Camilla Davies

Thinking About Having Sex in a Box on TV?

    belle jar           

There are several advantages to having sex in a box and then discussing it in front of a studio audience. Keen sex amateurs can overcome issues of claustrophobia, social anxiety and sexual insecurities, all whilst delicately referring to different genitalia in a variety of ways to the delight of a post-watershed audience. Jeremy Kyle cannot profess to tackling such a myriad of problems, preferring to tease evidence out of willing participants one issue at a time – and via lie detector tests. A least Jezza can rest easy that Channel 4’s couples don’t need a future trek up to a Manchester studio to be told to “put something on the end of it”.

This is not to say that I’m entirely opposed to the concept of ‘Sex Box’. Whilst I’m skeptical to what extent the channel wants to up TV ratings with this voyeuristic marketing ploy, I want to give it a chance. To my knowledge, the show’s marketability won’t be off the back of getting a rise from ignorant people for entertainment value,  as ITV’s ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ could be seen to do. Even more importantly, it could give a realistic image of sex in a time when generalised sexualisation of women remains worryingly too common.

The new TV show ‘Sex Box’ features couples engage in coitus in a sound proofed box before discussing it under the studio lights to Observer columnist Mariella Frostrup. Despite what we all originally thought, it seems you don’t actually see the sex. As it happens, I’m a big fan of Frostrup and follow her Sunday supplement musings, in which she generally offers sage advice.  If she, alongside psychotherapists, can vouch for this show, then it can’t be all bad, can it?

This programme could be seen as a real asset to campaigns such as Say No To Page 3, as viewers are shown that there is more to getting off than the degrading image of a pair of tits at the front of a newspaper. The media generates much revenue through showing sex and the sexualised. As such, it has the ability – and the responsibility – to add a new angle to this tired tirade of topless blondes.  I assume that a frank and honest discussion of sex will inform an audience of the female’s role more than your standard lad mag. I hope it will show that sex is a two way street, that both partner’s voices should be heard. The show features same-sex couples too, again (hopefully) creating dialog.

As I write this, in anticipation of the show to be debuted on October 7th, I encourage the idea of intelligently talking about sex to a wider audience, one proportionately filled with prepubescent teens who tuned in to see a bit of boobage and instead find some home truths about “doing the dirty”.

It seems that teens viewing from their bedrooms else fear the awkwardness of watching sexy time with their parents, will not actually be getting what it says on, or indeed inside, the box. Those involved in ‘Sex Box’ profess the show to be respectful , with the couples entering an opaque box for 35 minutes before chatting afterwards with Mariella. Perhaps the programme’s name is a marketing ploy useful for pulling in voyeuristic Brits, before duping them into a realistic sex education. And considering that some British kids get zero of this at school, it could be a good thing.

In the same way that ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ can be seen as both spectacle and educational, this show could do long lasting good whilst also getting the ratings in – anther product designed in a shock-market age.

‘Embarrassing Bodies’ shows people getting their kit off to uncover and detract from the stigma surrounding their various medical problems. Just as Trinny and Susannah’s ‘What Not To Wear’ saw the nation gawping at middle aged women’s underwear-clad bodies through the medium of an unflatteringly lit 360 degree mirror, there is generally  a personal achievement to be gained from this public display of the intimate. Becoming “attractive”, curing your illness…What personal benefit would ‘Sex Box’ bring its couples? Their reward will likely not be the treatment of an unsavoury illness. Or learning to walk in heels. Perhaps however, their participation will go against the grain of Trinny and Suz’s predictable show. It will instead offer the humdrum of society as acceptable, and as welcome –  giving a normalised view of what sex actually is, raising awareness – of real bodies, real issues and real women – as well as ratings.

The Daily Mail tells me that 30% of online traffic is to porn sites (The Daily Mail, who practically print pornographic images themselves). We won’t know till its aired whether this tamer TV equivalent will divert any traffic, or only increase it. All I know is that if the show succeeds in reducing the idea that porn = standardised sex, then we should at least give it a chance.

– Camilla Davies

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