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The best and worst sex (and science) stories of 2009

December 27th, 2009

Dr Petra

best and worst picture

First up, let’s have some Christmas cheer and celebrate those who’ve made a difference…

Cancer charity Macmillan put together a fantastic new campaign to address sex and relationships for those recovering from cancer. Including a great ‘sex guru’ spoof video and loads of useful resources. I gather that many Primary Care Trusts are now implementing Macmillan’s sex guides and countless cancer patients and their partners are also benefitting.

Back in November the Royal Society of Medicine hosted a fantastic one day conference Disability: sex, relationships and pleasure. Run in conjunction with SHADA (Sexual Health and Disability Alliance) the day focused on bringing together healthcare professionals to learn about integrating sex positive information and advice for clients. You can read a report of the event here, including some photos from the day (which get saucier as you scroll down – enjoy).

BBC Watchdog deserves a mention for exposing the Advanced Medical Institute for their aggressive sales techniques that are shocking and disturbing and exploit men with sexual functioning worries. I believe further investigations are underway into the company by other news outlets and we may well see further developments on this story in 2010.

The Boston Globe created a fantastic, sex positive report about those campaigning against the medicalisation of sex – in a way that faithfully reflected the commitment campaigners have to improving sex for everyone.

Journalist Nick Davies reported in the Guardian on the misrepresentation of trafficking data – an issue that’s been of concern to practitioners and sex workers for some while, but which had not been adequately addressed in the mainstream media.

The New View campaign hosted the Vulvagraphics event which celebrated labia, clits and vaginas. Marvellous.

On a similar note the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education rebranded the hymen as the ‘vaginal corona’ and made their innovative sex positive resources open access and available in several languages.

We were all won over by the amazing dance group Diversity who won Britain’s Got Talent. I know, they’ve got nothing to do with sex and relationships – but they are completely inspiring – and their choreographer Ashley Banjo is also studying for an MSc in physics and biology (that’s the science bit). In a year where we’ve heard so many negative stories about young people it’s been a pleasure to hear about genuinely talented youth.

In the UK we finally got some decisions made about sex education. It’s now going to be a mandatory part of the school curriculum, although parents can opt their kids out up until age 15. There’s plenty still to be sorted out on this issue – not least how to ensure quality teaching will deliver sex positive evidence based messages. I’ll keep you posted on this issue over the coming 12 months.

Let’s give a big hand to Jill and Kevin whose wedding entrance dance rightfully became an internet sensation and reminded us of the meaning of romance. I’ve yet to meet anyone that hasn’t smiled, or cried – or both – at this.

And while we’re on the subject of weddings a big congratulations to several of my friends who married this year, and especially to my sister who celebrated her wedding this October.

I can’t let the year finish without a mention of Shakira and her song ‘She Wolf’ which encouraged us all to look in our closets and find our inner Lobo. Not to mention a raunchy video (although in parts it does look like she’s dancing about in a sparkly vagina). All together now – awooo!

Meanwhile over on Father Christmas’ naughty list there are several offenders who did little to help our sexual lives in 2009.

It’s jeers for the UK government who decided to ignore evidence and pass a new law outlawing ‘extreme porn’. Confused? We all were.

Not satisfied with that, the government continued to further ignore additional evidence around prostitution, relying instead on rhetoric and poor ‘research’ to stack up their ideological position. Which all culminated in Denis McShane’s idea of what ‘evidence’s is (something you read in the Mirror, in case you were wondering).

The Times
managed to make a hash of an already problematic piece about women and sex research (cobbled together from a New York Times style supplement). While the New Scientist managed a carnival of bad science reporting with their piece about supposed cutting edge studies on female sexuality.

Uganda
managed to up the ante on homophobic legislation by considering legal changes to make homosexuality punishable by death or life imprisonment. While Jan Moir flew the flag for homophobia in the UK with her shocking speculations on the death of Stephen Gately (an action that led to a huge twitterfest and unprecedented levels of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission).

Then there was the downright confusing research that told us there was a “clitorocentric conspiracy” turning women off penetrative sex.

Not to mention the unpleasant outing of sex blogger Belle de Jour who was forced to out herself following threats of exposure by an ex partner. It raised numerous issues about sex blogging which do not seem to be resolved. I’ll be returning to this painful issue in the new year.

And we saw a depressing development in the whole ‘fake formula’ PR activity where students were roped in to promote products.

While all that was going on, what was I doing in 2009?

Well it was good to see the second series of Channel 4’s The Sex Education show air as I was a consultant on the series. Admittedly there were still problems with content (and particularly the inaccurate focus on porn which the programme makers had been advised against). But having a prime time series talking about sex and relationships was definitely a step in the right direction.

On a similar note I enjoyed giving advice on ITV’s ‘This Morning’, talking on several occasions about sex education.

I enjoyed science as much as sex this year, including hosting a Carnal Knowledge pub quiz in a tent at the Secret Garden Party. It’s the first and only time I’ve ever given sex tips to a group of smurfs.

I also had great fun tackling bad journalism with Ben Goldacre and Vaughan Bell in a packed pub as part of the Troublemakers Fringe event (run as a sideline to the World Conference of Science Journalists). An event that managed to start on a high note with a science journalist Steve Connor completely misreporting our event before it had even happened – doh!

I was particularly honoured to give a Centenary Talk at the Science Museum as part of their 100 year celebrations. I invited lots of (somewhat drunk) people to test their sexpertise – great fun.

I’ve also enjoyed a year of giving advice at More! Magazine, answering reader questions on sex and relationships problems, and I continue to provide advice at Beauty Zambia. Sadly it was time to say goodbye to teen website Mykindaplace.com which closed in the summer. I’d taken pride in giving advice there over the past seven years, but unfortunately the site closed – taking with it one of the most innovative approaches to online advice giving for young women I’ve ever seen.

And it was happy 5th birthday to this blog – here’s to another five years!

Join me later in the week where I’ll be reviewing sex in the noughties, looking back on the sex predictions I made about 2009, and sharing my predictions for 2010.

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