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Friday, 17 June 2011

O dear, why did I expect anything different?

Well, The Sex Researchers on Channel 4 last night pretty much did all the things I was assured they were not going to do when they approached me to do an interview and advise, in terms of being simplistic, sensationalistic, cliched, and condescending. Not to mention muddled and full of self-contradiction, heterosexist, male-gazey, and full of annoying little 'amusing' animations and comic reconstructions, busy-busy snippets from films of various periods, etc etc (which I suppose are all part of some belief that tv docs have to keep things moving all the time).

A detail-by-detail critique of its failures as history would be very long indeed, so I'll just mention two particular gruesomenesses.

They disseminated and perpetuated in a particularly crass and mangled-up form the canard about C19th doctors, hysteria, masturbating women and vibrators.

Condescension towards Virginia Johnson, who was surely one of a long line of women in numerous fields who found herself in the right place at the right time and thus enabled to fulfill the potential that women were largely supposed not to have and given no encouragement to develop (hello, it was the 50s - a lot of very intelligent and gifted women were being shunted off into the secretarial pool at that period). It's not as though there was a formal set of qualifications for anyone doing sex research at that time, man or woman.

I was also stunned that they could leap from Havelock Ellis to Masters & Johnson without mentioning anyone in the decades in between: not even Kinsey.

Maybe this is not much more embarrassing than finding my comments on Victorian prostitution, etc, intercut with live-action dramatisation of scenes from 'Walter''s My Secret Life. It still doesn't qualify as a high point in my career.

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