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That was the year that was

December 30th, 2007

Dr Petra

2007 is nearly over. Tomorrow I’ll be looking back over the predictions I made this time last year. But before then here’s a chance to look over some of the highs and lows of the year.

Cheers for….
In the summer Britain went smoke free which apart from being good for your general health also has added benefits for your sex life.

We celebrated 40 years of decriminalising homosexuality and we also got to ask some searching questions about what exactly do you have to do in order to be a virgin (or not)?

I enjoyed partly inspiring and participating in BBC Radio 4’s Am I normal? special edition on sex which you can listen to again here.

This year we saw some great new moves in sex education that were educational, informative, and most of all entertaining. In particular praise should be heaped upon The Midwest Teen Sex Show, the BBC’s GI Jonny, and UC Berkeley’s Moral Compass.

Jeers for…..

Teenage and Lad’s magazines. Not all, but some of them did spectacularly badly in 2007.

First of all Bliss magazine started the year on a bad note with their ‘how sexy am I?’ online quiz that invited teenage girls to post photos of themselves and rate each other’s attractiveness. In a climate where we know teenage girls struggle with body image it wasn’t exactly a clever move, particularly when the American Psychological Association showed how our sexualised media damages girls. Later in the year Women in Journalism jumped on the bandwagon (just a few months too late) complaining about how teenage girl’s magazines were bad. Although it was notable how very few of WIJ’s members actually offered any practical changes to teen mags – or acknowledged how most magazines for older women and men offer equally damaging information on sex, relationships and lifestyle.

During the early summer Ofsted decided they wouldn’t do something useful and back mandatory sex education within schools but they would produce a muddled report that praised teen magazines – particularly lad’s mags. Weirdly the lad’s mags could have basked in this glory but they blew it by claiming they didn’t actually want to help young men. And to round off the year FHM printed a photo of an underage girl but decided to abdicate responsibility over it in a classic ‘she was asking for it’ defence.

Well it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t have a whinge about dodgy surveys here and we weren’t let down in 2007. Highlights included crap surveys to make us fret about family life including nonsense about divorce, bad parents and motherhood. In all cases normal family issues were made into a crisis to promote a product. Quel surprise.

Meanwhile the Durex global sex survey – the one that’s not exactly known for quality or ethical practice managed not one but two lots of media coverage within the space of a week. Proving journalists either have short memories, or don’t care about surveys, or both.

Emerging as the bastard child of the PR survey we saw more of the fake formula being used within media promotions this year. Some of the more laughable classics included formula for the perfect kiss, perfect breasts, and the perfect page three girl. Why formulas always have to be showing the ‘perfect’ something or other isn’t clear. What is clear is that those who put their name to such formulae are skating on thin ice professionally. That said, a BBC Radio 4 documentary indicated some of the worst offenders who put their name to these formulae don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. In fact they argue they’re not being in any way sexist – they’re doing good science communication.

2007 was also the year I was clinically diagnosed as a sex addict – despite being hard pressed to being a sex-anything at the time of being assessed (read the blog and you’ll see what I mean).

And a ridiculous ban on mentioning vaginas and other media silliness led me to launch a campaign to combat media coyness which I’ll continue into 2008 and I hope you’ll support.

A little bit of culture….

In the arts there were a number of sex-related successes including Ian McEwan’s poignant novel ‘On Chesil Beach’ that should be compulsory reading for every sex educator and therapist who wants to know more about the complexities of human relations. McEwan’s equally heartrending story ‘Atonement’ was made into an award winning film that made us question issues of love, loyalty and communication.

2007 saw the long awaited return of a much loved character Mouse in Armistead Maupin’s ‘Michael Tolliver Lives’. Surviving with HIV Michael (aka Mouse) narrates his story for the first time – picking up where Tales of the City left off. For fans of the series this represented a chance to find out what happened to some old friends and to marvel anew at Maupin’s storytelling skills.

Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens encouraged us all to go Extreme Kissing back in the summer as part of their Love Art Lab project.

Meanwhile the Barbican launched ‘Seduced: Art and sex from antiquity to now’ which included a collection of erotic works along with a series of lectures and public events. The collection has received mixed reviews but you can decide for yourself as the event runs until the end of January 2008.

And as the year draws to a close I’ll leave you with one of this year’s saddest stories wrapped up in one amazingly heartbreaking song….

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