December 31st, 2006
It’s that time of year again when I look back on the sex predictions I made for the year and see whether any came true.
One thing I didn’t predict was the amount of attention my sex predictions for 2006 would attract. Suzie Bright and others picked up on the blog and created a bit of a buzz. Most people thought the predictions were interesting (if not depressing) although some found them a bit dull.
So let’s step back in time and see what did or didn’t happen in sex this year.
The gap between the sexual have’s and have not’s will widen
This wasn’t really a prediction since it’s an ongoing problem and hasn’t gone away this year. We have seen difficulties in accessing sexual health care, contraception, safe abortions and a lack of sex education continue to be a problem for those living in poverty and sadly this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, although governments, healthcare professionals, activists and charities are all working hard to improve the situation.
New technologies and treatments will be aggressively marketed via the media
The year began with a launch of a fertility predictor. Focus on this product wasn’t sustained throughout the year although fertility issues continued to be part of the public arena with media discussions and television programmes tackling the issue. The ‘male pill’ certainly got a lot of coverage as scientists race to get a viable product on the market. Although the male pill won’t be available for the next few years many newspapers and magazines responded as though it was nearly ready to use leading the public to get confused and think the male pill was an existing form of contraception. Fewer products were promoted than expected during 2006 but that’s not to say commercial companies weren’t busy developing products that we’ll see more of next year.
2006 is going to be the year of the sex addict
There were numerous television programmes and radio shows addressing the ‘problem’ of ‘sex addiction’ this year, with more in the pipeline. One newspaper managed to create a complete media flap about the issue by claiming the UK was a ‘nation addicted to Internet porn’. Despite efforts to have a sensible discussion on sexual behaviour religious groups and some well meaning but ill informed organisations and professionals have continued to paint a picture of rampant sex addiction which has caused concern to people across the UK and elsewhere. More research and clinical investigation is still required in this area, particularly to address the labelling of behaviours that may be problematic but may not be an addiction.
Other television coverage will not be positive
I predicted that a number of television sex programmes wouldn’t be positive about sex. I wasn’t quite right with this one. Rather than being sex negative the sex and relationship programmes we were treated to were just plain weird. We had Trinny and Susannah on ITV telling us how making over your wardrobe could transform your relationship and over at the BBC a gardening programme claimed that doing the garden with your spouse could repair relationships or spice things up. A number of daytime programmes had their own ‘sex weeks’ with fairly dismal coverage but most of it was predictable rather than pejorative. Let’s hope next year offers us something better – or at least a bit less peculiar.
Attempts will be made to improve the UK’s sexual health
After many months of waiting we finally did get our Department of Health’s sexual health campaign. The campaign aims to address issues of condom use and reduce STIs. We will see what impact it has over the coming months.
Sex will be about products and purchasing
There was no shortage of ‘sexperts’ promoting themselves, their books/magazines, sex toys, websites or other products this year. Qualified colleagues and myself watched as a minority of unskilled ‘sexperts’ ended up with magazine and newspaper columns or writing sex features. Most of the advice they gave was outdated or incorrect. Sadly as the media feeds off itself having a column means getting more work and we’ll see more, not less, of the underqualified ‘sexperts’ next year too. Before I get to depressed though some of the advice (and advisors) was so laughable it distracts you from the problem of poor sex information in the media. This year’s award for worst sex advisors goes to The Observer.
A sex museum will open in the UK
Well did it or didn’t it? I don’t really know. Amora based in London’s Covent Garden is promoted as “The Academy of Sex and Relationships”. It’s promised there will be a number of exhibitions and a VIP opening but whether this has happened or not isn’t obvious and phoning them is no use since they’re permanently on answerphone. So maybe this is a coming attraction for 2007. I was contacted by the team putting the academy together and felt they had some good ideas about discussing sex. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to help further with the project and I did express some reservations that the event charged a fee and whether sexual health advice would be provided. It seems this will be the case (although the quality of the service has yet to be evaluated). Many of the ideas did seem a little out of date and a bit Masters and Johnson circa 1964 but hopefully if the academy is a success it will also base itself on evidence and will provide free information alongside charging for access.
Faux sex surveys will remain a media staple
Again, this wasn’t really a prediction since it was always going to happen, but what a selection of nonsense the media treated us to this year. Here are a few of my favourite shoddy (sex) surveys used to get some press coverage in 2006…
The This Morning sex ‘survey’ that managed to be badly put together and timed to overshadow a national sexual health campaign.
Nuts magazine managed to invent a whole new disease that ended up with my writing in the British Medical Journal expressing concern about dodgy surveys in the media.
Not to be outdone women’s magazines managed a whole slew of sex survey nonsense, whilst Teacher’s TV showed they couldn’t even add up.
One of the worst examples of a poor survey misdirecting public opinion came courtesy of MTV and BBC Radio One in their dreadful ‘Bare All Survey’ which let’s hope is never repeated.
Drug companies were keen to also use surveys as a ruse to sell products, like this example advocating super sex for seniors, whilst journalists didn’t even notice they were promoting similar surveys every other week .
2006 is a year for talking dirty
I predicted there would be an increase in sex blogging and podcasting this year and that’s certainly been the case. I’ll review a few old and new favourites in the New Year.
There may be some feedback on the ‘extreme pornography’ consultation
I was hedging my bets with this one since the government had dragged its heels over the previous consultation on prostitution, but towards the end of the year, without warning we suddenly heard the government will be taking steps on ‘violent pornography’. Violent pornography, it seems, is the same as extreme pornography (although what either is isn’t exactly clear). Whilst there is concern over sexual abuse of adults, children and animals which existing laws can tackle, there are concerns that the new violent porn bill will criminalize consenting adults, waste police time, and put vulnerable people even more at risk. You can expect pressure groups concerned about their civil liberties to continue to lobby the UK government on this issue in 2007.
We’ll need more sex education in 2006
Again, not really a prediction, more of an obvious statement. With our rising rates of STIs and problems with school-based education there are clear needs for accurate, positive yet critical education in school, media and at home. More campaigns are planned to ensure sex education is a compulsory part of the school curriculum and I’ll keep you posted on progress in the New Year.
As well as the things I predicted there were a number of things that happened during the year that I hadn’t anticipated. These included worrying (and inaccurate) claims the pill permanently ruins women’s sex lives that generated a lot of column inches and a lot of needless public concern.
The government suddenly launched their plans for tackling prostitution in early 2006. It had been delayed for so long we thought they’d given up with it. The proposed legal reforms included greater crackdowns on street prostitution that was much opposed by sex workers, women’s groups and health professionals. Sadly we saw the end of the year marked with the murders of five sex workers – a situation not helped by the targeting of street sex workers.
From Africa we learned circumcision is believed to reduce HIV infection although this news is now inviting wider debates on the ethics of circumcision generally.
The Kinsey Institute has begun an exciting new initiative to train journalists to write about sex more effectively. I was lucky enough to also run some UK training events with journalists to improve sex reporting and published a number of academic papers aimed at journalists and sexologists to improve co-operative working. I’m delighted to report that this work has had a positive impact on journalists, many of whom have contacted me for help with stories or to check how to improve the accuracy of their pieces. Some admit they’ve been motivated to contact me because they don’t want to end up referred to in my blog, but most have been eager to improve their sex writing once they’ve realised it is possible. It is hoped these new developments will continue next year.
In one of the most bizarre sex stories of the year we learned that penetrative sex is “400% better” than masturbation – don’t even begin to ask me how as I still can’t get my head around the ‘research’.
And although I’m quick to criticise the media I had to draw the line when research claimed the press is to blame for all our sexual woes.
It’s been an interesting year with a lot of exciting developments in sex, and many things irritatingly staying the same. It’s with sadness that I look back on the loss of five women sex workers in Ipswich, but with hope that 2007 may offer us more positive news.
Before you go off for your New Year celebrations you might want to drop into Cory Silverberg’s blog which gives a roll call of sex pioneers we said goodbye to in 2006.
Join me in the New Year to read my sex predictions for 2007 and information about new developments with this blog.
Thanks for all your support and interest this year that has seen the readership of this blog grow daily. As ever I’m always interested to hear from you and welcome feedback, tips and your thoughts on everything from your tips on great sex to exposing terrible sex research.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous New Year.Tweet