Friday, 12 September 2008

The Sex Education Show

I didn't get around to watching the first in this new series - Channel 4, 8pm Tuesday - until yesterday when I streamed it from 4OD.

It was only when I googled it to get the website addie to share with you that I realised that it had aroused a great deal of controversy with over 40 complaints about its content as well as its time of broadcast before the watershed.

I have to say it did get a bit near the knuckle in certain parts but I think the whole idea is that it is designed to reach our teenagers as well as their parents. It is a show that is covering everything that a young person needs to know - about their bodies, their development, their sexuality and their attitudes towards all of those things. It also allowed them to understand how much their views are shaped by the information with which they are bombarded, both in the media and on the internet.

The first thing which really made me sit up and listen was the fact that there are three different sizes of condoms. Did you know that? Well I certainly didn't. The main reason that everyone hates condoms is because of their unreliability and tendency to split or come off. Well, it would appear that this is because in many cases, the man is wearing the wrong prophylactic for his personal endowment. In order to ascertain your size, you have to measure the girth of your penis when it is erect. 12-13cms is considered average and means that a 'Medium' condom, the majority of those on sale in stores, will fit you. If your penis is over 13cms then you are a 'Large' and under 12cms a 'Small' or 'Snugfit'. Click on the highlights for a link to some of the different brands suitable for you. It's nothing to be ashamed of, we're not talking about length or ability to satisfy in these terms, just making sure that you are wearing a protective sheath that will do its job properly.

There was a section where a trio of 14- and 15-year-old schoolboys were asked about pornography. They all agreed that they looked at stuff on the internet or were sent stuff on their phones. When questioned about the worst thing they had seen, a clip was mentioned (which had been circulated via mobile phone) of two German women 'pooing and wiping it all over each other and vomiting'. When this information was shared with one boy's parents, they seemed quite shocked and when the film was shown to a group of parents later, they were all horrified. This segment of the programme came with advice on how to safeguard your child on the internet so that they cannot access adult sites. The problem with this is that the information was received via mobile phone. It seems a little shortsighted to prevent your child from accessing adult content on the web with a blanket ban when they are still vulnerable to receiving it from their mates on their phones. It worries me because it does not foster an open exchange of information between child and parent. It becomes secretive and dirty. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't find that sort of clip entertaining in any way and I'd really rather my children didn't have to watch it but I think most of them would make that sort of decision for themselves anyway. Me saying it's disgusting is far more likely to make it extra interesting to them... The other problem here is that you would need ALL parents and guardians to take similar action and, in my experience, that would never happen. This means that you have some kids with information but not necessarily all the correct facts talking to your children about stuff which they know you do not wish them to look at and so they will not ask you to ensure they are getting the full picture.

What did worry me was the effect of surgically-enhanced pornstars on the teenagers' perspective of what they should consider normal. Both the boys and a group of girls were shown pictures of flaccid male genitalia of varying sizes and asked to decide which they thought was the most realistic size-wise. They all chose a penis that was 4 or 5 inches long and were shocked to learn that normal was actually the rather wrinkly 3cm example. It was a similar story with pictures of breasts. When shown a couple of normal pairs in 32C and 32F, both genders complained that the boobs looked saggy and had no cleavage. Admittedly they weren't the most attractive tit shots I've ever seen but, when compared to a silicon-bagged beauty of 34D who had beautiful round, symmetrical, tanned globes with a very definite cleavage, naturally they all chose the fake ones as being the most attractive and desirable. It was very interesting to hear one of the boys draw the conclusion that his attitude to physical appearance was being influenced in a bad way by the things he was seeing on the web.

There was another item where a female doctor and a naked man talked about his cock and balls and explained about the body parts and how they should appear but that there was a huge variety of different shapes and sizes down there. It talked about foreskins and non-symmetrical balls. I think it is a clip that I will recommend that my own son watches - not with me of course - because I think he will learn a lot about his body that he might not want to ask his mother.

The item about Anna Richardson trying to put some spice into her own lovelife was very amusing as well as being informative, but probably not really suitable for a programme before the watershed although, again, it comes back to our obsession with making sex secretive and for adults only when clearly our teenagers are doing it anyway and unsafely because they don't have the correct information.

Channel 4 defended the show, saying it was meant to provoke discussion amongst families and said the scene of nudity had clearly been signposted before the start.

"Whilst we did receive a small number of complaints we also received some very positive feedback," a spokeswoman said.

"The series is aimed at families and we hope it will act as a starting point for a family discussion about the important issues raised.

"The show was preceded with warnings about content and scenes featuring nudity were flagged prior to each part of the hour-long show."

A Channel 4 source added the number of complaints had been relatively small for such a potentially controversial show.

This programme is clearly titled the 'Sex Education Show'. Parents with children under the age of 14 would be wise to study the Radio Times for clues like that. Parents with children over that age need to ask themselves what their kids might already have a sketchy and incorrect knowledge of and whether exposure to such a programme can give them information that could be very important to them over the coming years.

If you're somewhere in the middle, you can watch it yourself - as I did - and give them the website so they can peruse some of the more relevant articles for themselves.


Mendicatus said...

I take it from your description that you haven't ever seen "two girls, one cup"? (google it...) Not for the faint-hearted, and does't float my boat at all (far from it) but really just snigger-worthy playground banter material, not really shocking, IMO.

But then maybe I'm just a sicko.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I didn't see the show, but from what you report it sounds very positive. I think ultimately until we start being open with children about the emotional side of sexuality, about masturbation etc things aren't going to improve.
BG x

Shelly Swallows said...

I haven't seen the show (yet) but I've read a few comments on it and I think the inclusion of 2 Girls One Cup as an example of the type of porn kids watch is completely unrealistic - that clip was a viral trend, clearly intended to gross people out and is, for the huge majority of people, in no way sexual. It completely devalues the whole point of the experiment, since that clip has nothing to do with sexuality, it has to do with shock value and making your friends turn green.

having my cake said...

Mendicatus/Shelly - When I mentioned the clip to my daughter she immediately said 'two girls, one cup'. I said 'Excuse me?' She said 'That's the clip, Mum'. I felt totally out of the link :) I havent actually been able to watch it as it doesnt seem to play but there are several videos of people watching the clip so you can see their reaction to it. Definitely not my cup of tea but then I used to have the screaming abdabs when I got baby poo on my finger and I remove dog/cat/fox excrement from my drive with a long shovel and an accompanying hissyfit... Since, from your descriptions, there doesnt seem to be much sex involved, it does seem a bit of a sensationalist thing to have included.

BG - I think it's a thing we all have to learn to deal with. Sex is not dirty, it's natural. We need to take lessons from our European cousins in how to deal with it without sniggering.

justme said...

Didn't see it, but have just had a look at the website and it looks good. Anything that encourages adults to be more open and matter of fact with their children about sex and sexuality has to be a good thing!
But I don't, absolutely don't, want to watch the 'two girls, one cup clip!

Polar said...

Thank you, for the information. I can see the need to increase our level of discussions at home very soon.

Anonymous said...

thats excellent
I would surely rather it be something I could watch with my kids and instruct etc rather than have a teacher or school mate do it without my guidance and influence.
I think that matters alot so that I know the points stressed.

I am also for all penile measurements in Cm rather than In.
there are more per!
good post.

Riff Dog said...

These are scary times to be a parent trying to raise kids with healthy, non-warped attitudes about sex.

ez cheese said...

As the still relatively childlike one in the crowd, I'll say its a good idea to get this stuff out in the open your own arena where you are in control. Otherwise you can end up with a pretty messed up view of your sexuality. That is something that takes a very long time to change, if you even manage to succeed

Walker said...

Real education is the only way to battle fake education.
You can’t protect your kids from the crap they see on the Internet or on TV unless we arm them with the most powerful weapon in our arsenal and that’s the truth.
Kids today are being forced to learn or brainwashed to believe what’s perfect and what’s not by outside sources.
Conglomerates are shaping their future by altering our children’s and ours.
I think our parents are the most shocked of what they all see today.
I’d tell my kids to watch a show like this.

Great post

Hu said...

Thanks for the heads up on this :) I'll be keeping an eye out for this on TV and shall point my daughter at the website (once her internet ban in up!)

Cate said...

I haven't seen the programme but I it sounds like its intentions were good. I grew up in a house where sex was a bad word and it has taken me years to break free from that warped view so I am determined to talk about sex with my kids so they don't end up the same way.

I cannot agree enough about restrictions and how the 'taboos' make things even more enticing to kids. When my parents found a Playboy magazine in my brother's room, they went ballistic (sounds so silly now!). Within a few weeks, my brother had amassed a collection of hardcore porn that would make most adults cringe. I can't help but wonder if my parents had just talked sensibly to him about the Playboy, he wouldn't have ventured to push the boundaries to prove he could one up them.

Cate xxx

Elle said...

Sounds like a great show, thanks for the review.

I am absolutely all for this sort of open, useful information. We can all use it, I'm sure, no matter our age. From what I hear, teenagers these days are pretty wild in regards to sex, compared to when I was a teenager, so it is crucial to give them correct, unbiased facts.

I think also that the attitude we develop towards sex during our teenage years follows us for a long, long time, so it's all the more important to show there is nothing to be ashamed off, and that it's not dirty or bad.

Madame Belle said...

Well, I'm glad that someone finally did it. When I was back in high school, a group of my friends and the school counselor got together, taped candy to condoms and passed them out on Valentine’s Day telling everyone who took them "have a safe Valentine's Day".

We got pulled aside by the principle because we are only allowed to teach abstinance, rather than safe sex. I can't tell you how mad that made me.

When you don't teach young adults to have safe sex, and rather tell them to just not do it, when it comes down to it they would rather do it unsafely and with no knowledge than not do it in the first place (not all, but a good majority).

As well, it's been proven that children and young adults who have parents that are open with them about sex versus giving them the sex talk when they are older and then telling them not to do it, those who had open parents were far less likely to have unsafe sex than the other kids (about +0.66 correlation rate).

Bravo on accepting safe sex knowledge!