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Thinking inside the box: sex arrives on British television

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Thinking inside the box: sex arrives on British television


Sex has long been something of a taboo subject on national television in Britain. However, producers of one programme are hoping to change the way British people think and talk about sex.

In a new, one-off programme, due to be aired on Monday 7 October, couples will have sex in an opaque box in front of a studio audience.

The programme, which is imaginatively entitled ‘Sex Box’, forms part of a ‘Campaign for Real Sex’ series. According to its website, the series is designed to “reclaim sex from porn by exploring how the ever-increasing consumption of pornography is distorting people’s expectations of sex and ultimately damaging the sex lives of Britons.”

For an explanation of what to expect, look no further than the title – three couples will each spend up to 30 minutes having sex in an opaque, sound-proof box. The volunteers will emerge to discuss their experiences with a panel of experts. Talking about their experiences immediately afterwards is hoped to prompt honesty and openness among the volunteers:

“It’s a rather mischievous, fun idea that actually allows sex to be completely private but the conversation to be truthful and immediate,” David Glover, senior factual commissioning editor for the programme, said.

The couples will talk to programme host, agony aunt Mariella Frostrup, and a panel of three experts, consisting of psychotherapist Phillip Hodson, sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox, and American sex columnist Dan Savage.

While the couples are in the box, the panel will bring the audience up to speed on their backgrounds. Those taking part are: fiancés Lynette and Des; Rachel and Sean, who are in their 20s; and long-term partners Matt and John.

Ralph Lee, head of factual for the programme, hopes that it will break down the barriers that have previously prevented people from openly discussing sex: “Sex Box intends to be an open and adult conversation about sex, something we feel is currently being overlooked by mainstream programming,” he said.

However, the British media has given the programme mixed reviews. While the post-sex conversations between panel and volunteers are advertised as “vivid”, “truthful”, and “intimate” the reality is, apparently, quite different. The contestants are said to be inarticulate, seemingly shy and embarrassed about discussing their experiences in the box.

The programme planning has also been criticised. Matt and John, for example, were allegedly filmed going into the box, then had to take a break, due to union rules on working hours for the cameramen and crew. They are quoted as saying:

“The funny thing is, you see us going into the box,” says John. “Then, because of union rules, everyone can only work so many hours without a break. So we came straight out the back door and went to our dressing room. We were able to go for a shower and everything, and at least start some foreplay before going back in.”

Helping Britain to shake off its ‘sexual repression’ by putting sex in a closed box seems a contradictory concept. In spite of this, the programme is likely to incite the British public to talk about sex – although whether it will be for the reasons expressed by the programme’s promoters, remains to be seen.

Photo credit: Flickr Jean Koulev

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