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Sex and science stuff – 29/09/09

September 29th, 2009

Dr Petra

I’ve been away for a much needed break. It’s good to be back, and there’s loads of sex and science stories to cover so let’s get cracking.

First off there’s the story of a rather unpleasant incident caused by the Cambridge Film Festival screening an AIDS denialist film, although not making it clear that’s what they were doing. It resulted in the editor of New Humanist magazine (Caspar Melville) treating the film as though it was scientifically accurate, and a whole lot of confusion about HIV/AIDS shared within the mainstream media as a result. The whole sorry saga is summed up by Ben Goldacre over at Bad Science, with an account of the case (plus apology) from Caspar here. I’d recommend reading both blogs and the comments that follow as they indicate just how difficult it can be to follow the debates on HIV/AIDS and why denialists can often be very clever at hiding their true messages.

In other controversial news, a big fuss broke out when a well known business writer Penelope Trunk tweeted her miscarriage “I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.” There’s been a huge amount of negative reaction to this, partly due to the medium being used, and partly due to the message itself. It seems folk are okay if you write about a miscarriage in more than 140 characters and fit the expected role of being very distressed by the event. It’s not apparently okay to sum up a miscarriage in a tweet – particularly if you seem relieved to be having one. The story is covered over at Salon. This case definitely does raise issues for discussion about what’s acceptable to tweet and how people may respond to it. I can certainly see why people may well have been distressed by this, but it’s interesting how it has spun across the blogosphere into unpleasant and highly personal attacks on Trunk and her opinions on termination and managing her fertility.

Those of you who work with young children or have small kids of your own may be interested to know the groundbreaking 1971 book ‘The True Story of How Babies Are Made’ by Per Holm Knudsen has been made into an animated film by Sex Smart Films. It’s available to purchase here, and well worth a look (as is the rest of their site). I’d recommend it as it’s a clear and sex positive account of reproduction that is suitable for young children and isn’t overly coy or too advanced (as some more modern books can be).

Susie Bright blogs about how irritating it can be when you offer sex positive advice and people assume you’re forcing everyone to have orgasms. Check out her story in Orgasm Deniers (btw this links to some sites which are adult in nature and contain explicit sexual images).

Meanwhile, Feminisnt asks some interesting and important questions about the payment of porn stars and how the porn industry generally tends to be pretty secretive about its working practices. Thought provoking stuff.

In the UK the media has been all in a flurry about ‘shag bands’ – coloured bracelets aimed at teens and young people to indicate what sexual activity you’ve engaged in. They include yellow (which means you’ve hugged a boy) through to gold (which means you’ve flashed your boobs, had oral sex and snogged). Oh for the bygone days where adults could just indicate their pecadilloes with a hanky in the back pocket! While undoubtedly the concept of ‘shag bands’ do need challenging, particularly when aimed at young people, it’s worth noting that they probably wouldn’t have had much uptake if the media hadn’t been frothing at the mouth about them. They do tap into a form of sexuality where girls do things for boys, and certainly parents are within their rights to question a child wearing such bands and use it as a discussion point about sexual behaviour. However, the media has wrongly (and unhelpfully) made out that the wearing of said ‘shag bands’ is evidence that young people are sexually active – see here for an example in The Sun. Young people talk about sex to find out more about it and as part of growing up. It doesn’t mean they’re having sex. Same goes for these ‘shag bands’. It’s wrong of the media to frighten parents into thinking wearing the bands means a child is sexually active – not least because it may lead to parents being angry at their child and thus reducing the opportunity to talk about a potentially sensitive issue.

On a happier note, let’s finish with a wonderful wedding dance that’s taken the internet by storm. Jill and Kevin filmed their fantastic wedding entrance and it’s got so much attention they’re now using it to raise money for a domestic violence charity. I guarantee this’ll bring a smile to your face (and if you’re a wuss like me a tear to your eye).

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