The English are coming! And they’re doing it on TV!
British television station Channel 4 recently started broadcasting a new television series entitled Sex Box. The idea behind the show is that “sex is integral to our lives, but few of us talk about it openly and honestly with our partners. In Sex Box, couples discuss their feelings and sensations about their love life after having sex.”
In other words, couples enter a “sex box” — an enclosed bedroom on the show’s set where they engage in sex — and after are asked to have post-coital discussions about their recent and past sexual experiences. The interviewers on the show include a sex and relationship expert, a marital therapist and Dan Savage, known to most North Americans as a sex-advice columnist.
Although it would be easy to say that the show is just about titillating viewers into a pseudo-voyeuristic experience (viewers can’t see what happens in the box, but they’re having sex right there during the taping of the show) disguised as infotainment, Channel 4 claims that the show is part of its recent “Campaign for Real Sex,” described as:
“a season of programmes that aims 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 Briton."
Now, there are issues when it comes to the reality of pornography versus the reality of making it in real life (ie, the “spontaneous” bottom), but pornography can be a healthy way to discover and work within realms of fantasy. But that’s it — pornography is a fantasy.
In a piece for The Atlantic on condom use and policing, Tim Lahey interviews adult film performer Grace Evangeline, who states:
“Porn isn’t normal sex. It lasts longer, the male talent are above average in size, and it requires positions most people don’t perform in a normal situation. Male talent must become erect, then during the shoot, they become limp, and [are] required to become erect again, on and on.”
It’s worth noting that Evangeline doesn’t even mention the issues that female actresses must deal with, often being on the receiving end of the action, sometimes for hours at a time. The same goes for bottoms in gay male porn.
In that vein, there would be some who would argue that certain guerilla-style forms of pornography “document” real-live acts of sex. Treasure Island Media’s films come to mind. It’s easy to see how the viewer might see these images as “real sex.” But there is still a certain amount of planning that goes into these scenes, and these scenes are not always within the reach or realm of the average person’s sex life. No matter the format in which the sex was captured or created, there are things that happen behind the scenes that aren’t shown that end up on the screen. (I would like to go on the record here and state that I am not anti-pornography. I think porn is great and can be empowering for the creator, actors and viewers. But it is just as important and great to recognize what it is and what it isn’t.) These are not necessarily nefarious things, but you don’t know what conversations the actors/participants may or may not have had before the scenario before you was played out. You, as a viewer, don’t know how comfortable they are — physically, emotionally, intellectually — in the acts they are completing. And those things are important when it comes to the sex that you, the viewer, are having or wish to have with the people involved in your sex life. They are not to be discounted when it comes to real sex.
Talking about sex, from as many angles as possible — no pun intended — is not only important, but essential in gathering a greater understanding of sex and sexuality. A person who is misinformed about the mechanics of sex and sexuality is one who can easily find themself in situations with less than desirable consequences. It is important to give individuals the possibility to make informed choices that suit their own lives.
It’s about time we talk about sex on television, on the radio, online and most importantly, in person, in an honest and open fashion. Yes, we may giggle, be nervous and be afraid. That’s fine, and that’s normal. And it would be easy to argue that many of the viewers of Sex Box are tuning in to the show because freshly fucked people are talking about the sex they just had. But they’re talking. Are you?