Bad sex media bingo!

Over the last week I’ve been working with a group of colleagues from Sense about Sex to put together this bingo card – and accompanying website.

bad sex media bingo draft 2

We’re currently seeing a flood of programmes and related articles about sex and pornography, such as Porn on the Brain and Sex Box, as well as the sex advice columns which have become a regular feature in most national newspapers and magazines.

Those of us who work as sex researchers, sex therapists and sex educators, are aware of the vast differences in quality between the different radio and TV shows, and features, on the topic of sex. Many of them are not well grounded in the evidence around sex, relationships and sexual media. Also they often perpetuate problematic ideas about sex which we then hear from the clients and young people who we work with as counsellors or trainers.

For these reasons we decided to put together a bingo card of all the worst common messages that we see in media reporting of sex. We figured that, if people used the card, it might help them to think about the merits of the information and evidence they were viewing and reading about, as well as challenging some of the particularly common myths about sex.

For each square on the card we’ve also provided explanations about why these messages, or kinds of information, are a problem, what impact they can have on people, and how media might report these things in better ways.

Our hope is that this information will be useful to media producers and editors when producing future materials. It will help them to avoid common traps, and to produce more innovative, useful and ethical pieces.

So many of these programmes and articles focus on complaining about other media (porn, fashion, online sex ed, etc.) and perpetuating panic and anxiety about sex. Instead we would like to see media taking a positive role in providing inclusive, well-researched, thoughtful and balanced, education about sex.

You can join the Bad Sex Media Bingo event on Facebook here and follow our twitter @badsexbingo, #badsexbingo

 

Sex ed via Blurred Lines

I was late in the day to the Blurred Lines phenomenon. At a conference where I was talking about gender and sexual consent a colleague mentioned that I should really check it out. Since then I have followed some of the commentary online, not to mention the numerous parodies that have been produced (as with last year’s Gangnam Style). I was moved to write this post about how this might prompt some very interesting and useful conversations about sex (perhaps in the context of youth work or teaching on sex and gender in higher education).

For those who aren’t aware, Blurred Lines is a song, and music video, by Robin Thicke which has topped the charts this summer across 14 countries. It caused controversy both because of the inclusion of a group of skinny, near-naked female models in the video, and because of the lyrics which seem to suggest non-consensual sex. The repeated line ‘you know you want it’ next to ‘but you’re a good girl’ seems to support the common problematic assumptions that ‘good’ women shouldn’t be sexual, and that women can want sex even when they are refusing it. The ‘blurred lines’ idea seems t suggest that it isn’t always clear whether it is okay to have sex with somebody or not, which is a problematic message given the high rates of sexual violence.

 

It can be difficult to raise these kinds of issues – around gender and power, and around consent and sex – with people who enjoy the catchiness of the song and don’t particularly see a problem with the lyrics or video. Given how widespread these kinds of images of women – and messages about sex – are, there are many who struggle to see the difficulties.

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Porn: Giving people ideas?

This month I attended the Sex, Health, Media event in London where a bunch of academics, health-workers, educators and activists met to discuss ways of improving education about sexual health, particularly in relation to media portrayals of sex.

There were many excellent presentations during the day, but here I will focus on one which particularly caught my imagination: Alan McKee‘s talk about the potentials of pornography.

Analysing the concerns that are frequently raised about the dangers of pornography, Alan reported that academics, politicians, parents and professionals frequently voice the anxiety that porn will ‘give people ideas’, particularly young people. His provocative question was whether this is necessarily such a bad thing.

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