Lorraine Smith explains why she can’t help cringing with embarassment when she watches Channel 4’s "More Sex Tips For Girls".
I watched the first series of this ‘educational’ programme on Channel 4 and rather enjoyed it, but the second round of tips (currently being repeated on Wednesday nights) wasn’t nearly as enticing. This is partly because I feel that the time has now passed for this type of television, which used to be informative rather than generic, and partly because… well, I’m in it. There are fewer things less entertaining than watching yourself say things you wish you’d kept private in front of an audience of, at least, thousands. This was not a good move.
The premise of the original was to have a theme for each show in the series and a couple of women to try out sex tips with their partners that follow the theme, reporting back later with any results. The problem with the second series was that many of the obvious topics that are extremely easy to seek instruction on had already been covered the first time round, but they did manage to cobble together a reasonable selection for series two despite a “look it up on the internet” approach to the teaching on some shows. Our programme, The A to Z of Orgasm, was thankfully one of the more structured so my partner and I attended an extremely informative course on the subject. Unfortunately for the viewers, a lot of the more interesting things we learned from author Lou Paget were cut from the half-hour show in favour of interviews clips with various people talking candidly on the subject and the (fully clothed) footage from our ‘bedcams’.
It was fascinating to experience part of the process that brings us this type of television programme. After being spotted whilst shopping at the Erotica Exhibition at Earls Court, we had telephone and on-camera interviews with members of the production team before being invited to take part in the series. Filming began at our home which was taken over by a cameraman, sound engineer, director, runner and all the necessary equipment for a day, before we were taken to London to meet Lou and begin our second day in front of the camera. We were left with a small camcorder to record snippets of ourselves before and after trying out various techniques we’d learnt, and also received a few follow-up visits and interviews from the production team. It really was amazing to see so much time and effort condensed into less than thirty minutes of really quite disposable television.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realise the main horror of all this until it was too late: it isn’t really about girls at all. Initially I thought the title said that women were no longer afraid to talk about sex, enjoy it and seek out ways to improve the experience. I was under the impression that Sex Tips for Girls was another step forward for women like me, enabling us to embrace our sexuality rather than hide it away. Now I can see the truth. It’s not about education, it’s about ratings. Sex sells and Channel 4 is no longer afraid to dirty its schedules with the kind of muck us Brits seem to enjoy watching so much. Unfortunately, “Sex Tips” would sound too seedy and, afraid of making it too ‘Men & Motors’, the production company must have pitched the idea that it was for women and it’s worked a treat. I fell for it and, after the number of repeat showings of the series on both Channel 4 and sister station E4, I’m beginning to wish that I hadn’t. Although you won’t get the same embarrassment from the series that I did, it seems you won’t get the same amount of knowledge from it either.