sexually progressive thing on TV.

Silk, who serves as an ambassador for the show’s sexual philosophy, has been catapulted into stardom. At 38, she’s older than most ingénue characters (“I got in just under the wire,” she says), but her age only makes her sexual confidence feel earned. She luxuriates in how much fun sex can be, exploring the character’s kinks and fetishes. On the Internet, she’s become a supreme lust object: YouTube videos of her sex scenes attract millions of hits, and the popular lesbian-centric website AfterEllen gives each episode a “boobs o’clock” rating based on the amount of cleavage Silk exposes.

The trend toward self-mythologizing on television has produced a spate of TV actors indistinguishable from their characters: Lena Dunham is a doppelganger of the neurotic Hannah on Girls, Zooey Deschanel is as dreamily dopey as Jess, her manic pixie dream girl counterpart on New Girl, and Mindy Kaling didn’t even bother changing her character’s name on The Mindy Project. It’s jarring, then, to be introduced to Anna Silk and discover that she’s the total opposite of her barracuda persona. When we first meet, in early November at a drafty studio in Etobicoke where the cast is shooting a pre-show to promote the upcoming third season, she’s disarmingly sweet. We’ve only had a couple of Skype dates at this point—Silk lives in L.A. when she’s not filming—but she sweeps me into a hug at first sight. Later, over dinner at Senses Bar in the Soho Metropolitan, she nestles conspiratorially close on the couch like we’re two teenagers at a sleepover.

  • Kathleen

    For the record, more shippers of Bo/Dyson have wished harm on Zoie Palmer/ Lauren then Doccubus has been guilty of. That this show is finally giving the lesbian community a maintext relationship is important and reflected in the enthusiasm of the fans.

  • Beezah

    That’s definitely not true. While both sides have their bad apples, Doccubus fans are more aggressive and even attack those who are neutral on the matter of Bo’s relationships. That is not enthusiasm.

  • Shivaree The Best

    I’m a fan of Doccubus, but most of the actresses who play, Zoie Palmer, Anna Silk are fantastic. Like the other actors. From my humble appreciation and criticism. And continue many more years …!Sorry for my English is not my native language, but I try to improve.

    I really liked this post. Thanks from Spain.

  • Neixa

    I do love Bo and Lauren.. but love more the fact that there is no judgement in who to love or how to love, .. there is love and thats it.. because in the show the most intense love is not sexual .. Bo and Kensi :)

  • Christina Papio

    Doccubus fans don’t hate on Dyson, Dyson fans are very mean and hateful towards Zoie Palmer who plays Lauren, i like all cast members and watch how nasty and mean Dyson fans get on their hate for Lauren, While Doccubus fans protect the mean names called towards her, so no they don’t get aggressive they get protective because all cast members deserve respect..

  • Chanelle P E S Ramos

    Are you serious? In the span of two days – thanks to the prevalence of that EOnline poll and the bitterness of some Team Dyson shipper – I’ve seen comments such as “Lauren has a man face” and “I hope Lauren dies. Dyson is so hot.” Now, who are aggressive? I think the fact that Anna noticed it is because there are too many Doccubus fans and there are always a few who are very aggressive. Team Dyson fans are obviously outnumbered, but most are too bitter and aggressive. I’ve met some decent fans though…

  • Beezah

    Did I not say that both shippers have their bad apples? The majority of all the fans in the fandom are decent. That doesn’t change the fact that I, as someone who is neither team Dyson or team Lauren, has gotten attacked for being neutral on the matter of Bo’s love affairs. Those attacking me claim they are doccubus shippers. Thus proving that more doccubus fans seem to be more on the side of “If you’re not with us, you’re the enemy.

  • Beezah

    Doccubus fans do hate on Dyson, and the actor who plays him, Kris Holden-Reid. Anna even said she’s seen it when interviewed. If you go on various sites you see doccubus fans hating on Dyson. I agree that all the cast members deserve respect & love all of them but the shippers get crazy. As I said in another comment, doccubus fans attack me for being neutral & not caring who Bo is with – that is getting aggressive.

  • @myx0006

    im fans of duccubus… I love ul the cast of lost girl.. But 1 thnk..*~| the most exitng whn bo@ lauren….;~))its so so amazing..*~))’sorry i cnt speak more english cuz i got a nosebleed fans in philippines..~))♥♥♥ mhuaa!!

  • Teresa

    I’m for Team Doccubus….. But it’s just a show…. I’m glad they are showing Bo and Lauren but I don’t hate the character Dyson…. They both had their chance with Bo but, right now she decided on Lauren…. I hope it stays that way but, with TV you never know…

  • Kathleen

    So if there are bad apples on both sides, why doesn’t the article reference the agressive Dyson-shippers? Why include a great pic of him and not one of Lauren? Why quote a Doccubus fanfic and say its over the line when you start your article with a hot blow by blow of hetero sex on the show? Why… because you are writing from a bias. Who knows maybe Emily thought if she pissed off us Doccubus fans she’d get more hits and impress her editor. All I know is that I live in T.O. and USED to buy this magazine. Never again, strike 1 insult Doccubus, strike two label lesbians as aggressive, and strike three belittle fanfiction.

  • Irina Smirnova

    It is the best article I’ve ever read about Lost Girl. Very interesting observations. Thank you)

  • RAYA

    I love DOCCUBUS, they are the best (characters and actresses). I only follow the show by Internet because I don’t live in Canada, EEUU, Australia or UK… I have to admit that DOCCUBUS was the main reason I like the show. It’s the most sexually progressive show I’ve ever seen and I would like to see how Lauren finishes being Bo’s the only true love because of all this means to the audience and society.

  • Lana

    I like this article because it has much information about Anna Silk and the production of Lost Girl series. Some of the information in this article I’ve never read/watched before in any other interviews, thanks for provide it to us.

    I enjoy reading this article until the last part (page 4 of 4). I’m sorry if I have to give you some feedback, but as a Doccubus fan, some of your words upset me..
    1) It feels like what Doccubus fans want to see between Bo & Lauren is their hot steamy sex, though we love them more because of the emotional and maturity in their relationship.
    2) I agree when you describe Bo & Lauren scene as “made love”, but then you write “the two women are having increasingly aggressive sex”; as if after season 1, the sex is only for sex. In my opinion, the love scenes between Bo & Lauren are still tender (comparing to Bo’s sex scene with others), but more passionate (I prefer term “passionate” than “aggressive”).
    3) I read some hateful comments toward Dyson, and it’s really uncomfortable for me because I don’t hate Dyson and I like Kris as the actor. But in this article, as if the only hostile & obsessive fans are Team Lauren. In fact, I also read some rude comments from Dyson fans toward Lauren/Zoie Palmer.

    This is just a suggestion, maybe next time if you write another article about a show, try to ask for opinion about your writing from some people who really know about the show before publish it. I hope you could do better next time. Regardless the last part of this article, this is a nice one.

  • Beezah

    Probably because you don’t see aggressive Dyson-shippers as much? That’s common sense if you actually take a look at things in an unbias matter. I didn’t see this article as a stab at Doccubus shippers at all, more as saying that ship is prevalent. First off, you’re looking for an insult and taking things out of context to do so. Secondly, she never said lesbians are aggressive; Doccubus shippers maybe, but I know plenty of straight people who ship Doccubus so it isn’t saying lesbians are aggressive. Thirdly, she wasn’t belitting fan fiction. She was saying that even the writers want to steam things up but they can’t reach the fanbase they have now if they would because it couldn’t be on prime time.

    Seriously, you’re just looking for a reason to be offended.

  • KJ Anderson

    Interesting article, however it really left a bad taste in your mouth regarding the doccubus fandom. It really did seem extremely one sided in its “excessivism”

  • KJ Anderson

    As a doccubus fan, I’m gonna say that the snark and bad plays are two sided. I also found it entertaining that they talk about its progressive nature and then don’t seem to understand why it would have such a big following. The lgbt community doesn’t have a lot of tv culture representation. It is important and awesome and surprising to see done so well in such a fun and natural way.

  • KJ Anderson

    in conclusion….too late…. nice info on the actress, but very one sided and biased article in regards to the fandom.

  • margo david

    Laurenery informative article, i only tweeted infrequently in the past and then discovered lost girl last year! ive loved syfy and fantasy all my life, but this series has really caught me in its web….i first watched it loving the Bo /dyson pairing, but as the series and the Bo/L

  • Arial Ruk

    It’s just a TV show. I love team Lauren but i have to say it, some doccubus fans are aggressive, i see those often but there are aggressive fans of Bo/Dyson too. Maybe they are that way because take this show so personal remember for each escene are cameras, lights, microphones and a lot of people -even when they do sex escenes- everything that they said and they do was written and directed by some other person. So, Just enjoy it. =)

  • RH

    Yet Anna did an interview where the interviewer told her they hated Lauren & wouldnt mind if Zoie Palmer was no longer on the show. It goes both ways. This article is completely biased and a terrible example of journalism

  • RH

    The flipside is if your a Doccubus fan from a Dyson shipper point of view is that you are obviously a disgusting dyke. Is that mentioned at all? No it isnt because this article is biased

  • RH

    This article is completely biased. There is an entire website dedicated to homophobic & anti- Zoie Palmer content and shock of shocks its a Dyson shipper site. Where is that mentioned? It isnt because this writer is obviously biased & possibly homophobic. For the record Im Team Lauren because Bo is still allowed to be the hero when she is with lauren, whereas we Dyson he takes over that role turning Bo into a whiny useless damsel