Welcome to Exeter. One of the universally acknowledged truths about the university is the number of fucking puns you will have to endure. “Exetera” was an inevitability which, this time entertainingly, raises questions of pronunciation — is it the bastard child of “etcetera” and “extra”? Or, perhaps more appropriately, the Holland Hallesque “Exeter-rah”? You decide.
One that you will no doubt hear is “Sexeter”. And the best example of what apparently represents the youthfully vibrant sexualities of us students, can be found on YouTube. I recently noticed that one of their consistently recommended dishes was Channel 4’s The Joy of Teen Sex – I eventually gave in and indulged (in watching the programme, that is) and discovered why the rest of society despises us.
The opening sequence asserts that by the age of 16, “the average teenager has slept with 3 people”, which not only goes against governmental statistics but also another enlightening piece of Channel 4 pseudo-porn, Virgin School, which states that “18 is the average age a man loses his virginity”. Following this piece of misinformation in every intro, is an excerpt from an interview with half a brain attached to a penis, who estimates that he has slept with, “I don’t know, around a hundred and ten, a hundred and twenty females.”
Now I’m surprised that anyone who refers to a girl as a “female” has had sex, but nonetheless, in his (missionary) position at the start of the episode, he becomes an ambassador for our generation — a generation for which “sex can be the most important thing”, apparently.
What follows is not much better, but no less titillating. Each episode is structured around the premise of several problems waiting to be solved — an A-Team/Power Rangers “baddie of the week” formula, except the baddies here are dildos and premature ejaculation. These problems are solved by team of all-female “experts” (or “sexperts”, as any Exeter-trained PR would no doubt put it) who dispense “frank and honest advice”. So, a bit like your GP then, except without the arbitrary requirements of education and/or medical training. Apart from one doctor who worryingly presents surgery as the first option for a girl with low self-esteem; the experts’ expertise when it comes to sex seems to be merely having a lot of it (excluding the whale acting as the series’ relationship specialist, who merely wishes she was having a lot of it).
One episode featured the most depressing diplomat for the rest of us: a girl named Sarah. Sarah was deeply concerned about the appearance of her vagina — it had something to do with the fact that it looked like a vagina. Mercifully, we never saw it. To concisely convey her problem, she was shown posing next to a dirty wall, upon which the words “i hate my vagina” (sic) were superimposed. I’m baffled as to why lower case text is necessarily more fashionable nowadays. It shouldn’t carry connotations of chic — just idiocy, pretentiousness and possible learning difficulties.
Although occasionally redeemed by the endearingly naïve (like a lesbian politely inquiring on how to be a lesbian), the rest of the test subjects blended into one boring blur, most interviews sullied with degenerates who wear hats indoors and sunglasses at night, or both simultaneously. The inevitable consequence of watching such a programme about sex is that your capacity for seeking euphemisms is heightened to Carry On levels.
Hence, innocent phrases like “that [advice] is a nice angle to take it from” and “[that conversation] filled the void” provide just as much as entertainment as the gay couple that look scarily similar. To rouse, but not quite arouse the viewer, occasional lines like “welcome to my wall of male genitalia” abound. Then, real people with real problems suddenly appear with their real male genitalia. In The Joy of Teen Sex, things get real quite quickly.
Like Channel 4’s other visceral offering, Embarrassing Bodies, I can’t understand why these people choose to go on TV. The only explanation I can think of in this case is that they’re all failed Skins actors looking to advance their showreel by doing something to do with sex. And the only reason I can see why they are having so much sex is because they’re cold – the only things they wear are neon vests from Topman and condoms. Although, the latter – rarely, it seems.
If, like me, you’re my age, then this sort of thing is supposed to appeal to you. With its glut of sweaty, throbbing programmes, Channel 4 now nightmarishly proclaims itself as the sex education arbiter — rather than the Great British model of embarrassed parents, embarrassed teachers, the Internet and friends with older sisters.
We, and to a marginally lesser extent the rest of the country, hold television as being some sort of authority figure. But let’s face it — when it comes to authority figures, the BBC is be the closest thing to a stern yet responsible matriarch, whilst Channel 4 is that drunk uncle who touched you at your eighth birthday party as your inbred cousin (Channel 5) watched.
Last summer, I found myself making tea and puns for Jon Snow at ITN — where everyone seemed resigned to the fact that they would be perpetually denied the portion of the license fee they needed. Now I know the reason why. It’s Sarah’s vagina. All this fits into a wider narrative — for Sarah’s vagina is the reason why no-one takes young people seriously. It is the reason why no one important cares about students who wave protesting placards and shout about the government — because whenever anyone in authority sees that same neon Topman vest in the crowd, they automatically rescind any sympathy and remember that we’re actually an inane orgy of egomaniac nymphomaniacs.
And, happily fed on a torrent of smut, we believe this to be true. We are tempted to forget that there were other films this summer in-between The Inbetweeners and Explosions And Rosie Huntington-Whitely’s Arse: The Movie, and we are subconsciously seduced into caring more about the appearance of our labia than Libya.
I have enough faith in my generation that I won’t believe these people actually exist, at least not in the bacterial quantities portrayed. So I’m not going to end on an entirely desultory, didactic note. By all means have sex. Wear a sheet of cling-film to the Safe Sex Ball. Just don’t make your sex drive your existential drive, or tell the rest of the country about it. In conversation, please don’t tack an S onto the name of your university/temporary hometown — and in doing so, make you, and the rest of us, appear to be mentally retarded. Oh and Sarah, it’s probably fine.