BBC’s Unsafe Sex in the City – you can’t script stuff like this.

Last night’s first episode of BBC’s fly on the wall documentary about Manchester’s irresponsible youth was both compelling viewing and shocking. As they say, you can’t script stuff like this, and it’s certainly not a show you’d want to watch with your dinner.

 

It’s estimated that there are over 22,000 people living in the UK with HIV, and many, many more with various forms of STIs.  Over 6000 new STIs are being diagnosed every week and are on the increase.

 

Based in the Manchester Centre For Sexual Health, the film crew seems to have found no lack of half-wits to volunteer to be filmed. It’s worse than a Jerry Springer show.

 

Kervin, a 22 year odd security guard, didn’t use a condom on a one night stand, got a bad dose of Gonorrhea (over 20,000 have it in the UK) and now has to explain it to both his brief shag and his long term girlfriend. How do you tell her that you’ve been unfaithful and given her the clap? Find out on iPlayer.

And then there’s Courtney, a 17 year old ‘slag’ (as her mother called her) who brags about her loose love life to her mother and friends – her 33 one night stands, some of which happen in a park, cinema, sauna and on a bus. No matter how much her mother tries to knock some sense into her, she rebels, ”it’s my life not hers, I can do what I want”. With bright red hair, fake tan and big false eyelashes, the girl is desperately dysfunctional and needs a therapy couch not a bed to solve her issues.

 

Courtney doesn’t use condoms and won’t ask men to because she is worried about getting a reputation for being no fun. Wow, has this girl got her values the wrong way around.

 

Two of the cast point out a simple reality, condoms don’t make for good sex and ask why no one has invented a gel that protects against STIs. Good point.

 

And then there’s Joe, who thinks he’s God’s gift to women, “they just come onto me… it was a case of all eyes on me”.  He advises his mate, “don’t be a fool, wrap your tool.”  Trouble is, sex mad Joe doesn’t wrap his tool very often, claiming girls rip them off him, but in reality when they find out what Joe may have caught they’ll be running in the other direction.

 

There’s a great scene where Lauren, a 21 year old nurse with a higher IQ than most of those in the programme, is interviewing Courtney and you can guess what she is thinking… exactly what 4 million viewers were – how dumb is this girl?

 

Lauren admits many of her own friends are poorly educated about sex and STIs and after working in the clinic commented, “I’m going celibate.”

 

But the moment that really steals the show is when Lauren asks Joe how many partners he’s had in the last 3 months…long pause, “I don’t know where to start counting.” Lauren’s look of utter disgust is magic. But never missing an opportunity, cocky Joe tries it on with Lauren, who is way out of his league – clueless or what?

 

Having worked on a lot of campaigns in the sexual health field, Family Planning Association, Brook, National Aids Trust, COI and IPPF, I share the concern of many that nothing is really going to stop a certain percentage of our society having sex without thought or responsibility. I think Mitchell would be ok calling them plebs.

 

You can run all the ad campaigns you like, they don’t reach this group, which is proven by the fact the government campaigns have failed to date – STIs are on the increase, as are unplanned teenage pregnancies.

 

Being blunt and graphic, the documentary is not easy to watch but compelling viewing, and sadly it won’t be watched by those who would be best influenced by it, because they’ll be out getting shagged behind the cricket hut in the local park.

 

But you don’t have to be a parent, a church goer or even a Liberal to be deeply concerned about the way some youth act. They blame drink, as do the nurses. As one commentator said, they are kids in adult bodies and the combination of cheap booze and a high sex drive is a dangerous combination.

 

Next week’s episode features the ups and downs of Lloyd, a 22 year old Manchester gay porn star.

 

BBC3, Wednesday evenings at 9pm.

#UnsafeSexInTheCity

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FPA FACTS:

  • In 2009 there were 482,696 new STI diagnoses in the UK, 3 per cent more than in 2008.
  • Young people aged 15-24 years continue to be the group most affected by STIs in the UK. In 2009, around two thirds of new STI diagnoses in women were in those aged under 25, and over half of new diagnoses in men were in under 25s.
  • Rates of acute STIs were highest in residents of urban areas, particularly in London. This is likely to reflect higher incidence of socio-economic deprivation and higher concentrations of groups of the population who are at most risk of infection, such as young people and men who have sex with men.

 

 

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