In 2012, MTV sent out a reality show casting call for young adults “who are ready to LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY!” Outrage greeted the announcement, and MTV scrapped the show before it aired. Now, MTV is trying the same premise again.
“Virgin Territory follows the lives of fifteen young adults, all of whom are trying to maneuver the often tricky world of virginity,” notes MTV’s website. “Messy love lives, awkward parental sex talks, sexually active friends, and the pressure to give in to their temptations – all can make for a very tumultuous journey for these abstinent adolescents. Each hour long episode explores four different v-card-carrying cast members from all walks of life. Some of them are hanging on to their virginity and others are desperately trying to lose it.”
It is interesting to note MTV’s use of language. How, exactly, is virginity a “tricky world” which must be “maneuvered”? Virginity is, after all, the default state for teens — one they can preserve literally by doing nothing. And is being a virgin really more of a “tumultuous journey” than indulging in “messy love lives” and having sex with dozens of partners?
While the show’s trailer tries desperately to make Virgin Territory look respectful and even-handed, there can be little doubt that the program will portray teens who prefer abstinence as losers and freaks, while the “cool kids” will be those who indulge in round after round of meaningless sex. This is certainly confirmed by scenes of “virginal” teens parading around in skimpy bikinis, dancing shirtless at beer parties, and one young man announcing “The toughest part about being a virgin is not being able to have sex.” (Not to mention the young woman who states that she is “actively looking for someone to lose my virginity to.”)
MTV is, after all, the same network that subjected teens and younger viewers to the unbelievably explicit reality series Savage U, in which sex guru Dan Savage urged college students to have promiscuous sex; Jersey Shore, with its endless drunken “hook-ups”; Girl Code, which derives “humor” from sexualizing teenage girls; dramas like The Hard Times of RJ Berger, which was entirely centered on the size of a teenage boy’s genitals; and the always-raunchy Video Music Awards. Even allegedly more “responsible” programs like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant have had the effect of glamorizing teenage pregnancy, with viewers often focusing less on the difficulties of teen motherhood and more on the benefits of being a reality-show star.
Television has been called a “sexual super-peer” in terms of its influence on teen viewers. Even if Virgin Territory DOES prove, against all odds, to treat abstinent teens fairly, it is still just another sex-obsessed program aimed at teens. “Some will keep it. Some will lose it. But EVERYONE is talking about it!” blares one ad for the show.
On MTV, what else is new?
Virgin Territory premieres on Wednesday, July 16th at 11:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. Central/Mountain on MTV; but parents shouldn’t be fooled by the show’s late-night timeslot. If it is like other MTV series, new episodes will first air late at night, but reruns of the program will be shown at all times of day, including early mornings and after school – thus attracting not only college-age viewers, but young teens (and their even younger brothers and sisters), as well.