Channel 4’s series, The Joy of Teen Sex (JTS) has taken television to new depths of sexual explicitness by encouraging teenagers to be filmed attending their “frank and honest” Sex Advice Shop for help with their most intimate sexual worries.
C4 warned JTS would include “graphic sex and full frontal nudity”, but what follows is far worse: an arousing cocktail of graphic displays of sexual anatomy and sexual positions (heterosexual, homosexual and lesbian), followed by pornographic demonstrations by actors who look like teenagers themselves.
The three disarming young female presenters - a doctor, social worker (not yet qualified) and sex coach (actually a sex-toy saleswoman) - advise us, “While we think you should wait until at least 16 before losing your virginity, we can’t pretend teen sex is not happening, we should embrace it and face it head on.”
The teenagers are encouraged to ‘improve their sex lives’ with advice on oral and anal sex, genital plastic surgery and piercing (we saw one lad having a ring inserted in his penis), S&M, sex toys, ‘sex-enhancing’ drugs and working in the sex industry. No mention of avoiding promiscuous relationships, just instructions to use condoms for so-called ‘protection’ against STIs and pregnancy. Oral sex is portrayed in an exceptionally positive light despite recent research showing a link with mouth cancer. Advice on anal sex focuses on making it less painful as opposed to warning of the serious health risks.
This promotion of risky behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and potentially dangerous to young people’s health. It is the very opposite of ‘training a child in the way he should go.’ (Proverbs 22:6).
Having impressionable teenagers on screen exposing themselves physically and emotionally, exploits them for entertainment. How will they be affected in the future? How has C4 prepared them psychologically, and what follow up support will they receive?
In the UK, where we have some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and STIs in Europe, our media’s obsession with values-free sex and nudity contributes to the problem. A report by the University of North Carolina found that “sexually charged music, magazines, TV and movies push youngsters into intercourse at an earlier age … the more kids are exposed to sex in the media, the earlier they have sex.” JTS takes this a step further by directly coaching young people in risky sexual behaviour.
Safermedia is especially concerned about the children who watched JTS unbeknown to their parents. The watershed offers scant protection to the majority of youngsters with televisions, computers, mobile phones, games consoles, etc. in their bedrooms. Many parents feel unable to use parental controls or monitor their children’s viewing; or they are too busy or indifferent. Many children circumvent controls with ease.
Amid growing public concern and the Government’s new independent Review on the Sexualisation of Childhood, C4’s behaviour is particularly irresponsible and needs to be challenged. Clearly the ‘light touch’ approach by UK regulator Ofcom is not working, as C4 have felt bold enough to broadcast such material, and Ofcom have taken no action against them so far. Public protest is therefore vital.
Twenty-three health and education professionals and bodies have already written to C4 about what they claim is the lack of qualified professionals on the show, poor advice and inaccurate and misleading information. We must all speak out ever more strongly and let Ofcom know that in no way does JTS meet with “acceptable community standards” (E: email@example.com). C4 must be held to account even if retrospectively because this heralds the mainstreaming of pornography on television via the internet.
Several Safermedia supporters were reduced to tears by the programme, overcome by desperation and anger at such a betrayal of trust towards our younger generation. (Matthew 18:6). We hope and pray that our tears for the next generation will not be in vain.
Miranda Suit and Pippa Smith are Co-Chairmen of Safermedia, a charity seeking to reduce the harmful effects of the media on our children, families and society www.safermedia.org.uk
The Joy of Teen Sex: Why we weep for our young people
With Ofcom failing to act, the public must speak out against television programmes like C4's The Joy of Teen Sex which actively promote risky sexual behaviour
Published 14 February 2011 | Miranda Suit and Pippa Smith