MTV’s “Virgin Territory” explores a serious topic — young adults who delay having sex — in an un-serious way. Following multiple participants, who rotate in and out, the show employs a docuseries format that’s heavy on direct-to-camera interviews, but uses an anecdotal approach that cries out for some experts, discussion and third-party sources. “Some will keep it. Some will lose it,” the show notes of the characters’ virgin status. And some networks will pimp kids out — under cover of sex education — to score ratings.
Actually, the show might have a better chance at maintaining interest if it stuck with a central quartet and followed them over the course of its entire run. Instead, there’s little rhyme or reason to how long the players stick around. For example, one 23-year-old woman, Lisa, who has waited to have sex until marriage, is dropped after her wedding night, a little like “Logan’s Run,” only with a different kind of sanctuary.
Those featured range from 19 to their early 20s, and many are self-conscious about being virgins. Others are motivated by religion or personal factors that have caused them to abstain. “No ring-y, no ding-y,” as Dominique, 21, puts it.
Like a lot of these shows, suspension of disbelief is key to buying in to the situations. Take Kyle, who worries that his friends — who often talk about their sexual conquests — will find out his secret. But one wonders what those friends have been told about the camera crew following Kyle around as they go out for a night of clubbing and hoped-for debauchery. (He eventually spills the beans.)
Obviously, virginity is an extremely personal matter, and at times the vulnerability of the participants overcomes the way the material is presented, and feels raw and honest.
Too often, though, “Virgin Territory” surrounds those moments with carefully edited and scored sequences that resemble a beer commercial. And there’s no escaping the intrusive nature of the premise, like Lisa providing a morning-after recap of how her wedding night went.
MTV has a unique opportunity to explore young people’s lives at a formative stage, and has found no shortage of participants willing to share (or over-share) in that fashion, whether it’s unplanned pregnancy or online dating.
In that sense, “Virgin Territory” takes what could be an interesting idea and settles for going where many have gone before — sacrificing, in the process, any claim to purity.