If you thought Dating Naked, VH1’s boner-poppin’, trolltastic reality series where contestants do just that—and whose participant, Jesse Nizewitz, is suing the network for $10 million for showing a brief flash of her unpixelated crotch while she play-wrestled with a random nude dude on the beach (really)—was the lowest of the low, well, think again. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Sex Box.
On Thursday afternoon, The Hollywood Reporter reported that WE tv, a subsidiary of AMC Networks, has ordered the dating show Sex Box to series, picking up nine hour-long episodes. It will debut sometime in 2015. The show is an American adaptation of the UK Channel 4 series of the same name that sought to “reclaim sex from pornography” (their words) by having couples step into a giant box erected on the set, have sex inside of it, and then emerge for a post-coital chat about their seven minutes in heaven—or hell—with a panel of sexperts.
“Sex Box is one of the most unique and compelling show concepts we’ve ever seen, and we can’t wait to bring it to WE tv,” said Marc Juris, WE tv’s president. “Our featured couples will get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, while our viewers will get the kind of bold, break-through-the-clutter programming they increasingly associate with WE tv.”
The panel of sexperts who’ll be embarrassing these poor, attention-starved, soon-to-be-split couples are: Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills “relationship psychotherapist” with a celebrity clientele; Dr. Chris Donaghue, a Ph.D who’s one of 600 certified sex therapist’s in the world; and Dr. Yvonne Capehart, a Florida pastor who founded the Sister Keeper International Ministries Crusade, a network for women in ministry, and does some gospel singing on the side. They’ll be joined by comedian/host Danielle Stewart, who will interview the doomed couples prior to entering the sex box, thereby serving as the de facto mood-setter.
And, whereas most people of sound mind enjoy, say, a grilled cheese, cigarette, shower, or some good ol’ snuggling after doing the deed—to combat those post-coital blues—the couples that feature on Sex Box will be thrust into the therapist’s chair to share, in front of millions of people, their respective sexual hang-ups with their partner, which is definitely a good idea.
“Once each couple enters the sex box, our experts discuss their initial observations, ranging from what they think is happening inside the box to whether or not the relationship will survive,” read a statement by WE tv. “Immediately upon exiting the sex box, each couple sits down for a heart-to-heart with the expert panelists to discuss what just happened, how they feel, and how they’re planning to overcome their issues.”
Yes, despite this week’s asstastic Nicki Minaj video, there’s still a great deal of Puritanical pearl-clutching stateside when it comes to sex, and a certain air of Victorian Era hypocrisy as well, when you consider that 64 percent of American men and 42 percent of American women view porn at least monthly, according to a recent survey (and those numbers seem very conservative).
“We may find it embarrassing to talk about, but there’s never been a greater need to open up about sex,” said the UK version of Sex Box during its premiere episode. “So we’re going to try to answer some big questions. With the Internet bringing pornography into most of our homes, what’s that doing to the way young people think about sex? Millions of us are gay, and yet what gay people do in bed remains taboo—almost never discussed—so what is the truth about gay sex? And with 1-in-5 middle-aged couples saying they cheat on their partners, what’s causing that? And what can be done about it?”
Our attitude toward sex in media—namely, film and television—is antiquated, since we live in an age when network TV shows can show blood-splattered school shootings and little girls getting capped in the head but will be fined if they show a nipple, even on an elderly medical patient, and God help you if you happen to flash a nipple shield during the Super Bowl.
But Sex Box, with its ridiculous guinea pigs screwing conceit, will only augment our cultural hang-ups about sex. Listening to a sex therapist, a relationship psychotherapist, and a pastor do their best American Idol impressions, break down the myriad problems couples are having during the act, will only make people more apprehensive when it comes to having sex. And what business does a pastor have lecturing people about his or her sexual performance? Religion is one of the driving forces behind this country’s prudishness to begin with. Furthermore, positioning pornography as some sort of cultural evil is about as backwards as it comes. Despite its misogynistic streak, porn is the one thing actually showing kids how to have sex, and normalizing it—especially when you take into account how much of a joke sex-ed programs are in schools.
Plus, this sorry excuse for a show represents a sort of cultural nadir when it comes to reality television. There’s the aforementioned Dating Naked, the FYI series Married At First Sight, and now, a show where people bump uglies in a box and chat about it after. And these reality shows aren’t opening our minds to the possibilities of what these three things—dating, marriage, and sex—offer. They’re transforming all three into cultural sideshows that turn people off.
If WE tv really wants to demystify sex, they should show people doing more of what the late, great Stanley Kubrick offered up as the last lines ever uttered in a film of his: “What’s that? Fuck.”