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article imageReview: 'Unsafe Sex in the City' looks at STDs in the UK Special

By Alexander Baron     Nov 3, 2012 in Health
Manchester - If you have ever wondered how sexually transmitted diseases have become so widespread in Britain and the modern world generally, wonder no more.
Unsafe Sex in the City is an obvious pun on a famous American TV series. The revelations in this short (4 part) series are destined to become infamous. Although it was made in a tongue-in-cheek style, the BBC and all the people who participated - from the staff, to the patients to those working in the back room - are to be applauded, because this is a vitally important contribution to a vitally important subject. This review is based on episode 2; I also watched part of episode 1.
Judith Reisman has traced current attitudes towards sex and sexual liberation to Dr Alfred Kinsey, who in her view is just about the most evil man who ever lived. She may be wrong, but she is not that wide of the mark as far as the explosion of promiscuity, sexual offences and diseases is concerned. Sexual liberation and even sexual degeneracy were not exactly unknown in bygone times, from the quasi-mythical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to the well documented orgies of the ancient Greeks.
The sexual liberation of the 1960s though took things to a whole new level. In the first place it was not merely the elites who took part but everyone, certainly everyone under a certain age. Then in the United States following on from Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love was the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, the misnamed gay liberation, and in Britain the long running Wolfenden campaign, which beginning with the 1957 report resulted finally in the decriminalisation of homosexual practices between consenting adults.
While most people today take a tolerant view of all sexual practices and perversions as long as the people so engaged are consenting adults and don't do it in the street and frighten the horses, doing it in a bath house with 5 other men the same night as boasted by one of the young homosexuals interviewed here is a different proposition. Such places are obviously breeding grounds for disease, and it may be that this is what a certain Chief Constable of Greater Manchester was referring to back in the 1980s when he claimed homosexuals were "swirling about in a human cesspit of their own making".
If so, plus ça change, because the clinic at the centre of this documentary is in Manchester.
Another young homosexual admitted to having no fewer than 80 sexual partners in the previous three months. Obviously the government's safe sex message is being widely misinterpreted, but it is far from only homosexuals who are at risk from their lifestyles.
According to one of the female nurses - who deal with both sexes - the highest number of partners she has seen reported by a homosexual was 150; it was vitally important in that case that they all be contacted, but she was unable to do so, because some may have moved or changed their phone numbers; perhaps diplomatically she did not add that many of them were probably anonymous.
One statistic we really didn't need to hear is that nearly a fifth of all cases of gonorrhea involve infection of the throat.
For young women, chlamydia can be a devastating infection that trashes their reproductive organs invisibly. Many do not realise before it is too late, as a young woman here recounted. Last year there were over 160,000 cases in the UK, and it is primarily the young who are its victims.
This is what chlamydia looks like under the microscope; its effects on young women can be devastatin...
This is what chlamydia looks like under the microscope; its effects on young women can be devastating.
Creative Commons
One young guy had no compunction about dropping his trousers for the camera and showing us his genitalia. He was lucky, he only had scabies, which is not a venereal disease, although it can be transferred sexually.
Later in the programme, one of the young homosexuals returns to the clinic for his results; he is told he has gonorrhea of the anus and both gonorrhea and chlamydia of the throat. According to the narrator, homosexuals constitute one third of all new cases of gonorrhea, a truly staggering percentage as they make up around 1% of the population, although there are large concentrations of them in Manchester, Brighton and of course London, not to mention showbusiness, the media and politics. This one is quite open about the fact that he is unable to identify the majority of his sexual contacts; he doesn't need to know their names for the time he was in contact with them, he says.
This documentary poses one big question though it doesn't ask it overtly: how can we change the sexual behaviour of the young?
This question can be answered, but the answer is not one any of the people who attended the Hathersage Centre Sexual Health Clinic in central Manchester would care to hear, namely that there is a big difference between liberty and licence, just because you can sleep with a different girl every week or sodomise a different man every night, doesn't mean you have to.
This series should win some sort of prize for services to the public, but of course it won't.
It is currently on iplayer, but will almost certainly find its way onto YouTube or some other video site.
More about Homosexuality, Sexual promiscuity, Sexually transmitted disease, Sexually transmitted diseases, Gonorrhea
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