Box and Cox?

Zoë is massively underwhelmed by Channel 4's clever bit of ratings expansion

I feel like beginning with a ranty diatribe about how completely CRETINOUS Sex Box (Channel 4, last night, 9pm) was, but that would be wrong, because it wasn’t. From a marketing and ratings perspective it was genius. People will tune in from curiosity alone: an hour of watching Joe and Jane Blogs rutting like foxes on the big screen? Legit perving? Sex in a box? Who wouldn’t watch it? And I probably wouldn’t be so irritated with the whole shebang if I hadn’t lugged our own box out of the bathroom cupboard, from where it’s been banished since a perfectly decent half bottle of Cabernet fell down into its wiry innards. I connected the whole bloody thing up and settled down with a jar, expecting – blow me down Ginger – some sex. But there was no sex. Even the chat about sex wasn’t sexy. I feel more turned on during PMQs, if I’m honest, and that really is saying something.

There were many problems with this show, not one of them interesting or that worthy of discussion, I thought. I’m bored just remembering it. A few couples wandered on stage, provided a few details about themselves and their relationships to a panel, went off into the opaque, soundproof box and, er, had sex? I guess. Who knows? Like I said, we couldn’t see nothin’. Then the couple came out – none of them looking particularly post coital, if truth be told (maybe they don’t get sex cheeks, I dunno) – and talked about it. Or tried to. Nothing much came out of discussions between either party. Did you have a conversation about what you were going to do? 21 year-olds Rachel and Dean were asked. ‘Well, yeah… but we kind of do that anyway,’ came the slightly confused response. ‘We stripped off, there was some foreplay, and then we just sort of… did it.’

Mariella Frostrup inexplicably hosted, joined by ‘sexpert’ Tracy Cox, American journalist Dan Savage and psychotherapist Phillip Hodson. Savage was the show’s saving grace, at least attempting to get into the nitty gritty of the participants’, and indeed a wider, sexual conscience. The whole thing still fell flat, but there were at least intermittent moments of wisdom. For me, the most interesting, insightful comments were from a seriously disabled couple who, much more so than the others, talked about themselves and each other’s bodies openly. They actually talked about the sex they were having. So why wasn’t there more of this?

And the box itself! What’s the point if we can’t bloody see into it? Wouldn’t it have been that much more interesting to witness a personality sea-change once the two people in question started having it off? Cindy Gallop, whom we interviewed last year, has done a similar thing, but made it real. Make Love Not Porn allows users to upload videos of themselves having sex, thus attempting to reduce the airbrushed pornification too many people grow up believing to be the norm. But Sex Box didn’t tell us anything new. Maybe for previous generations, sex was the culmination of two people getting to know one another, and nowadays it can be a kindle in itself? Yeah, that’s probably true. Maybe gay men view oral sex differently to straight men? Probably true as well. Did I need an hour of inane chat to convince me of this, and did Channel 4 need to spend God knows how much on a faceless, wipeable plastic container to prove it? The whole thing managed to make what should be one the great inexplicables of life fully… functional. I want to go into the box myself just to sit down, take out a book and have a jam sandwich: all things which would be sexier and more informative than another re-run of Sex Box.

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