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Bare All 2007 – a good example of teen media sex information

August 16th, 2007

Dr Petra

Last year you may remember my ranting about MTV’s shockingly bad ‘Bare All’ Sex Survey. Fortunately this year they seem to have come to their senses and have put together a much more interesting sex awareness campaign to engage young people.

The Bare All 07 project is based around the idea of ‘confessions’. Teenagers and young adults can email or text their sex confessions, or be filmed discussing sex issues that are posted on the Bare All website. A number of clips of celebrities talking about sex is included.

In a way this is nothing new. Dipex (Directory of patient experiences) have run a successful information programme using young people talking about their sexual health, while projects like the Midwest Teen Sex Show use humour in podcasts to get us talking about all things sex.

However, what is different about Bare All 07 is the capacity to invite young people to create their own content and discuss intimate issues. Clearly the rise in social networking sites has given us even greater opportunities to connect and it’s interesting how asking young people to share stories has generated countless informative contributions in a number of formats.

My only real criticisms of Bare All 07 is in having a seemingly unmoderated approach they’ve included clips from people discussing sex issues that may not always be accurate and do often leave us with more questions than answers (for example comments on the dangers of oral sex, how porn spices up relationships and whether size matters). Although presumably aimed at both genders and all sexualities Bare All 07 remains remarkable heterosexual in focus with far more attention paid to a male version of sexuality. There’s a lot about the size debate, porn and threesomes and contributors are told it ‘takes balls’ to talk about sex. But there’s very little about female desire, pleasure and sexual possibilities. Clearly in creating projects like this you need a wider and more critical view about sex which sadly seems to be missing in the way the creators have gone about asking for contributions in some of the film clips.

What’s needed is to keep the confessions – particularly the visual accounts which are compelling, but to add to this a clear range of sex advice that answers questions posed within the confessions – and is prepared to tackle some of the more stereotypical and unhelpful gendered comments. We might assume some of the progamming around Bare All 07 will cover this (featured on MTV, Radio 1 and Radio1 Extra) but it isn’t clear. Worryingly I know some of the Radio 1 coverage on pornography already based itself on a previous misleading BBC 3 documentary on teenage porn addiction so it’s likely the accompanying programmes are still not cutting edge when it comes to sex information. Encouraging and training journalists concerned with creating the project to move beyond their narrow view of sex that’s informing the current venture would also greatly improve it.

I’d say this is a massive improvement from Bare All on last year’s efforts (although that’s not exactly hard given how dismal it was). It’s also a very good example for those of you considering ways to share sex information with young people. We know peer education can be helpful, and using new technologies is a great way to encourage this. What’s needed now is an independent evaluation of Bare All 07 to see what people got from posting their confessions – and reading the sex stories of others.

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