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TLC's 'Virgin Diaries': Ridiculing or Celebrating Celibacy?

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The Television Learning Channel has never been one to shy away from awkward, taboo or touchy topics, but is its new program “Virgin Diaries” laughing at or lauding the concept of celibacy?

This Sunday, the network will debut the one-hour special, which follows the lives of several “inexperienced” men and women as they navigate with the ins and outs of being a virgin in today’s sexually-charged society, and the awkward moments that go hand-in-hand with doing the deed for the first time. 

Among the “late bloomers” is a couple who are not only saving themselves for their wedding night, but also saving their first kiss for the momentous occasion, a successful 35-year-old mortgage analyst who has never had a girlfriend or gone beyond “first base” due to his inability to pick up the ladies, and three 30-year-old roommates who are all vying for Mr. Right (and a ring) before giving it up. 

So is “Virgin Diaries” a welcome change from controversially sexed-up shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom”? Or is it likely to take a jab at virginity?

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“I've seen the trailer and it clearly mocks the people involved. They treat the couple that doesn’t kiss until their wedding like a punch line. Sure it was an enthusiastic kiss, but you also have to remember they had cameras on them and possibly producers egging them on,” Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business & Culture for the Media Research Center, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “This appears to have been done for shock value – like '’Sister Wives’ and the Duggar show ‘19 Kids and Counting.’ One of the people they profile clearly says his sexual status isn't voluntary. The trailer plays a profound moral choice for laughs.”

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And according to former reality show agent and founder of GotCast.com, Alec Shankman, it appears the creators have still adopted the “sex sells” method – with a somewhat different spin.

“It is possible to create television programming that would encourage celibacy until marriage, but it probably would not rate very well, and it is highly unlikely that this specific docu-soap program is the answer. That being said, I'm sure that this show will be wildly entertaining,” he said. “In American culture, sex sells. This is simply a new approach, albeit a wildly different one. It will showcase awkward intimacy between folks with no sexual experience or confidence. My prediction is that viewers will find the show entertaining, but for reasons other than education about 'saving yourself.' Rather, this is an invitation into an otherwise underexposed sub-culture that will likely prove to be a mix of funny, fascinating, and creepy.”

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TLC’s west coast vice president of production, Timothy Kuryak, is standing firm that “Virgin Diaries” is by no means out to make a mockery of abstinence.

“We’re not trying to make light of this or treat it in a sort of trivial way. We want to document these peoples’ stories and why they make this decision,” he told ABC News. “A lot of stories about later in life virgins talk about it like a problem. We want to show that this is something that can be celebrated.” 

Dr. Jennifer Landa of BodyLogicMD also noted that if they show’s stars are willing participants in sharing their intimate thoughts and experiences, it is hardly exploitation, and could actually prove to have a positive impact.

“Celibacy is so rare these days, it could be refreshing.  This will give other women who may be considering celibacy role models to look up to. Celibacy is an excellent way to prevent the myriad of STD’s that women are exposed to nowadays,” Dr. Landa explained. “If done right it just could increase numbers of couples who wait which may just decrease STD risk in our young people which would be a positive influence."

And if this Sunday’s “first time” is a hit, the network might be back for more action – or lack thereof.

“We love the special as it is right now, and if it does well, there could be more to come,” Kuryak added. 

“Virgin Diaries” premieres on TLC Sunday, December 4 at 9PM ET/PT.

 

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