Channel 4’s Sex Box review – Sex and TV, what could go wrong?

Sex Box: What went wrong? I found myself rather sceptically watching Mariella Frostrup introduce Channel 4’s

Sex Box: What went wrong? I found myself rather sceptically watching Mariella Frostrup introduce Channel 4’s new show, Sex Box, last Monday. My initial thought was what couple would ever be interested in exposing their sex lives on national television? My Grandma would have been watching the ITV News at 10. One small flick of a channel and I would have been absolutely mortified if, had I volunteered, she had seen my face appear on the show, which promises a ‘new sex talk show with a difference’.

Wincing on the sofa

Granted, it did have a difference; I have never seen anything like it before, but that was probably for good reason. The idea was fairly simple – couples would enter the box, have sex, and come out to discuss their feelings afterwards. As the first couple came out, the girl described it as ‘surreal’ and  I found myself wincing on my sofa when the pair were bombarded with a series of questions filled with bad, cringe-worthy jokes (“you must have had a good time as your lipstick’s come off,” one panellist remarked).

Grotesque yet watchable?

As the show went on, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a sex version of Embarrassing Bodies but without the fast-track treatment. Equally as a grotesque concept, yet equally watchable. The whole thing felt awkward throughout; Sex Box gave the impression it would provide an honest look into real sex and I genuinely believe that, had the execution of the programme been better, it would have made great television. But Sex Box provided too many obstacles that prevented this from happening. For instance, who would possibly be able to get intimate with their partner when they were in this so-called ‘sex box’, which essentially resembled a glorified shed? Not even to mention that they would then have to discuss their thoughts immediately afterwards in front of a panel of researchers.

Breaking the boundaries of privacy

Twenty minutes in and a new couple arrived. Two gay men this time, so an opportunity to mix things up a little. Yet their introduction was as boring as the last couple, as they declared what they loved about each other. Nice touch, but mind-numbingly dull. As the show went on, I became less interested in the couples themselves and more interested in this peculiar box, which we didn’t even get to see what it looked like inside. Playing a crucial part to the show, I thought the box itself was overlooked. The main focus was on the couples but they weren’t budging; at one point a panellist had to repeat his question in order to try and get some more information.

Channel 4 have had their fair share of documentaries in which the boundary of privacy has been broken and has provided great entertainment; Educating Yorkshire is Channel 4’s most-watched documentary of the year. But perhaps sex is just too private. Maybe the series finale will show viewers what the box looks like and viewers will eventually gain a better insight to real sex, but I wouldn’t count on it. 

Photo by Oean Koulev (2009)