A pastor, a psychotherapist, and a sexologist walk into a sex box. Or, rather, tell you to get in there and do your biz. There was a lesbian couple on Episode 2 of Sex Box last night, which gave us a great excuse to watch this not-as-scandalous as it sounds relationship advice show. Sex Box, WE’s new reality show which airs Fridays at 10pm ET/9pm CT, is billed as “a groundbreaking, unprecedented and life-changing way for couples in crisis to heal their sexual and emotional issues.” The premise of the so-called scientifically proven theory is that in the first 15 minutes after sex, people are able to open up and be honest with each other.
The couples come onstage in their normal clothes and talk to the panel of experts: Dr. Chris Donaghue, Sexologist and Clinical Psychotherapist; Dr. Fran Walfish, Relationship Psychotherapist and Dr. Yvonne Capehart, Pastor and Couples Counselor. Then, they go into the sound-proof, camera-free sex box to do their thing. When they are done, they come back out to talk again, but this time wearing a satin robe or pajama set (because it’s really important the studio audience and audience-at-home really gets that they just did it naked style).
So here we go. Just the ladyqueer parts of Sex Box, which you can watch online here, if your heart so desires. Meet Brittany and Sally, who got married at the Grammy’s during the Macklemore/Madonna number last year.
First of all, throughout the episode they described going into the sex box as “a transformative experience” and noted that “this is [the couples’] best chance”. While I do feel like the concept of talking to couples after sex, while their endorphins are high and they are most likely to be open and honest is interesting and probably effective, I don’t think the actual time anyone spent in that box was the transformative moments for them, but rather it was the moments in which they confronted truths about their relationship that they hadn’t previously and made a plan for how to deal with them in the future. Sex was merely a tool to get them there, so focusing on their time in the box seems just a ploy to keep sex at the center of the conversation for ratings sake.
As for the lesbian couple, Sally and Brittany, the show focused their issue on Sally’s mom not accepting her daughter being gay, and thus not accepting Brittany. They posit that acceptance is the center of their problem, and often play up moments with the pastor on the therapist panel. While I won’t undermine that this is serious issue that all LGBT people face when dealing with their families, it felt like a ploy to have a “gay plot” on the show, rather than the root of Sally and Brittany’s actual, real relationship issues.
After they are in the sex box, Brittany reveals that she cheated on Sally, and Sally blames herself for this for not opening up to Brittany more. This felt like a really important moment for them, and seemed like a lot more valid reason why they are having intimacy issues. The show’s panel, however, spent little time actually delving into Brittany’s infidelity, and instead quickly refocused back on the issue of Sally’s mom not accepting them. It felt trite to always center the story back on this one singular issue, when there were clearly a lot of other issues at play.
It’s hard to poke fun of the absurdity of this because the absurdity of reality TV speaks for itself. The “life-changing” promise of the show seems like a reach, for sure and the science is just silly. You know what else releases endorphins and feel-good juice? Petting a cat. Smelling lavender. Chocolate. Working out. Much of the relationship advice was good, as good as you can get in a mini-session on live TV with three different therapists talking to you at once. There was even a moment when I teared up. I like bad reality TV and this definitely fits the bill, but is it “transformative” or “radical”? Only if you think Ricki Lake and Maury are life-changing TV, too. Also the way the sex box was lit up red when “occupied” reminded me of airplane bathrooms with the little light over them but maybe that’s just because I’ve been flying a lot lately.
I digress from the point, which is Brittany and Sally. This young couple has gone from having sex “all the time” to only having it “two times a week.” OK, well, that’s still, like, a decent amount of sex. I don’t know why these experts don’t normalize for these couples that sex drive can slow down when you have been together for a while. Yes, getting the passion back and dealing with the issues behind a decrease in libido is important, but I wish sexperts would stop guaranteeing that you can be like newlyweds forever. I think it causes more issues in relationships than not, but whatever.
So of course the issue really is not just sexual. Brittany says Sally doesn’t talk about her feelings. But Sally is a huge bundle of feelings. If Sally had any more feelings, she might combust. According to the couple, these issues stem from Sally’s mom, who doesn’t accept them. The experts spend a million years talking about Sally’s mom and I can’t help but feel like the big scene between Pastor Dr. Capeheart and Sally was played up for ratings. While it’s nice to see a clergymember with conservative views on homosexuality say aloud, “I accept you,” it didn’t address the crux of the issue in their relationship.
Because after the sex box, where they apparently had really great sex (and all the more power to them, because I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get it up in a light-up pod hotel room thing with the whole world directly outside), it is revealed that Brittany cheated. Now, I’m no cheater-hater. People usually cheat for a reason and you can move past it with hard work, but it is a huge breach of trust. So I wish they’d spent more than five seconds on this vs. the huge amount of time on Sally’s mom. Obviously there are major trust issues here, as well as that Brittany needs to deal with to her own stuff, too. She has some insecurities and trust and communication issues, obviously, or she wouldn’t have wandered into someone else’s bed.
In the follow-up interview, Sally and Brittany share that they believe Sex Box saved their marriage. They are darn cute together and I sincerely hope they work on their trust and communication issues. These two are burning fast and hot, as young love often does, and time will tell whether they can keep it smoldering forever.