There is news today about a three month consultation on the proposal to allow advertising of pregnancy advice services (though abortion will not be mentioned) and condoms on television, including before the watershed. The word consultation needs to be taken with a pinch or two of salt. I suggested it is a PR word for a done deal.Why a done deal? Because the Government and such services work hand in hand to promote "good sexual health" and to educate young people about safe and responsible sexual activities. In fact they have been working together for a long time and with so much success that we have the highest rate of teenage pregnacy in Europe and alarming levels of sexually transmitted diseases. So succsessful has this information and education strategy been that they now would like to extend it via television into our front rooms.
What seems to have missed their attention is that the strategy has failed. Time for Plan B? Not really, they don't have a Plan B which does not include promotion of their "services" and sale of their products, including abortion both surgical and medical. But like the War and the Germans abortion is something we musn't mention.
The reality is that while we have a popular culture that is built significantly around sex and the promotion of sex as a must have lifestyle issue, it is hardly suprising that young people, at whom large parts of this culture is directed, will be influenced in their "lifestyle" choices. These influences are present in television programmes, including TV soaps aimed at younger people. It is unavoidable in the music business and in promotional music videos and live shows. It is part of much popular literature and used to sell just about anything. Access to sex is also probably now regarded as a Human Right. So even the best "sexually educated" young person is going to find a great deal of counter pressure given the influences around them. And of course we have a significant teenage alcohol problem in this country which adds further pressure and risk. Education is going to have limited impact in the face of the power of popular culture. In fact, the statistical evidence of pregnancy and STD levels would suggest that the not inconsiderable education and health promotion efforts to date have had limited success.
These are the inevitable outcomes of society that over promotes the cult of celebrity and its attendant manifestations in popular culture. Until we begin to stop buying into the deceits of popular culture, education on sexual health and behaviour will continue to fail, wasting time, money and lives. Unfortunately the tactics of the educators too often mimic the style of pop culture to get their message across. Popular culture has nothing to offer in terms of sex eucation