Bish review of sex education in TV and film

Sex Education Show Series 5 Episode 4 Review

by Rachel Clarke, member of Team Bish.

Although not usually an avid viewer of The Sex Education Show, I did tune into episode 5 and found myself somewhat informed yet simultaneously cringing behind a cushion. Episode 4 focused on pregnancy, and more so the physical processes that affect mother and child. Later issues surrounding homosexuality and religion were explored, along with the problems surrounding social networking websites. As I said although informative and at times enlightening, the problem I found with the Sex Ed show is that whilst it has the right attitude by attempting to address the issues present in society, they continually fail to hit the nail on the head and provide any real solutions or even an in-depth insight to said issues. For instance, the first stat provided was that Britain has the highest number of teenage pregnancies, with 8000 girls under the age of 16 fell pregnant per year. However, there was no further mention of this and it bothered me.

First up on the agenda was pregnancy, more specifically the physical signs of pregnancy and the development of a child throughout the different trimesters of the pregnancy. Making use of real life models has perhaps become a signature of the show, and this was no exception. Models were used to show pregnant women in different trimesters of their pregnancy, a woman whom had had children and a woman who was not pregnant. Whilst I think the use of models is a good tool in showing the different stages of pregnancy, body shape, aging etc… In this case all the women shown were those of a naturally small frame (even the model at 32 weeks pregnant was not particularly big). Now perhaps I am being picky, but to me it is not representative of the women in the UK as a whole.

Throughout the show the physical part of pregnancy was focused upon almost entirely – the only mention of any emotional change was due to a question asked from a boy in the audience, who was then told than women’s emotions are ‘a bit up and down’ during pregnancy. Not having been through pregnancy myself, but just from experience of those around me I can tell you some women are more than just ‘up and down’ whilst on their period let alone 9 months of pregnancy! In order to give the show some more substance, I think there definitely needed more focus on the emotional issues for both the expectant mother and father as there was a significant lack of male presence throughout the show.

Cue the mother and son question and answer session at the end of the show, which was some of the most awkward TV I have seen in a long while… Explaining to your teenage son about your labour (which was horrific and just got met with a sniggering reaction) is a conversation I can imagine neither mum nor son particularly wanted to have and it was obvious. When asked at the end of the convo if he ever wanted to be a Dad ‘yeah it’ll be fun’, I just felt that everything he had seen and been told throughout the show went in one ear and out the other. However, maybe if there had been a male perspective featured on the show it may have hit home that pregnancy doesn’t just affect the woman.

Enough of the pregnancy rant now. A segment of the show I was really looking forward to was about combining homosexuality with religion. Speaking to two Jewish men from different generations about how they have made their sexuality fit in with their religion. Many religious texts such as the Qur’an or the Old Testament forbid homosexuality ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind as you do with womankind’ and thus it has been difficult for homosexual religious people to come to terms with this. Personally I am not religious at all but I do understand the prejudices faced in the battle between religion and homosexuality. Seeing the two men Lionel and Oli talk about their overall positive experiences was uplifting and a real part of the show to be taken seriously, however I know it isn’t all that easy for other people in the same situation and perhaps this was not taken into account.

When asking a member of the public whether they thought religion was open to the idea of homosexuality, presenter Richardson was almost tongue tied (almost being the key word!) at the quite frank ‘No’ she received from the gentleman she asked. Sometimes, The Sex Ed show and Richardson herself need to understand the messages they are promoting are not necessarily fact but an example of good luck and understanding from the people involved. It would have been useful to look at other examples (for instance Oli was out with other gay friends of different religions) just to see how their homosexuality was taken in light of their individual religions. Saying this, I do realise there is only so much you can fit into a hour show but sometimes the issues addressed do need more attention.

The final big issue raised in this episode was about social networking. In the school featured on the program, 89% of boys and 95% of girls had a facebook account. I don’t think this is necessarily shocking; facebook has more or less become the way to communicate with other people. However it is a personal choice of how you decide to act on facebook. Richardson decided to highlight to parents various revealing pictures posted by girls on facebook, whilst trying to ‘calm their fears about their children’, yes, tactful… Being online is such a vital part in many teenagers’ lives that most are aware of the dangers that are around online. It is questionable how much control parents do have over their children and their lives online, and I think it is a matter of trust in your children as to what they will post online.

Overall, I think that the Sex Ed show does ultimately have its heart in the right place, and it does educate , for instance one member of the audience now knows that ‘pregnancy isn’t just 9 months of being sick and then pushing a baby out’, at times the answers provided are vague and misinforming. When asked what the safest form of contraception was, the coil, implant and injection were recommended. However, abstinence is truly the safest form of contraception (even if it does defeat the object of the sex ed show) [Or dry humping! Justin]. Moreover, the show is a platform for programs regarding sexual health, whilst there is room for improvement; it provides a good starting step into the intricate world of sexual health.

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