Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Like a Virgin

It's not uncommon these days for the makers of reality TV shows to claim that their programmes are 'social experiments'. I always love those. They're usually the most vacuous. But with 'No Sex Please, We're Teenagers', which began last night on BBC2, we have an all-new descriptive term. Keen to claim the intellectual high ground, and fulfill their government remit to broadcast high-quality educational programmes, a BBC spokeswoman has stated that "This is not a reality show in the Big Brother sense. It is a three-part observational documentary series".

Of course the spokeswoman in question was probably Davina McCall, but even so. The fact is, this is not a reality TV show. It's altogether more high-brow.

So anyway, this three-part series about shagging, drinking and laughing at freaks, began last night with the bold claim that for today's teenagers, "Sex is as casual and throwaway as fast food". Which is why, no matter how satisfying it might seem, half an hour later you want some more. Fortunately though, help is at hand in the form of Christian youth workers Rachel Gardner (ridiculous name) and Dan Burke, who have challenged twelve youngsters aged between 15 and 17 to go without sex for five months. Of course, the government have been challenging 15-year-olds to go without sex for a couple of hundred years now, and they have an entire police force to back them up, but that doesn't worry Dan and Rachel. They have God on their side. And a large box of Polos.

The pair began by organising a meeting for the dirty dozen at Wealdstone Baptist Church in Harrow, where they dubbed the group 'The Romance Academy' (cool huh?), before laying out pillows on the floor, and closing their eyes to pray. Which is surely asking for trouble. We could have had a pregnancy on day one. Fortunately though, nothing happened - I think they were all too stunned by Dan (Burke by name, berk by nature) who repeatedly referred to sex as "doing a whoopsie". Which makes you wonder just how promiscuous Frank Spencer's cat really was.

Rachel, who has rejected traditional church on a Sunday, and prefers to worship in a "sacred space" (presumably her local garden centre), handed each of the horn-monsters a typed 'pledge', which stated that they should indulge in no sexual activity of any kind for the next five months. Which came as something of a shock to 17 year old Jenine (love that spelling), who lost her virginity in a toilet, and who stated "I want to be in love with someone and do it in a bed". Well, it's something to aspire to, I suppose. Jenine was keen to clarify the rule on fingering, but having done so, all twelve duly signed the pledge and went home.

Two weeks later the group met up to go ice skating, which is the modern equivalent of a cold shower, before ending their first month with a weekend away in the country, living together in a big house surrounded by cameras twenty-four hours a day. Although, as the BBC spokeswoman says, "This is not a reality show in the Big Brother sense". The majority of the group spent the weekend smoking, which will obviously kill them, but fortunately the Bible doesn't say anything about that, so Dan and Rachel let it go, and kept a close eye out for hugging instead.

Sure enough, on the first night, 15-year-old Wesley, who likes to be called Wince (presumably as a tribute to TV-AM weather-woman Wincey Willis), successfully identified Jenine as the group's biggest slapper, and despite having spoken no more than three words to her in the previous four weeks, set about getting her drunk and into bed.

The next morning Jenine was shocked by her own behaviour, stating that "I don't even do kissing". It's strictly sex in toilets for that girl. But fortunately Rachel and Dan were straight in there with the Horlicks and Polos, and a tricky situation was soon defused. Though naturally Jenine and Wince chose not to speak to each other again.

Having well and truly bonded (and not just sexually), the twelve were flown out to Florida for a taste of abstinence, US style. America have spent over 200 million dollars teaching sexual abstinence in schools, with the result that the US now has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the western world. So it was a bit of a risk flying Jenine out there.

The group were hooked up with Pastor Jason Goss, who told them that nobody should have a relationship with someone they don't intend to marry, and that he'd be quite disappointed if any daughter of his came home and said she'd been fingered. Meanwhile, Romance Academy member Dominic went on a date with American virgin Rachel Fox (Fox by name...), a member of Pastor Jason's church. So I presume the wedding invites are in the post.

The programme ended with a Christian service of worship and prayer, which half the group walked out of. They claimed they felt uncomfortable with the overtly religious atmosphere of the evening, but frankly if you'd heard Pastor Jason sing, you'd have walked out too. It's no wonder he's celibate.