OK, fine, I’ll do it. I’ll talk about the sex box.
‘Sex Box’ is a new Channel 4 programme that gets couples to have sex in a box, then interviews them immediately afterwards about their experience. It has been described as ‘edgy’, for reasons I can’t quite fathom. It is also a part of Channel 4’s ‘Campaign for Real Sex’ season, a response to the terrifying tidal wave of pornography that threatens to engulf the entire country and turn us into unthinking wank-zombies.
I have a number of issues with this, but I’ll watch the programme anyway because I like it when people talk about sex. It’s hot, and interesting, and usually well worth a listen. However, I’m not entirely sure that the programme is going to do what Channel 4 is hoping. Here’s why:
It’s not as ‘edgy’ as they think
Some people have described this programme as ‘edgy’ or implied that there’s something seedy about the idea of couples having sex in a box then talking about it. Presumably because ‘edgy’ gets viewers, and they’re hoping to pull in a crowd of moist-knickered perverts like me who are hoping to hear a few groans or slapping noises (we won’t get them – apparently the box is soundproofed).
Let me just state for the record that talking to people shortly after they’ve had sex is not ‘edgy’. I’ve been to parties where three or four couples were shagging on the floor in the lounge, occasionally exchanging requests that one or other couple ‘give us a bit more room.’ On one memorable occasion, I was being vigorously shagged by my boyfriend while in the twin bed opposite, the equally genital-locked couple paused for a swig of beer and to ask us how it was going. Not the sexiest moment of my life, I have to admit, but certainly more edgy than shagging in a darkened room.
If at any point you’ve been to a house party, or popped round to a couple’s house for dinner, or even gone in to your parents’ bedroom on Christmas morning to gleefully pull toys out of your festive stocking, I guarantee you you’ve had a conversation with a couple that have recently had sex. You edgy maverick, you.
The actual ‘sex box’ serves no purpose
Given that having a post-sex chat is not particularly unusual, why the fuck do they even need them to have sex in the box beforehand? What purpose does the box serve? It’s as if they think that people forget what having sex with their partner is like, and they need a quick reminder before they get down to the discussion. Do we do this with anything else? If a medical expert is invited to give her opinion on BBC Breakfast, do they insist she performs a quick tracheotomy backstage to refresh her memory?
Unless we suffer from short term memory loss, we’re all sexperts when it comes to our own sex. We know exactly what kind of sex we’re having and – should someone ask us about it – there’s no need to pop home for a quick one just to check you’re not remembering it wrong.
The Campaign for ‘Real Sex’
I get what they’re doing with this: I do. And broadly I agree – most people don’t have the kind of sex that professionals have in porn, and so it’s important to understand that what we see on the screen is usually different to the sex that Joe Bloggs has with his partner on a Friday night.
But this is an obvious, trivial truth. Just as most people don’t repoint brickwork like a professional builder or drive like Jenson Button. Professionals do things differently to non-professionals, because they have spent time developing a skill to serve a particular purpose. Jenson wants to win Formula 1 races, the builder wants to please the client, and porn performers want to do things that will visually entertain you. The average person just wants to drive to the supermarket, build a wall that won’t fall over immediately, and have sex that gets them off.
There’s no problem with porn sex being different to real sex as long as we recognise why and how it’s different.
But pitting ‘real sex’ against pornography, as if the two are diametrically opposed, is bloody odd. Because ‘porn’ and ‘sex’ are not opposites. Sitting on the sofa rubbing one out to xhamster is just as real a part of my sex life as sitting on a guy’s dick. Sometimes people want to fuck, and sometimes they want to watch the professionals fuck, because they either can’t do it or can’t be bothered to do it. I watch porn sometimes, just as I’ll hire someone to tile my bathroom: sometimes you need to call the professionals.
What do I think of the ‘sex box’?
I love that there’s sex on telly. And not just the lovely creamy-breasted, taught-buttocked romping that’s almost the whole point of Game of Thrones, but actual conversations about sex. I like that this programme will bring more discussion about sex to our screens and our lives.
But crucially, I think the way it’s being framed will achieve the opposite of what Channel 4 says its after: “a frank conversation about an essential element of all our lives.” Instead it turns sex into a giggly, ‘edgy’ thing rather than something utterly normal which most of us enjoy in some shape or form. It also puts itself at the heart of deciding what’s ‘real’ and what isn’t. And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but when it comes to ‘real sex’, humping furtively in a ‘sex box’ in a TV studio is no more ‘real’ than porn.