Do we really live in a world where anything goes? According to the BBC's Cherry Healey, we do. In a recent programme, 'How to Get a Life' on BBC One, she repeated this statement more than once.
The idea was, apparently, to find out if it was better to be settled or single. Now settled and married with a young child herself, Cherry was worried she was becoming a bit boring.
She asked how may sexual partners is too many after giving us statistics such as 'nearly 60% have had a one night stand' and '5% have admitted to over 20'. To back up these figures she interviewed two young singles who didn't seem to have any inhibitions about sharing the number of people they had slept with. A gregarious young man, evidently enjoying his job as a hostel manager had slept with about 80 women and cameras followed him as he showed off his prowess at seducing the young women who used the hostel. A young woman claimed 170 conquests - she said, "I'm not a slut, I'm just popular". Her social life seemed to centre on going clubbing and finding men to sleep with. She said she judged them on their kissing - if a "s*** kisser then they would be a s*** s**g". Armed with her survival kit containing makeup, flat shoes and condom, she had no intention of settling down for a while.
Another couple Cherry Healey interviewed were into threesomes (Cherry thought this was "sexy, hot turns me on - but I don't think I could do it") and bondage, and we saw their bedroom and some of their 'fun' equipment. She took them to a shop specialising in bondage materials and there was the usual giggling and dressing up in latex (the girl, "I love this shop so much"), and then off to a fetish club where we were treated to some spanking and descriptions of other dark activities going on. Thankfully, the young couple were not so impressed and decided fantasy was not better than reality and to concentrate on their own relationship in future.
Cherry Healey then decided to try her hand at match making. Unsurprisingly, this did not work as once again the pressure was on to have sex and the first thing she asked the embarrassed pair after their date was, "did you have sexual intercourse?". Enough to make Cilla Black's hair stand on end.
To be fair, we did meet someone who was very happily married with a baby although her twin was still enjoying the single life and having no responsibilities. So, throughout, the messages were mixed and to the BBC's shame, there was no information about the risk from STIs or emotional fallout.
While this was on BBC One, a previous offering from Cherry Healey, 'Like a Virgin', featured as part of BBC Three's voyeuristic and explicit 'Sex Season' series earlier this year. The often graphic imagery and language, verging on pornographic, and casual acceptance of promiscuous and risky behaviour in these series run counter to received wisdom; independent research evidence shows that viewing material of an explicitly sexual nature, or even simply discussing it, can encourage early sexual activity and experimentation by young people and children. BBC Three is a youth channel targeting an audience of 16 to 34 year olds and the BBC justifies BBC Three as a place to nurture talent for BBC One. Clearly Cherry Healey and her gratuitous nonsense have now been promoted to the BBC's flagship channel.
Unfortunately, these programmes will also be viewed by younger children who will have no trouble accessing the Channel's content whether on television or by a wide variety of internet-enabled devices both inside and outside the home. Current parental controls, where all you have to do is tick a box stating you are over 16 or 18, are not effective in preventing this as many parents do not set the controls, or are even aware of them. (Ofcom's 'Children and parents: media use and attitudes report' 25.10.11). At a time when so many young people are struggling in an economic crisis which is badly affecting their life chances, surely it is a public service duty incumbent upon the BBC to produce output which will increase their knowledge and raise their aspirations.
We must expect nothing less for our money, so it is hard to reconcile the cuts being made to the excellent channel BBC Four and elsewhere, with BBC Three's budget (projected at £85m after the 10% cut) being spent on the sort of dross one should not expect to find on the BBC, let alone considered fit for the minds of young audiences. A scan of its schedules shows only an occasional rare sighting of output that could be described as good quality and not dumbed down to attract ratings.
As concerns about the sexualisation of children continue to grow, that the BBC should think this is useful instruction on 'How to Get a Life' is deeply troubling.