Last night MTV premiered a new reality show called Virgin Territory that’s about exactly what you think it’s about — people who’ve never had sex. Not only that, but people in their late teens and early 20s who’ve never had sex! Wow, what a bunch of weirdos just waiting to be exploited, right? Just like all those people who did have sex and then got pregnant too young. Have sex, don’t have sex. Either way, there’s probably some way MTV can spin you as a sideshow freak.
The show airs Wednesdays at 11 PM, a time slot which I find kind of ironic considering it’s all about the lack of mature content, but no matter. It’s an hour long, because how could you possibly cover the oddity that is not having had sex in less time? I hear MTV’s next reality show is all about people who’ve never been to Burger King, and we’ll get to watch them go about their day without having done it (Can you believe they lead normal lives?!), until maybe at the end of the series they’ll finally order a Whopper. Fingers crossed.
And that’s the thing about this show; the goal here seems to be to get these people to have sex, because what else would we be watching for? One of the subjects of the first episode is Lisa, a 23-year-old woman who’s chosen to wait until marriage for religious reasons. But of course she gets married by the end of the episode. We get a creepy scene of her new husband closing the bedroom door on the cameraman, and then the morning after Lisa expresses how unspectacular it all was. But who cares, she had sex and that’s the important thing, and now she’s off the show because she’s no longer a circus monkey for us to be entertained by.
No matter how hard MTV tries to spin this show as examining or questioning the “pressures” in our society that make virginity something to be ashamed of, it’s really just an opportunity to perpetuate those pressures. Because if being a virgin is something to create a weekly reality show about, that carries an implicit message that being one is in itself strange. The subjects give long-winded explanations to the camera about why they haven’t had sex, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. Their friends either mock them for their virginity or push them to lose it, and in that way they pretty much act as stand-ins for MTV and the audience.
But here’s the thing. There actually isn’t anything wrong with being a virgin, and it’s not something that needs to be justified or explained or fixed. But that’s not the message the show sends. This isn’t a show for virgins to watch and relate to; it’s a show for non-virgins to watch and gawk at. Except unlike on a show like Teen Mom, they’re gawking at a lack of something. Even if you don’t think it’s exploitative, you have to at least admit it’s pretty boring.