Why I can't bear to watch the most popular show in Australia with my daughters

MAFS 2018: Davina confesses to 'Dean' mistake

Much to Ryan's horror, Davina wants to give their relationship a second chance. Vision: Married at First Sight on Nine.

Talking dirty on Australia's most-watched television program is all well and good, but is it really family viewing?

Some may greet the news with delight, others as a sure sign that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are saddling up at this very moment, but the fact is Married at First Sight is now Australian television's most-watched program.

Make of it what you will, the show's ascendancy poses at least one uncomfortable reality: sex is now on the menu during what is still, nominally at least, family viewing time.

My daughters, aged 12 and 14, occasionally watch the show. I regularly watch it (purely for professional reasons, Your Honour). Rarely do we watch it together. And frankly, I'd like to keep it that way. The alternative is just too horrendous to contemplate.

Ryan with Davina, who committed to stay after contriving to dump him for another man.
Ryan with Davina, who committed to stay after contriving to dump him for another man. Photo: Nigel Wright

As the latest season has progressed, more and more time has been devoted to matters sexual, and very little has been left to the imagination. There have been bare buttocks and genital sheaths during spray tans, and post-coital interviews. As yet there hasn't been any full-frontal nudity or Go-Pro footage of the act itself, but surely it can't be far away.

On Tuesday night, the bedroom talk was all-consuming. Three weeks into a six-week "social experiment" in which strangers supposedly seeking love are coupled up by relationship "experts", this was effectively a halftime score update: who has done it, who hasn't done it, who wants to do it but hasn't yet, and who hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting lucky on national television.

Prior to this, of course, we'd had the long-running saga of Dean (instamarried to Tracey) and Davina (instamarried to Ryan) contriving to ditch their partners and hook up with each other instead. We'd had Nasser proudly proclaiming "yes we had sex" on his honeymoon with Gab, then going all coy when asked why they hadn't done so again in the weeks since. "Why is Nasser's sex life so important," he asked defensively. "Some people say it doesn't exist. It's not that important."

We'd had Tracey accusing Dean of wanting to "hit it and quit it" after being "intimate" in the morning then opting to leave the experiment in the evening. We'd had other couples dragging out the celibacy because they're uninterested, incompatible or scared of getting hurt.

What we haven't had is much in the way of discretion.

If we accept that the show has any right to exist – as a laboratory in which relationships are accelerated and subjected to a variety of stressors in full public view – then sexual interactions are an essential part of that. Personally, I find it quite fascinating (which is not to say I don't also find it appalling). But do I want to be watching this with my kids at 7.30pm? Hell no.


Astonishingly, the show is PG-rated. Perhaps Nine could claim it is helping to guide our parenting by forcing us to discuss with our kids topics that might otherwise be difficult to address. Maybe so, but I'd rather not do the birds and bees thing over tacos on the couch.

I'm also pretty sure I don't want Dean and Davina and Tracey setting the benchmark for informed and consenting adult relationships for my daughters.

Then again, credit where it's due: they are at least providing my girls with some great examples of what not to do.

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