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Let’s sort out sex

January 7th, 2005

Dr Petra

Earlier this week I outlined some of the sex trends and topics we can expect in 2005, but there are loads of things we can do to make a difference to our sex lives.

If you are a parent, teenager, or work in education…
Campaign for better quality, evidence based sex education to be delivered within your school or college. Challenge newspapers and organisations that suggest our problems with teenage pregnancy and rising sexually transmitted infections are down to teaching kids about sex. But many children don’t even get sex education, or the information they receive is basic. Don’t allow your school governors or parents to overrule sex education. Instead request a clear discussion between parents and the school, with input from health care providers and educators if needs be. If you’re a parent, get some sex education yourself, particularly if you’re under confident about talking to your kids about sex. You can invite someone from your local family planning association or Primary Care Trust to give you and other parents’ information on sex so you can talk in confidence to your children.

If you are a health provider…
Get training to talk about sex. Issues such as contraception, abortion, sexuality or sexual dysfunction should not be optional topics you can decide not to deal with. If you strongly feel you can’t address them, ensure you have a colleague who is able to help your patients with their sexual health.

All of us can support campaigns to increase awareness of sexually transmitted infections
The last government led UK wide HIV/AIDS awareness media campaign was in 1993! Get your MP to support sexual health initiatives in your area. Lobby the government to increase funding and support for sexual health services within primary and secondary care – and the community. Sexual health is a global issue, so put pressure on our government and others to reduce poverty in developing countries, along with increasing education (sex and otherwise), free condoms, improved health services and access to said services.

If you are a researcher…
Many people in developing countries, or who are in at risk groups such as orphaned children who are HIV positive, are also being exploited by drug trials. We cannot allow those who are in less fortunate positions to be guinea pigs anymore, and can press for more information on these sex research scandals. Nor can we allow pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in sex research to dominate the sexology agenda. We need independent sex studies to tell us about sexual health and functioning.

If you are working in the media…
You can do a whole lot to help. Stop thinking about sex as a ‘lite’ issue. Ensure you base your stories on high quality, accurate information. This doesn’t mean outdated scary statistics, it means talking to researchers, health care specialists and other trained professionals who can tell you about the latest information AND how to convey sex/ relationship messages. You can also expand your sex story sources by searching journals, talking to researchers and practitioners, or other sex professionals – from lap dancers to escorts to outreach workers. Don’t just read other magazine sex features and rewrite them.

Editors could do us all a big favour
Rather than dreaming up sex and relationship stories over dinner parties, or after watching TV shows or movies, why not consult with sex and relationship researchers/ therapists and ask them to tell you what the trends are? You could have stories based on real evidence – and I can guarantee they’ll be a whole lot more interesting, informative and erotic than your current crop of features.

If you’re working in TV or radio…
But particularly in TV, and you’re putting together a programme, don’t just get your most junior person to call round experts with a predetermined programme idea you expect them to conform to. Senior programme makers should talk direct to experts – and if the social scientists, medics or others tell you that your programme ideas aren’t accurate – how about listening – rather than having another Gillian McKeith, or Sex Inspectors situation on your hands?

For anyone who reads papers or magazines, listens to the radio, or watches TV…
You can campaign for better sex coverage. I’d estimate at least 80% of current sex and relationship content is outdated, incorrect, or plain nonsense. Complain if the media doesn’t meet your needs – and let editors and programme makers know what you want more of. Start asking for features and programmes that talk to all of us – regardless of age, income, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, health status or education. If you’re not being represented, start demanding that you are.

Sex education and advice is never supposed to be finger wagging and based on a load of ‘shoulds’. I’ve just broken that rule but I hope on this occasion you’ll forgive me! You can adapt and develop some of the suggestions above and make them work for you.

Have a happy, healthy, informed, and sexy New Year!

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