Sex is everywhere. Everyone knows that. There is sex on television, in adverts, magazines and the internet. Sex in music has never been so explicit. Women are seen as sex objects and men are spearheading campaigns to lay waste to women 'in the club'. Where children and young people were once never exposed to sex, it is now so readily available. With such a monumental jump in how sex is treated by the media and companies, is it any wonder that young people have never been so sexually active?
During the Christmas period, the number of sexually suggestive perfume advertisements doubles in number. Such famous examples are Jean Paul Gaultier whose naked vixen wakes up alone after a night with a sailor suggests that sex with an unknown companion is perfectly acceptable. At least over 75% of perfume adverts give that same message to young people.
For the more established porn-monger, there is no need to joke about finding pornography in the woods or stumbling upon your father's nude magazines accidently because Playboy has its own website and television channel that makes sex easy to see. You needn't even cast your eyes to the top shelf in the newsagents as Nuts and Zoo magazine are at eye level. The buxom, the 'beautiful', and the vapid are right there for you, any child and any teen to take a quick look.
Recently on Channel 4, a number of sex shows geared at adults have been on air. Dogging Tales looks at members of the public who like to have sex with strangers in lay-bys. The television show attracted 1.9 million viewers during its 10pm slot and was most popular amongst 16-34 year olds. Isn't that funny? A tv show about sex aimed at grown ups and the youngest age is 16. If we get a rise in teen doggers....be worried.
So who do we blame? Do we blame? Blame has always been the easiest way. It's a part of nature. Sex sells. Everyone knows sex sells. But when sex is sold to children and young people, is there thought for what happens next?
Well, we can aim to educate young people and we have. Since 2006, there have been waves of television channels around the world including the United Kingdom, America, Canada and Australia showing open and realistic depictions of sex and the body.
Channel 5 aired 'A Girl's Guide to 21st Century Sex' in 2006 which ran for only eight episodes. Still available on the internet, every episode explained a sexual position and a sexually transmitted disease. The television show had extremely up close and personal acts of sex that were designed to educate and enlighten. Ofcom responded to controversy made by viewers that "the portrayal of sex in this programme genuinely sought to inform and educate on sex".
In 2008, Channel 4 launched the widely popular and extremely effective 'Sex Education Show' which allowed adults to sit together and talk frankly about sex. When it first aired, it caused controversy as secondary school pupils were shown pictures of male and female genitalia. The shock that teenagers were shown these pictures in the first place was deemed to damage an innocent nation.
In America, the video podcast series 'Midwest Teen Sex Show' that began airing in 2007 became so popular; it was watched by 125,000 viewers per episode, of which there were 21. The tongue in cheek and often hilarious depictions of awkward dating and sexual situations were more realistic than the perfume adverts at Christmas, such as having sex whilst parents are in the other room and the mysteries of anal sex.
All of the television shows that have been used as examples, have sex and young people at the forefront of their agenda. Some showed the graphic ugliness of a person afflicted by syphilis or chlamydia. Teaching young people about sex is a game of two halves. A television show can show a couple, married and in love having consensual sex but it widely known that for young people in recent years, there has not just been a rise in sexual activity but unsafe unplanned sexual activity and that is where the problems lie.
A Huffington Post article in June 2013 revealed that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in England. Whilst that is not surprising news, the health implications are too shocking to ignore. The idea that a 16 year old will develop severe body issues including dementia twenty years down the line, is serious. Not enough young people are being screened for sexual diseases and infections whilst choosing to abstain from using contraception.
The London Borough of Bromley will be launching new health functions to teach young people about safe sex. There is hope that this will spread across to other London boroughs.
The most vital and important thing for young people to understand, is that there is the right sexual health information available. For many young people, the smoke often clouds the way. The want to emulate the attractive young couple on television, often slim and immaculate, is desirable for viewers. Many teenagers experience their first relationship at age 14 which is the age where young men and women are most aware of the changes in their bodies and sex is a new enigma.
A young person new to sex, would see the sexual situation on television (often unbelievable to adults....hopefully) as real life and obtainable. The sad truth is that for many, the act of sex is not seen as the life changing thing that it really is. The changes to your body, thought processes and mannerisms are unlike any other.
In the UK, where sex and sexually transmitted diseases are so prominent, the need for education is so much greater. For heterosexual and homosexual couples, there are no exceptions. Only when sex is explained thoroughly with every pro, con, possibility of pregnancy, misunderstanding and question answered and explained can young people of the right age, continue to have sexual relations. In a country where we have the Brook Centre, sexual health clinics and many books that focus solely on teaching about sexual health, there is no excuse as to why sexually transmitted diseases need to continue to spread.