Virgin Island: the bizarre dating show where celibacy is at risk

<span>Over 10 episodes, Virgin Island will thrust a number of ‘stunningly attractive and confident singles’ together.</span><span>Photograph: Yuriy Brykaylo/Alamy</span>
Over 10 episodes, Virgin Island will thrust a number of ‘stunningly attractive and confident singles’ together.Photograph: Yuriy Brykaylo/Alamy

Students of reality TV, take heed, for the genre has finally reached its logical endpoint. In retrospect it was always a question of when, not if, a production company would pitch a series entitled Virgin Island, but now at last the day is upon us.

According to Variety, Hulu has just launched Virgin Island, a show that is exactly what you think it is. A tropical island. A bunch of virgins. Lust. Temptation. Probably some sort of clumsy, desperate, fear-filled sexual intercourse. Almost definitely a lot of crying afterwards. This might just be the show your television was invented for.

Related: ‘We got more viewers than some royal weddings!’ Five decades of reality TV marriages – all still together

Over 10 episodes, Virgin Island will thrust a number of “stunningly attractive and confident singles” together. As Hulu states: “As the cast finds heartfelt connections and explores their varying reasons for waiting, there will be plenty of unexpected twists, including new arrivals and departures, all culminating in a dramatic finale where burgeoning relationships are put to the test.” This is complete conjecture on my part, but I’m taking that last bit to mean that the finale will feature two people attempting to have sex for the first time while their devoutly religious older relatives watch them from the corner of the room. Will our contestants reach the point of sexual release despite the sound of their grandparents weeping with bitter disappointment? Tune into Virgin Island and find out!

Clearly, there are a number of questions to be asked here. The first, and perhaps most pressing is: “What sort of virgins are these people looking for anyway?” This is important, because it will directly influence the direction of the series. If it’s about adults who have made the decision to abstain from sex, then it could be fascinating television. Perhaps they will all have to overcome a long-held fear of physical intimacy, in which case the show has the potential to be a sensitive and profound exploration of the obstacles we choose to throw in the way of our own happiness.

Then again, it could be full of a more traditional type of virgin; young people who are absolutely straining at the leash to have sex for the first time. This would make for a much more titillating series, except everyone would have it away with everyone else as soon as they set foot on the island, and the entire series would be over after three seconds.

Question number two is: “How can you be sure these people are virgins anyway?’” So far, the online application form poses questions like, “Are you a virgin?” and, “Explain why you remain a virgin,” which doesn’t seem like a particularly scientific method of only attracting verified virgins. The system feels like it could be extremely easily gamed and, while there is definitely a reality show in a Traitors-style series where a sexually active person infiltrates a pack of virgins for nothing but personal gain, that show shouldn’t be something that bills itself as Virgin Island.

Also, good luck finding applicants. There is going to be a British version of Virgin Island in the UK, entitled Intimacy Retreat, and Channel 4 has already struggled to find anyone who wants to take part. The application process began last summer and yet by January it was reported that not a single person wanted to participate. Shaken by the crisis, in March the channel loosened the entry requirements to allow non-virgins in. Maybe that means people who are celibate. Maybe it means people who have never had full sex. Who knows, but the backtracking certainly feels like a defeat.

Maybe the American version will have more luck, but it’s hard to see how. The type of people the show is angling for are likely to consider their virginity sacred. They might not want the world to know that they have maintained their virginity. Or perhaps they’ve waited for so long because they want the eventual loss of their virginity to be a meaningful event, as opposed to a pre-commercial beat on the sixth episode of a reality show with a title that sounds like it was created by a masturbating chimp.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps America does have enough attention-seeking wannabes willing to trade their virginity for three months of vague notoriety. And if that’s the case, maybe Virgin Island will run for years to come. But if it doesn’t, and the show struggles to find applicants, I hope it remembers that there is still enough time to fully give into the dark side and rebrand itself as Incel Island.