Wednesday night (19th January) in the UK, Channel4 aired Episode 1 of a new show called The Joy of Teen Sex (link to the channel4 website here, and the ‘sexperience’ site here. Warning: may contain explicit content). Here is the first two lines of the press release:
Sex is part of every teenagerâ€™s life. They think about it, they worry about it and they do it. This bold and compelling new series offers a frank exploration of the love and sex lives of today’s teenagers – presenting solutions to the emotional and physical problems that many of them experience.
Before the show even aired it was being slated by faith and moral groups, but more worryingly, by sex and relationship professionals who feared the show was sending mixed and damaging messages.
I didn’t actually watch the show (I was busy elsewhere and can’t bring myself to watch it online), so can’t comment on it directly. I was however watching the twitter hashtag #thejoyofteensex and the swell of anger the show produced online. Instead, I simply want to link to two articles from professional and trusted sources.
The first is by Dr Petra Boynton; a well-known educator, agony aunt, and expert in sexual health and relationships. She writes about her concerns of the show before it was even aired:
Last summer myself and several other sex educators, therapists and reproductive healthcare staff were approached by researchers from Betty TV working on a new programme commissioned by Channel 4 called â€˜The Joy of Teen Sexâ€™. The show was described as a cross between the established (and popular) Embarrassing Teenage Bodies and The Sex Education Show. The Joy of Teen Sex would be set in a mock clinic where young people who had sex and relationships questions could get advice. The TV company was looking for people to appear as experts on the series (whoâ€™d play the role of â€˜clinic staffâ€™), and/or to refer them young people for possible inclusion.
I am very much in favour of using the media to share information on sex and relationships (and other health topics). But I had reservations from the outset about this particular series. All of which I shared with the researchers at the time, and Iâ€™ll repeat now.
The whole post is worth a read for the huge number of concerns she raises. Later she writes:
The phrase that put me off supporting the programme most was â€˜Sex is the most important thing in a teenagerâ€™s lifeâ€™. It may surprise you, but I profoundly disagree. â€˜Sexâ€™ may be important to some teens some of the time, but not to all teens all the time. For many young people the most important thing in their lives may be their friends, their schooling, hobbies or sports, their pets, their faith, music or a whole slew of other stuff Iâ€™m probably to old and boring to know about.
The second article is a reaction to the show by Romance Academy, a national initiative running groups educating teenagers about sex, relationships and self-esteem:
So, Wednesday night saw Channel 4 reach an all time low with their deliberately salacious programme, The Joy of Teen Sex. For those of you who didnâ€™t see it, TJOTS was a programme that pitched itself as a â€˜frank and sometimes shocking look at the world of teenage sex, complete with fears, fright and funâ€™ (4od). Because (as they say in the first 5 minutes of the programme) sex can be the most important thing in a teenagerâ€™s life.
Way to set up a programme. If you know any teenagers youâ€™ll know that this is utter rubbish. But, maybe if I was a teenager hearing that and felt that actually, GCSEâ€™s are the most important thing in my life right now, I might be worried that there is something wrong with me. And, if I were the parent of a teenager, Iâ€™d also be worried that my teen was sex obsessed and out compromising themselves every weekend. But it doesnâ€™t stop there. To add to this, we are also told that:
â€œAlthough the age of consent is 16, by that time the average teen has slept with a least 3 people. â€œ
The reality is that most 16 year olds have not slept with anyone.
Both articles raise serious concerns about the approach taken by this show and the message it is sending to teenagers. Although I don’t do a lot of direct work around SRE (Sex & Relationships Education), I did write and article on the subject here and believe it is vital for young people to have access to safe, professional and unbiased information. Did anyone else see this show?