A video camera in the bedroom: naughty way to spice up your sex life—or therapeutic tool to reveal deeper truths about your relationship?
Both, says Michael Alvear, a gay Atlanta-based sexpert who spent three seasons with The Sex Inspectors, a British television show in which he and his co-host analyzed video footage of long-term couples. Their goal? To help the twosomes get their passion back, both in and out of the sack.
Since it aired in 2004, the show has appeared on HBO and has been duplicated in about a dozen countries. I had a chat with Alvear to get the real take on what happens both on-screen and behind the scenes when the film is rolling—and to find out what you can learn by inviting an all-seeing camera into your bedroom.
So, tell us about your role in The Sex Inspectors.
Basically, I was the co-presenter, as they say in England, the "agony uncle," which is what they call a man who gives advice. My job was to look at the edited tapes of the couples having sex—or more to the point, not having sex—and to come up with a plan to help them start having sex again. Or to start having better sex.
There were cameras outside the bedroom, too, right?
There were cameras all over the house. The point was to see how people interacted outside of the bedroom, because the path to the bedroom determines what happens inside. How you treat somebody at 8 in the morning will influence what happens at 8 at night. We couldn't give any valuable input until we got a sense of how they greeted each other, how they treated each other.
Of course, it's common knowledge that developing a fulfilling sex life goes beyond what happens in bed. But it seems like this is something couples often tend to forget—is that what you discovered?
Yes. If you just focus on sexual technique, you'll never improve your sex life. The thing about having the camera there is that it shows that everybody has their own view of what's wrong. Remember the famous scene in Annie Hall? You've got a split screen, with one half where Woody Allen is talking to a shrink and Annie Hall is talking to a shrink. And the shrink asks how often they have sex, and Woody Allen says, "We almost never have sex—it's about three times a week," and Annie Hall is saying, "We're always having sex—like three times a week!" The show reminded me of that scene a lot.
So the camera acted as a catalyst to have those kinds of illuminating moments?
All the time. I don't think that people are really that aware of their contributions to the breakdowns in a relationship, and the cameras are able to cut through all the false perceptions that they have about themselves. I've always believed this through writing and advising people about sex—the question, "What are you unaware of that, if you became aware of it, you could change and make the situation better?" That's what the cameras allowed people to do—become aware of the things they're not aware of. It's like a mirror that way.