We TV’s ‘Sex Box’ Rewards Couples for Copulating in a Box With Zero Insight About Their Sexual Relationships

Oh, Sex Box: a show with such great promise but such terrible execution. Well, maybe great promise is overstating it a bit, but it certainly has a fun, titillating title that already has the Parents Television Council up in arms. However, the show itself isn’t much fun, nor is it titillating or even interesting or enlightening — all of which are Sex Box‘s aims. It’s impressively dull and backwards for something with such a crazy premise: Couples have sex in a box on stage and talk to experts about their experiences. Mostly, it is just another boring sex advice show, one that maybe could’ve worked on early-’00s radio but definitely doesn’t work on We TV. 

Borrowed from the UK, the American reboot is just as yawn-inducing as the original. In every episode, three couples “in crisis” with nowhere else to go (because apparently couples/sex therapists don’t exist in this world) have to take part in the “most radical form of therapy”: sex inside an opaque, soundproof box. Three of what we’re told are the nation’s leading sex and relationship experts, including a sexologist, a relationship psychotherapist, and a pastor (who has a somewhat awkward exchange during a segment featuring a lesbian couple) are all on hand to talk to the couple pre- and post-coitus, and get the down-and-dirty on what’s wrong with their sex life and/or general relationship.

There are three heterosexual couples in the pilot episode, with sex problems ranging from “selfish guy doesn’t care about whether his partner orgasms” to “I don’t want to be a sister wife” to “I’m not super into having sex after having a child.” They talk about their problems with the experts and then retreat to the box (“Are you READY to go INTO the SEX BOX?” couples are asked, in a tone reminiscent of a pro-wrestling ring announcer) to have sex. There’s a timer; the encounters range from 11 minutes (they didn’t even have sex) to 36 minutes (they get cheered on, I guess), and when they’re finished, they walk out of the box in silky his-and-hers pajamas, ready to talk about what just happened.

Most of the couples barely get into any details, however, because even though this is Sex Box, they’re uncomfortable being open with a panel of strangers and a live studio audience that reacts with the requisite clapping, “aww”s and “ooooh”s when appropriate (and sometimes when inappropriate). They tend to skirt the subject, shyly admitting to who came first or using euphemisms like “spent time in the southerly region” (yes, these are adults) while the experts nod wisely and pretend not to judge while they are, definitely, judging.

SEXBOX_101(SHOT AS 105)_IMG_8884These experts rarely say anything of worth, offering no insight more helpful than what a quick Google search for “healthy sexual relationships” would yield. The couples are told to be open and honest with each other about what they want, they are told not to do things that they are uncomfortable with, they are told that sex is good when both partners are into it. Who knew?! I also learned that it’s possible for a woman to be a mother and have sex! Thank God these experts are on hand to inform a man that maybe, just maybe, he should care about pleasing his partner in bed rather than focusing solely on himself.

That’s the other thing that makes Sex Box so hard to, er, get behind. Regularly during the show, the experts and audience cheer very basic things: A man making sure his wife is equally pleasured during sex, or a man actually going down on his partner instead of ignoring her needs. When these acts are revealed during the post-coital portion of the show, the audience and experts applaud him as if he just won a gold medal in the Olympics. He is rewarded for not being selfish, essentially suggesting that these acts are special and deserve extra praise rather than being standard and expected aspects of heterosexual sex.

The biggest problem is that the show doesn’t really seem to be helping anyone. Sure, the experts claim, “We would love to literally be in your bedroom with you while you’re having sex to help,” and they explain “doggy style” and “spooning” positions via stick-figure drawings on a white board (again: these are adults). But in reality, it’s all a bunch of fluffy, meaningless words. The second episode features a lesbian couple whose biggest bedroom issue isn’t the sex so much as one woman’s worry about how her partner’s parents don’t approve of their relationship. It’s pretty heartbreaking — the women both get emotional during the segment — and the experts offer up empty words like “love yourself” before sending them off into the box. What could that conversation possibly fix? If nothing else, Sex Box is an example of why couples need to talk to each other, not a reality television camera.