The adult web site XHamster is now airing The Sex Factor, a competition between 16 men and women, none of whom have done adult films before, for “instant porn stardom as well as a $1 million prize,” as the host describes in its trailer.
The May 19 debut came almost two years after the show was first announced as a show hosted by Belle Knox, the Duke University porn star who was also supposed to be the show’s non-cash prize, having sex with the winners. Knox is not in the final series, however, but was replaced as host by Asa Akira.
All of that time has not produced a series worth watching. It’s only yielded a series whose producer won’t even answer a direct question about whether or not the show actually has its promised $1 million cash prize.
Production values lower than porn
The series is x-rated, with graphic sex scenes, but even the lowest-rent pornography is more coherent and better acted. I could barely make it through three episodes to review it. (Five episodes are online so far; new episodes are released Thursdays.)
Sex aside, The Sex Factor seems like the kind of series that would have emerged from a dusty archive of cancelled-before-they-aired cable reality series from the early 2000s only to air once on Fox Reality Channel before being forgotten forever.
Also forgotten forever: any sense of craft. This is an online reality series that also has porn, so the bar for its production values is about as low as a toothpick lying on a table. Yet somehow it fails to meet even that low expectation.
Sound echoes during the contestants’ introductions; camera shadows are visible on faces; the audio levels are off from clip to clip. The editing is absolutely incoherent, and cuts between scenes that are never introduced—or if they are introduced, it comes across as completely disconnected from the rest of the show, with the host saying “Hi” directly to the camera in the middle of an episode.
The judges are here and then they’re there, sometimes seated and sometimes standing, and it’s difficult to differentiate them from the contestants, perhaps because they sometimes participate in awkward ways. When the panel of judges/coaches set up challenges and talk, it’s so awkward—and awkwardly coached—it makes Big Brother confessionals seem like Shakespeare by comparison.
Sex is not enough
The challenges make little sense other than as excuses to get the contestants naked and/or having sex. And you know, that’d be just fine.
After all, Playboy’s Foursome produced five seasons of a watchable, well-produced half-hour series that was simply four singles in a house for a night. They were given erotic things to do as a lead-in to casual sex. (Several reality TV stars appeared on that show, either before or after their other reality television work, including Survivor‘s Ozzy Lusth, The Real World‘s Dunbar Flinn, and Big Brother‘s Michele Noonan.)
Yet that show actually had the foresight to make its sex watchable, and to just make sense.
On The Sex Factor, what sex there is usually places women as the objects and receptacles for men to use—which may not be all that different than a lot of straight porn, but comes off as particularly distasteful here, such as a demonstration of how to choke and slap a woman.
A reality show about sex can work, as Foursome demonstrated. A competition to become a porn star makes sense. There is nothing wrong with a show about pornography.
There is something wrong with producing it with less care and foresight than YouTube and/or XTube stars put into their productions. That’s just lazy. It’s also understandable: an ABC News report introduced the show’s producer, Buddy Ruben, as someone with “no previous TV experience or porn experience.”
Even worse, the ABC News report—which is below, and was broadcast before the series debuted—suggests that the winner actually didn’t receive “$1 million prize,” as host Asa Akira says at the show’s start. Asked directly about the prize, producer Ruben told Nightline that “part of it was cash up front” and then refuses to answer any more: “we didn’t get into those kinds of things.”
At the start of the third episode, it’s revealed that two contestants have left the show. Spoiler alert: they’re the real winners.