What makes a date, successful? The BBC seem to know…

Television station, BBC Three, is currently running a series called Undercover Princesses. Three genuine princesses, from Germany, Uganda and India, have spent a month living in Essex, trying to find love free from the usual constraints of moving in royal circles.

In Episode 2, broadcast last week, Gabi (a.k.a. Princess Xenia of Saxony) accepted an invitation to spend a weekend at a music festival with local Essex lad, Elliot. After showing the pair enjoying their day together, the BBC’s narrator commented: “Gabi’s first date with Elliot has gone well… but not that well [they hug], as they go to bed in separate tents.” (You can hear this segment 12 min 36s into Episode 2 )

A long time ago, Auntie B.B.C. might have been expected to uphold traditional Christian values which would have frowned upon the idea of any unmarried couple sharing a tent. Today, we live in a different kind of world, and expect the BBC to respect all cultures and values. Instead, what we have is another kind of message – that the only good date, is one which ends up with two people sleeping together. Coming from a narrator in a programme which is otherwise fair in presenting the different cultures involved, this stands out as an unusual moment of bias.

Of course, this is a chaplaincy blog, and “we would say that, wouldn’t we…” – or would we?

Quite apart from the fact that most of the world’s religions have quite specific positions on what should take place before a couple becomes intimate, people of all religious beliefs and none might share a common concern that young people today – like the students under our care at this chaplaincy – might be pressured into sexual encounters before they feel ready.

If the documentary had merely pointed out that Gabi and Elliot were not under one canvas that night and allowed the viewer to reach their own conclusion, fair enough – we expect as much in the multi-valued culture which is Britain today. But by making such an editorial comment, is the BBC not adding to the subtle pressure which erodes the freedom of young dating couples to say “not yet”?

At the Chaplaincy we do not give directive advice to students on what kind of intimacy should be reserved for marriage, unless a student asks for guidance in accord with a particular faith tradition. But we do encourage students not to be rushed into relationships before they are ready, and we are available to offer support to any student who feels pressured to go further than they are comfortable with at present.

Meanwhile, perhaps the same BBC which has put so much effort into keeping this princess undercover, should not be disappointed that she has chosen to stay under the cover of her own tent!