December 31st, 2007
Every year I make some predictions about what I think will be happening in the world of sex and relationships in the coming year. Sometimes I’m bang on, sometimes I’m completely wrong, sometimes I cheat a little as I’ve an idea about what’s on the horizon, and sometimes I’m totally caught out by something I didn’t see coming.
So let’s dance our way down memory lane and see what I thought was going to happen in 2007.
2007, the year of “super sex”
I was pretty much convinced there would be a range of books, magazine features and TV programmes about ‘great sex’ or how to have ‘better sex’. Magazines weren’t exactly a challenge since that’s pretty much all they write, and there certainly were a few more sex books finding their way onto the market (some good, some not so). What was interesting was TV where we had a number of shows about how we had sex in the past, our sex lives now (specially speculating on the lurid lives of teenagers) and how to have sex better with programmes like ‘how to have sex after marriage’. Predictably most of these programmes didn’t offer us the best of cutting edge information, adequately qualified experts or ethical journalism, but they did add to the growing list of shows that work on the inaccurate premise that there is a ‘right’ way to behave sexually.
Youth sex programming to focus on sex
I was very upbeat about this last year. I was looking forward to some great youth programming. What we actually got were shows like Teens Hooked on Porn which were made despite warnings from myself and other professionals that the programmes were misleading and unhelpful. It seems that the rights of teenagers and the need for quality sex education were secondary to TV production companies wanting to make lurid and inaccurate programmes to boost ratings. So I was right that shows would be about sex, but wrong to be so optimistic about their content.
Sexual health = self-management and testing
As predicted we did see a shift in the UK around managing your own sexual health. Many clinics now offer the opportunity to self-test for STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea or encourage the use of ‘confidentiality cards’ so people don’t have to ask for help directly. Results of tests can be sent via phone, and this year the time for testing for chlamydia has been dramatically reduced meaning labs will be able to run more tests faster. There have been moves to make it easier for women to self-refer for termination of pregnancy – although there’s been a predictable backlash to this approach. We have also seen more schemes to provide condoms – with everyone from celebrities to cabbies giving them out.
Sadly there are still problems with our sexual health in the UK. GU clinics remain overstretched and underfunded, our STI rates are still rising and many people do not consider themselves to be at risk and continue to practise unsafe sex. There is still no mandatory sex education within the UK – and it’s unlikely there will be under the current government. Although there are efforts being made to improve public sexual health information and services offered in sexual health clinics in general we still have a long way to go to improve our sexual health and education services across the UK.
Sex will get the science treatment
I sort of cheated on this one last year since I knew I’d be taking part in a number of events the Science museum’s Dana Centre would be running on sex. These included discussions about sexuality, debates on sex-related topics and a live sex-text event where people could ask questions about their sex lives to experts. Among the events I participated in was Comics Carnal Knowledge where myself and other sex researchers plus comedians tried to answer a number of questions people probably always wanted to know the answers to but were afraid to ask. You can watch the whole event live here. It runs for about 45 minutes and you may notice my fetching maternity wear in the film. That new arrival turned up in May – although again I did mess up on predictions there as the little one was two weeks overdue.
Female sexual dysfunction will re-emerge as a ‘health crisis’
Well this most certainly did happen. The Intrinsa patch was launched in Europe with a lot of media fuss and sadly very little critical discussion (thank goodness I was able to persuade Woman’s Hour to do something evidence based). Interestingly later in the year trials of another sex drug – PT-141 were discontinued. The media had previously been foaming at the mouth about it but were not so quick to acknowledge when the drug disappeared.
We saw other media coverage that set us up in some kind of women’s European sex contest, but as 2007 went on the fuss over FSD kind of went away. Don’t expect it to stay that way though, there’s definitely more focus on female sex problems heading our way soon – and sadly most of the journalists who’ll be writing the features about this issue won’t be the health/science ones and so will not be able to take a critical view on an important issue.
What I didn’t see coming was that there was a huge fuss over male sexual dysfunction. Specifically with incorrect claims that Viagra would be available on the high street. And I also didn’t predict how the UK would recommend the HPV vaccine for teenage girls despite ongoing concerns over the drug.
Prostitution will become a media favourite
This certainly was the case. With TV programmes like Secret diary of a call girl there was a lot of hype about high class hookers. Our politicians also ensured prostitution was rarely out of the papers with many conflicting accounts and suggestions for how to manage sex work. Most of which was based on completely inaccurate ideas. You can expect to see this one continuing into next year.
New sex stores to open but may not be sex positive
The rumours were true. Playboy did open a store on Oxford Street, but not without attracting a lot of protest. Also in 2007 Amora opened. This was the much promised ‘Academy of Sex and Relationships’ although reviews to date have not been particularly positive with concerns expressed over the way the centre constructs sex. What the future of both these ventures will be remains to be seen in the coming year.
More attention will be paid to ‘ethical’ sex toys
I was under the impression this would be the case, and although a number of sex toy stockists launched campaigns to recycle sex toys or source from more ethical products there’s been little measurable change within the sex toy industry. In other words I jumped the gun on this one. Yes, most sex toy stores now trade on their ethical or educational status, but many still are not practising what they preach.
Commercial sex surveys will continue to run
We knew they would, and they did. Many PR companies used the sex survey to highlight products and we saw everything from surveys suggesting being single is a sickness to the Durex global sex survey being launched. Sadly this means journalists continue to use the Durex global survey and other equally dodgy ones like it to inform their stories, and there seems to be no end to this trend in site at the present time.
Challenges will be made to bad (sex) research
I was hopelessly wrong about this. I was really hoping there would be some challenges to daft sex research and dodgy sexperts in 2007, but apart from some minor grumbling in some newspaper columns for the most part poor coverage and bad advice continued. I’m ever the optimist though, so let’s hope things will improve in 2008 – although don’t expect this to be one of my predictions for next year.
Debates will continue over abortion
This definitely happened, and will continue to do so. We saw some useful research that told us more about abortion, as well as misleading information about termination of pregnancy which worryingly appeared to come from parliamentary sources at a time the abortion bill is being debated. As the abortion act is currently being debated in the UK this issue will continue to be an important health topic for us.
Care for transsexuals may become restricted
This appears to be the case although it is unclear at this time how many people have been affected – or the impact it has had on their lives.
Focus on sex with a World conference – but will it be truly global?
In April 2007 the World Sexology Conference was hosted in Sydney. A number of sex-related issues were discussed there and those who attended said they found it helpful, although critics complained there was too much influence from pharmaceutical companies and not enough global, evidence based or applied research discussed.
More training on understanding sex/relationships issues will be made available to journalists
Programmes are continuing for journalists, although not necessarily focusing on sex/relationships issues. Again, I was a bit premature with this prediction but certainly there are plans in place to offer training in social/health/sex issues for journalists in the future and I hope to be able to report positively on some of these initiatives soon.
So that’s what I thought was going to happen this time last year. Join me tomorrow for my predictions for 2008.Tweet