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Sex and science stuff – 19/05/09

May 19th, 2009

Dr Petra

Loads about sex in the news today.

First off, there’s the not-so-new-news that ‘dad at 13′ Alfie Patten is not the father of baby Maisie. This story caused an uproar in the British press a few months back. For legal reasons the paternity issue was under embargo, although The Mirror did briefly disclose the news. They then withdrew it but not before the story was picked up in other countries (US, Canada and Australia). The whole story is one sorry case of child exploitation – not least by some tabloid papers. Unfortunately along with the exploitative coverage there was an outpouring of teen blaming and media fuss about teenage pregnancy that did a lot to upset parents and a lot to set back sex education.

Echoing similarly negative media coverage there’s been yet more worrying reports of the rise in STIs in young people. The increase has been explained, in part, to better testing. However, it does little to help with the ongoing problem of young people having unprotected sex. While we wait for school-based sex education to be overhauled next year we really need a much better effort to offer education and support to young people. Not least to enable them to access sexual health services and understand more about STIs. Not just what they’re called, but how to negotiate safer sex.

I have in the past supported the Department of Health in their campaigns on sexual health but for the past few months I’ve been worried that there seems to be very little being done on this. Young people simply are not getting the advice and support they need. We blame them for this, yet most of the problems are of our making. We don’t educate them. We enable alcohol to be easily available to them. We don’t offer empowerment opportunities or provide enough supervised activities to keep them occupied and give them aspirations. We don’t make it easy to identify where sexual health services are. And we do not challenge the commercialised sexual culture they live in.

Yet more gloomy news came in the form of the award for most stupid enforcement of health and safety rules goes to the John Carroll Leisure Centre in Nottingham, who decided that a breastfeeding mother contravened their ‘no food and drink’ poolside rule. Fantastic to see that local council supporting mothers. Not.

You may remember I’ve previously blogged about (and reported in the British Medical Journal) on the made-up illness of ‘Man Flu’. Recently more robust scientific research did seem to suggest Man Flu could exist (based on studies of mice). Luckily for us NHS’s fantastic ‘Behind the Headlines’ site takes down the research and helpfully concludes that gender and flu don’t fit together quite so simply.

Professor Jo Collier has a great reflection on being a media medic – well worth a read, especially if you are considering working with the press.

Finally, to cheer us up a bit, why not check out spoof site Mail Order Husbands (at least I hope it’s a spoof!). Make sure you do the compatibility test!

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