When I visited actress Gillian Anderson’s Instagram page the morning of September 7, I wasn’t in high spirits: I was there to do a close-reading of her post announcing that she would be playing Margaret Thatcher on The Crown, and to look for convincing signs that Anderson is repulsed by the former right-wing British prime minister’s politics. I was also on her page to force myself into facing a devastating reality: that one day, I might find myself in the unfortunate position of lusting after a rendition of Thatcher.
After looking up alternate meanings of “formidable” — a word Anderson uses to describe Thatcher — I started to get distracted by Anderson’s Instagram. Alongside glamour shots of herself, I noticed a photo of a vulva-shaped light-switch; then, my eyeballs bulged toward one of a Chanel bag with a double-ended dildo as the handle, featuring the hashtag #penisoftheday.
Damn, I thought to myself, reveling in a moment of silent wonderment. Gillian Anderson is horny.
Anyone who has followed Anderson’s career from X-Files to her Crown announcement knows that she has always been in touch with her sensuality and sexuality, which is in part why I have always stanned. (The photo of her flaunting her whale tail at the 2001 Vanity Fair Oscar party is, along with being canon, my phone background.) Therefore, it’s not all that surprising that she would populate her Instagram with erotic imagery; but that didn’t make my discovery any less exciting.
I must, however, get something out of the way: These erotic posts have a whiff of PR around them. The uptick of genitalia-art coincides with the January 2019 release of the Netflix-original show Sex Education, in which Anderson plays a frank, bawdy sex therapist; as a result, many of her earlier phallic posts bear tags relating to the show. This past June, she spoke about the Netflix show and her affinity for erotic imagery on The Late Late Show; “Every once in a while, I post ‘Penis of the Day’ and ‘Yoni of the Day’ pictures,” she tells James Corden, before coolly criticizing him for displaying photos of her phallic posts but not her yonic ones.
In an interview with the Guardian about inhabiting her characters, Anderson divulged a little bit of her posting strategy: Fans send her photos of genitalia they see in the wild, when she (or someone from her social media team) backlogs and later shares.
And yet, the fact that she started #dickoftheday and #yonioftheday hashtags to promote her show doesn’t make me any less pleased by her Instagram presence. From what I can tell, she decided to start getting horny online of her own volition; furthermore, she has slowly started to drop Sex Education–related tags and hashtags, and instead add cheeky captions in. (“Talk about chafing,” she wrote alongside a post of a dick-shaped crystal.) And, not to inflate my importance or judgement, this means a lot coming from me, as I typically find people who Instagram genitalia art to be slightly grating. Like, I get it, you own the Group Partner boob pot and think that all vaginas are beautiful.
But with Anderson, it’s different. While I know that people submit these photos to her, and her social media team assists her in posting them, I like to imagine this process differently. In my head, Anderson is curled up in a leather armchair, cloaked in a Stella Gibson–esque silk blouse, and snickering to herself as she types in strings of words like “tree penis” and “vagina lamp.”
My only hope is that she gets her proclivity for horny posts out of her before she appears in The Crown. I don’t think I can bear to see crystal-shaped dicks and cacti alongside photos of her dressed as Thatcher.