Important times for sexual freedom; the illiberal agenda and the interesting case of Nadine Dorries, MP
I had several titles in mind for this article. One played on the statistics that ran through the programme that suggested Welsh VW drivers who read the Independent were more likely to cheat on their partners. Another was about titillation and grandmothers. But, overnight, I realised that the raging war of pro-life and pro-choice agendas was more important. So, bear with me for a moment before I get on to boobs and willies and the appearance of a starkers Antonio Francis from Britain’s Got Talent. There’s something important going on that may lead to the erosion of women’s rights in the UK and would hark back to pre-1967 standards of care for women.
In May this year, MP for Mid-Bedforshire, Nadine Dorries and Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, tabled an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill. Dorries and Field are calling for independent counselling for women seeking abortions. At first, this seems sensible. There are many reasons why independent counselling is a good idea, whether you’re pro- or anti-choice. However, a report in the Guardian claims undercover reporters found that these anti-choice, pro-abstinence centres were giving out wholly inaccurate information about abortion, claiming that women would have to ‘dispose of the bodies themselves’ and deliberately talking about baby clothes and ‘the child’.
Meanwhile, The Ministry of Truth blog has some interesting information, alleging the existence of a smoking gun document and claiming there are ‘clear and verifiable links’ between Dorries and the Christian right:
“Dorries’ current campaign and amendments are part of long-term strategy put together by an alliance of prominent anti-abortion organisations with the overall objective of securing the complete prohibition of abortion in the UK on any grounds, including rape, serious foetal abnormality and even serious risk to the life of mother.”
Dorries also supports the teaching of abstinence to girls because the UK is “saturated in sex” despite, as Chris Bryant (MP for the Rhondda) notes, this is ‘the daftest piece of piece of legislation‘ he’d ever seen due to there being no evidence to support the idea that this reduces incidences of STI infections and teenage pregnancy. Even more damningly, the Office for National Statistics notes that teenage pregnancy is at its lowest rate since the beginning of the 1980s.
Are we to go back to Vera Drake era of back-street abortions? This reviewer shudders to think that we might.
So. On to Channel 4’s pre-watershed Sex Education Show (“which includes sexual themes” – thanks for warning me): a show that, if Dorries and Field were to have their way, would be sold on DVD in brown paper bags under the counters of newsagents. But Channel 4 is sensible and progressive and shows us that sex is not dirty, not wrong and perfectly natural, to boot.
The show opens with a rundown of ‘what’s to come’: what happens in a sexless marriage, what we inherit in terms of body shape from our parents and grandparents and the results from their survey. There were also hints that children would be asking their grandparents about their sex lives. Awkward.
So what did we learn?
The show, now in its fifth series, is known for its frank portrayal of full-frontal nudity and it was here in spades: featuring none other than Antonio ‘Popeye’ Francis from Britain’s Got Talent and his son, 19, who’s inherited his Dad’s size 11 feet but not his belly. We don’t find out whether he can pop his eyes out.
Presenter Anna Richardson opens up the floor to the kids, who ask some odd questions. “Is it normal to have more pubic hair than your Dad?” One can only imagine the calibre of ribbing that kid will get after the show. We learn that penis size is not always inherited, nor is it at all related to the size of your feet – an answer relayed to a boy who then gladly admits to having ‘average’ sized feet. A mother and her two daughters are also gawped at and their stomachs, boobs and nipples are examined, leading up to a titillating report on bouncing breasts and the right bra to wear when running. “Why has she got bigger nipples” (than the other two)? – “that’s just the way she is”. So what have the kids learnt? That you get what you’re given: “you can’t really change it” – a nice antidote to assertions that the media and pornography is belittling young adults’ self-perception. After all, it’s a great thing that we don’t all look the same, otherwise we’d become a writhing mass of largely homogeneous beings, unsure of who to hook up with and practice abstinence.
The 7.5 thousand respondents to the Sex Education Show’s survey have provided some fascinating statistics, scattered throughout the program:
Of all places in the UK, East Anglia is the most faithful, with only 29% having cheated on a partner. There’s no surprise that of all the age groups, those aged 45-54 have cheated on a partner (39%), as there’s disillusion and the mid-life crisis sets in. They’ve also had more opportunity than the young’uns. The sexual landscape of Britain was also revealed: 16% of respondents have had a threesome and 13% had not tried it, but would like it. And as for those VW-driving, Independent-reading, Welsh? 39%, 36% and 40% respectively. So be on the look-out for them.
So, was it educational? Yes. Will it help educate young people? Yes. Should sex education replace talks between parents and children? In this reviewer’s opinion, no. I have a theory: call it a bible allegory, if you wish. I adhere to the idea of the ‘Adam and Eve’ idea of sex education: teach them young, before they ‘eat from the tree’ and get embarrassed and start covering up with fig leaves; when they’re running about the garden, spraying each other with a hose and you’re trying to keep them from soaking next door, who might report you to the water board because there’s a hose pipe ban. Tell ’em when they ask why you’re as big as a cow and eating pickles with strawberry ice-cream. Just tell your kids something because, just maybe, soon, they won’t be told at all.