Sex Advice

‘Too Hot to Handle’ Is the Worst Show on TV, and It Couldn’t Make Me Hornier

Allie Flinn

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Photo: Netflix/W+G Creative

This past week, I learned two important things. First is that Too Hot To Handle is actually not too hot to handle, considering how quickly I binged the entire hot-garbage parade that calls itself a show. And second is that I have no idea why I am horny after watching it, but indeed I am.

For the uninitiated who have actually been doing productive things, the recently released reality dating show on Netflix follows a group of conventionally attractive strangers trying to find love while sharing a villa in Mexico. But—plot twist!—halfway through the first episode, a device that looks like an Amazon Echo mixed with a sex toy, who is named Lana, starts speaking out of nowhere to inform the contestants that for the duration of their stay, they are not to engage in sexual activity or touching—including masturbation. If they do, money will be deducted from the communal prize pot of $100,000. Based on their reactions, you’d think they just learned the entire world is in a precarious state as an invisible virus infects countless souls, or something.

Anyway, the sex ban ultimately makes each of them want to have even more sex, and more curiously, I was right there with them. It made me wonder: Why am I horny right now for this terrible show?

Well, it’s actually pretty apt: There’s a prize, and it’s neither clear how to win or how long the contestants will be in the villa, period. Had this show come out when all other components of life were normal, I would’ve been like, “Okay guys, you can manage to not have sex for a bit, especially if there’s money to win.” But as someone who is single and quarantining alone, with no end date in sight, now I kind of get it. I haven’t had sex since *checks notes*…well, it’s been a bit, and it’s starting to feel like a life sentence.

I’m happily abstaining for the unforeseeable future in an effort to help stop the spread of the virus, but still, seeing all these horny people being denied any sort of sexual contact made me feel inexplicably hornier. I messaged a friend to say, verbatim, “omg all these people on this show are assholes, but they’re showing a lot of abs and now I’m just remembering what it feels like to touch abs and now I’m sad and horny.” So is watching people not be able to have sex, while also not being able to personally have sex and feeling even hornier as a result a thing?

“It’s definitely possible to get even hornier through watching a television show because we tend to relate ourselves to the people on the screen,” says sexologist Marla Renee Stewart. “Whether you realize it or not, you probably have related to someone on the screen if you were attracted to the show in the first place. Seeing them try to resist sex feeds into those hormones that make you more aroused, and if you find them visually pleasing, this can also make you aroused.” Clearly I did find some of these contestants attractive, especially a guy named Bryce, who has a chaotic kind of energy and lives on a boat and plays the piano and sings very badly, but with a lot of confidence. Am I getting sidetracked again? Sorry, it’s the horniness.

“Not being able to have what we want can increase our desire,” says sex therapist Rachel Needle, PsyD. The thrill of the chase is exciting and, in this case, is being drawn out by not being able to be sexual, both onscreen and in my life. Furthermore, when we want someone we can’t have (aka me and everyone I’ve met online dating during quarantine), we place a higher value on the relationship, which makes us want them even more. Throw in the fact that I’m basically being told that I can’t have sex right now, and I have a pretty holistic answer to the question of “Why am I horny?”

“If you enjoy sex and you are suddenly told you can’t have it, it can definitely be difficult. Even just watching the sexual tension can lead to more desire.” —Rachel Needle, PsyD

“If you enjoy sex and you are suddenly told you can’t have it, whether because of COVID-19 or the desire to win $100,000, it can definitely be difficult. You most likely will feel deprived and thus want it more. Even just watching the sexual tension, which can be hot, can lead to more desire and arousal,” Dr. Needle says. And let me tell you, Too Hot To Handle is rife with sexual tension; unlike other reality shows, which largely rely on euphemisms and double entendres to refer to sex, THTH showcases its horniness front and center, with group activities like Japanese bondage lessons and contestants saying things like, “What I’m most proud of is my penis.”

Dr. Needle adds that during this pandemic, many people want more sex because they feel vulnerable and want to be soothed and feel good because the world seems to be crumbling around us. “At a time with so much physical distancing and anxiety, we want to soothe more. This is one reason many people are masturbating more during the pandemic and, for those distancing with a partner, having more sex with a partner.”

So, though I and countless others don’t have a live-in partner to speak of to help us through these trying and horny times, all of us have a leg up on the poor souls of THTH: vibrators, and ones we won’t be charged thousands of dollars for using. And that, my horny friends, is something for which we can all be very, very grateful.

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