Some people seem to want to discuss their sex lives on television, as in the show Sex Box. Couples are interviewed before and after they have tried something new, right there in the studio (although hidden from view). This week, the couple were close friends, and were trying out being lovers for the first time. The interviews are full of therapeutic empowering chat, plus saucy joking.
I consider this sort of thing a form of cultural vandalism, rather like what Isis got up to in Palmyra. Something frail and important is being damaged in a quick burst of self-righteousness. What is being damaged is the delicate tradition that associates sex with profound privacy. Without such privacy, its capacity to be meaningful is reduced. For it becomes determined by the sort of things that are sayable, and sellable, on television shows.
A boring free-market sort of person will here pipe up: well you’re still free to be private, even if they choose not to be. Yes and no. The tradition that associates sex with profound privacy is a cultural thing, and such programmes have the power to change culture a notch or two. This sort of programme has a little bit of power to say: this exhibitionism is now culturally normal; objecting to it is abnormal and reactionary.
It’s dangerous to allow television too much freedom, because it has some power to define what is normal. The reality still is, thank God, that these exhibitionists are rather abnormal, but one can imagine people watching the show and assuming otherwise. We should be more culturally careful.