Please: More Sex Education, Less Show.

This post is really about my reaction to Channel 4’s Sex Education Show: Stop Pimping our Kids, which was aired last night. But I will begin by giving you a bit of background into my wide and varied interest in sex:

I am interested in sex for a lot of reasons, primarily in terms of the evolution of sex; the sexual strategies that different species use, sexual selection, what different animals find attractive, why we even have sex in the first place, etc. You know, all that animal shit I’m really into.

But I am also very interested in sex from a purely human perspective. Sex is bonkers in humans. (That wasn’t meant to sound like a pun, but it kind of does. Excuse that). It really is. Yes we have sex to reproduce and pass on our genes and all that lovely stuff, just as our cousins in the animal kingdom do. But we are very different, too. We have sex for pleasure, most of the time. We talk about sex. We think about sex. We have sex with the opposite sex, the same sex… We have sex with ourselves. We all have different ideas about what “sex” actually is. We may engage in boundless sexual adventures and escapades, just because it feels awesome. Sex is a huge business. And somewhere along the line in our culture, sex became taboo.

Certain groups of people have very strong views about sex. Often these are very negative. Some folks may think that it is wrong for people to engage in certain sexual activities, such as having sex with a member of their own sex, masturbating, having sex outwith wedlock, having sex with more than one person, etc. Admittedly, I find a lot of these attitudes difficult to understand. As far as I am concerned, as long as everyone involved in any sexual activity is a fully consentual adult and no one is being hurt in the process: Enjoy it. It’s what we do, and hell: As a species, we do it good. But it is important to understand the perspectives of people who feel differently in order to bring about a change in attitudes. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I am interested in understanding all those different opinions and where they come from.

Introduction to my sex views over: Onto the show.

The Sex Education Show set out with the aim to get big companies to “Stop Pimping our Kids”. Now here is my first problem with the show. This show is supposed to be about stopping the sexualisation of children. If this is the case, why use the word “pimping” in the title? The phrase “Pimping our kids” is in itself a sexualisation (whatever that means) and sensationalist. Me no likey.

Second point: It becomes clear that, as expected, the title should not have used the word “kids”, rather “girls”. All the clothing that Anna Richardson et al were disgusted with were marketed for girls. Padded bras, knickers, vests, etc. No focus at all on anything to do with little boys.

The show did get across some good educational stuff: I especially liked the live models for showing the genitals: We all know there is only so much you can learn from a diagram and often, they are not all that helpful. Give me a line up of six men with very different penises over a textbook any day. This is good stuff. And they had a section on sex myth-busting, which was really helpful too.

But the main point of this show, the part which was supposed to set it apart from the previous Sex Education Shows, appeared to be little more than Richardson et al pulling pointless but TV-friendly stunts like causing a small riot in a London branch of Primark and phoning up someone from Matalan to argue with. And not forgetting cutting up and burning some supposedly sexy underwear marketed at little girls. (Which they presumably had to purchase first?)

The most striking part of the show for me was when Richardson was sat in someone’s house with a few little girls, aged about eight, and one of their mothers. Richardson held up a pair of what she called “hot pants”, which I would call girl boxers or just big white pants, but whatever. Anyway, these pants had “Angel” written on the back in dimontes. The kids all loved them, the mother was a bit horrified at the logo. When asked why she liked the pants, one of the little girls said “They’re pretty and Angel is what my mum sometimes calls me”. This speaks volumes. Kids don’t see what they are wearing as sexualised or sexy. They like them because they are pretty. They look cool. They remind them of their mum.

This point really wasn’t picked up on during the show but I thought it was the most important part. We, and I’m talking here about parents, society and sex educators, have to speak to our children about how they feel about sex and “sexualisation”. We cannot assume that they feel the way that we do as adults: They clearly do not. What’s going on here? Adults “sexualising” children? What does sexualisation even mean? If we want to understand the phenomenon, we need to ask kids about their views, how they feel about things. And if we think something is wrong or inappropriate for children, we need to explain to them and educate them as to why that is. And most of all, we have to stop treating our kids like idiots and masking it as “protecting” them. This will achieve a lot more than awarding Primark a silly, humiliating award for selling inappropriate kids clothing and burning a padded 28AA bra.

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