December 31st, 2005
It’s time to stick my neck out and say what I think will be the new developments, changes, and things that stay the same for sex and relationships in 2006.
The gap between the sexual have’s and have not’s will widen
The availability of medication for the developing world and fears of medication or involvement in drug trials may continue to place people’s lives at risk, whilst in the West we’ll continued to be panicked and pampered by medications for sexual dysfunctions that make money for drug companies. Political changes will also mean the current focus on the economic and health needs of Africa and other developing countries are going to fall of the radar unless we’re vigilant.
Globally (and that includes the US and UK) gaps in sex education, income and critical awareness will mean most people will remain ignorant (or anxious) about sex, and may feel they’re missing out or not having ‘proper sex’. This will be fuelled by the consumer-driven approach to sex coverage (more on this in a bit).
Global sexual inequalities caused around gender, economics, availability of medication, condoms, and access education will continue. I’d love to be able to say these problems will reduce, but unless we all get involved in campaigning for greater sex education, ending poverty and creating access to medication and condoms, it’s unlikely anything will happen. And whilst our Western media continues to promote us as sexually liberated (and ignores the developing world or those in low-income groups), these inequalities will increase.
New technologies and treatments will be aggressively marketed via the media
In 2006 you can definitely expect to see more press coverage of new technologies for sexual functioning and fertility. These will include coverage of planned or pre-testing drugs for sexual dysfunction not yet approved by the FDA (but sold to the media nonetheless). The fertility products (tests and ‘enhancers’) may not fit with current evidence and could place greater pressure on an already overstretched health service.
2006 is going to be the year of the sex addict
Many new television series in the pipeline that will be outlining this condition – either showing it to be an epidemic or offering training for men who are ‘cheaters’ to curb their behaviour. Despite no agreement on sex addiction, or concern from the psychiatric and medical professions of sexual behaviour being pathologised or misdiagnosed, television researchers are ignoring this evidence and making programmes anyway.
Other television coverage will not be sex positive
You can look forward to other programmes that purport to cover sexual science but will most likely be labelling, blaming or mocking participants. The journey of self-improvement will also continue its popularity with makeover shows planned to transform entire homes – from décor to people’s interpersonal relationships, all tapping into our anxieties about not living up to sex and relationship standards.
Overall the majority of print and broadcast media will continue to see the topic of sex as ‘lite’ and will remain uncritical in its approach to the subject. The current obsession with sex as being primarily biologically driven will remain the dominant discourse of all sex coverage.
New attempts will be made to tackle the UK’s sexual health problems
New campaigns on sexual health education and media awareness are in the pipeline, however with overstretched services this may lead to further problems. An increase in self-management and moving sexual health services into community settings like your pharmacy or GP will most certainly become more widespread in 2006. The main challenge will be to see if we can persuade people to use condoms more regularly and put the ‘sexy’ into ‘sexual health’. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you about some great new sex-positive initiatives over the next few months.
Sex will be about products and purchasing
In 2006 you can expect to see sex becoming even more driven by consumerism and performance. You’ll be seeing an increase in media coverage that’s based on stories about sexual techniques, positions and activities that all come with product placements endorsed by ‘sexperts’ with something to sell – their books, sex toys, stores, websites.
What you won’t see, but will be part of this trend is that these experts will only be speaking to journalists as long as they can get a plug for their product/themselves. If not, they won’t bother. This means sharing high-quality knowledge isn’t first on their agenda, and many of these self-appointed experts won’t have a great deal more than self-promotion to offer.
The knock-on effect will be increased sexual dissatisfaction and body/performance anxiety (after all you have to create a need in which to sell to); media features that lack substance, and very samey sex features.
Whilst it would be great to see 2006 as the year journalists start favouring sex experts who want to share knowledge before they self-promote it’s unlikely this will happen. I live in hope though.
A sex museum will open in the UK
So far the reports about it are mixed. Some see it as a source of sex education and empowerment, others as yet another example of sex consumerism. Watch this space for the wannabe ‘sexperts’ clamouring to be part of the venture – so long as it’ll make them money or promote their image. Hopefully the museum will endeavour to include genuinely qualified sex experts and could provide a useful source of access to sex and relationships knowledge.
Faux sex surveys will remain a media staple.
Magazines are increasingly turning to these for content and promotion – particularly using their online sites to generate print copy. The quality of such surveys looks set to remain poor but media uptake of stories based on said surveys will stay high. Some new legislation around quality of market research might have some impact on this trend, but it’s unlikely to be immediate. I’ll continue to offer the media training and support in designing, interpreting and reporting surveys, but I expect the usual trend of their ignoring any offered support from colleagues or myself will continue in 2006
2006 is a year for talking dirty
2005 was for many the year of the sex blog, and blogging looks set to stamp its mark as a main source of diverse sex information. Whilst some blogs aren’t particularly accurate or helpful, for the most part you can learn a lot about sex from regularly dropping into them. I particularly like the following (most are 18 and over):
Viviane’s sex carnival
Sarcastic sex toy blog
Audacia Ray’s Waxing Vixen blog
Tracy Quan (author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl) blog
Susie Bright’s blog
(Hmmm, perhaps my new year’s resolutions ought to begin with sorting out my site so I can link to all these goodies).
Whilst we’re on the subject, to take you into 2006 here are some great books that came out in 2005 that are well worth a look:
Sex, lies and stereotypes: challenging views of women, men and relationships by Gary Wood.
Dr. Sprinkle’s Spectacular Sex by Annie Sprinkle
Everything you know about sex is wrong edited by Russ Kick.
2006 is going to add to the blog-as-source-of-sex-information with the sex podcast. During 2005 a number of pioneer sex educators and writers have begun podcasting, some with great response – I particularly like Violet Blue’s ‘Tiny Nibbles’. I also love Susie Bright’s ‘In bed with Susie Bright’. Resonance FM have a number of interesting podcasts including ‘Midnight sex talk’ and ‘Adventures in science, pseudoscience and nonsense’. All have attempted to bring a variety of sex perspectives and embraced difference and diversity.
But as you might expect every person and their dog have now seen yet another opportunity to make money and 2006 most certainly is going to be the year when the sex podcast comes into its own – and there’s a risk that the good sex podcasts are going to be swamped by those hosted by the bandwagon jumping, product placing self-promoting and completely underqualified ‘sexperts’.
There may be some feedback on the ‘extreme pornography’ consultation
In 2006 we’ll be awaiting the Home Office response from their consultation on extreme pornography – which this year caused many people concern due to its biased and limited approach. Since the government have yet to feed back on their previous consultation on prostitution I don’t think we’ll be holding our breath. However if the government act on some of the proposals set out in the consultation document our access to sexual material, particularly online will change.
We’ll need more sex education in 2006
The need for sex education is set to continue; with new estimates suggesting 13 million young people aged 15-24 are searching for sex advice online. Millions without Internet access will also have their own sex and relationships needs. The range of sex advice and possibilities to deliver high quality sex information have never been greater. Colleagues and myself will remain committed to working with journalists to ensure at least some accurate sex information gets through, alongside producing high-quality research and critically evaluating evidence to improve the public’s sex lives.
Join me early in 2006 where I’ll be giving you some ideas for sexy New Year’s resolutions, sex commitments that will change your life (and other people’s) – all guaranteed to turn you into a sex expert.
Wishing you a safe, sexy, healthy and happy New Year.