The opening minutes of Netflix’s latest renovation reality show feel like the opening minutes of any other reality renovation show.
A polite host enters a property and introduces herself. She’s Melanie Rose, designer of high-end homes. We see her opening the front gate and giving the house a once-over before being welcomed by an eager couple, Taylor and Ajay. Casual pleasantries are exchanged.
“Wow, I adore the decor – how old is it?” asks Melanie.
“Thanks, we love it,” responds Ajay. “The house was built in 1885.”
And then comes the kicker: “So I understand you want a sex room?”
From that moment on, How to Build a Sex Room stakes its claim as the sauciest show on TV. Netflix is quickly developing a reputation as the naughty kid in the class of streamers, consistently commissioning projects that will get people talking, tongues wagging, and libidos firing.
From original series Sex/Life to soft-core porn film 365 Days and Gwyneth Paltrow’s poorly named but surprisingly watchable sex positivity series, Sex, Love and Goop, it’s obvious the streaming giant has one thing on its mind.
But How to Build a Sex Room offers more than just titillation (though there is plenty of that, as well as teasing, flogging, and a discussion about magnetic nipple clamps). It taps into our collective obsessions with both sex and interior design.
Ajay and Taylor explain to Melanie that they’d like to renovate their downstairs basement into “a rock’n’roll sex dungeon,” complete with mirrors, leather and a spanking bench. Out comes Melanie’s mood board – sorry, her get-in-the-mood board – and she sets about bringing the sex dungeon to life.
While Melanie and her team discuss which type of high-gloss flooring option best suits the basement, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re watching The Block – with a side of bondage.
The couples are all cute and kinky in their own way, and each sex room comes with a unique purpose. For Raj and Ryan, creating a space dedicated to intimacy is part of their desire to rekindle an ailing sex life.
“We want an oasis, a place for us to be together and feel connected to one another,” says Raj. “We’d like a romance room; we do not need a sex dungeon,” adds Ryan, having caught wind of what was taking place over at Ajay and Taylor’s place.
Ultimately, Melanie delivers Raj and Ryan the romance room of their dreams, which includes an enormous plasma TV that plays photos of exotic destinations on loop. What is it they say about different strokes for different folks?
But it’s hard not to feel a little moved as the couple gush about what this dedicated space will mean for their relationship.
Looking at the production line of reality shows being green-lit, it’s clear producers have realised that the audience’s appetite for racy content knows no bounds, leading to a rush of sex-based formats.
From Dating Naked, a show that claims to provide daters with a radical experience where “before they bare their souls, they bare everything else first,” to Let’s Make a Love Scene, where real people aim to find love recreating sex scenes inspired by Hollywood films, anything goes at this point.
But unlike the above formats, How to Build a Sex Room doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a show about how to build sex rooms.
The point of difference is that the constant dialogue about what intimacy looks and feels like for different couples allows for some surprisingly insightful conversations about sex.
You soon realise that in more ways than one, How to Build a Sex Room isn’t like any other reality show at all.
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