Something so weird has happened to the way we live now that Radio Two has decided it needs to dedicate a week’s programming to Let’s Talk About Sex. It’s designed, says the billing in Radio Times, ‘to encourage parents to speak more freely to their children about sex and relationships’. But there’s already so much ‘talk’ about sex on film, on TV, in the adverts, do we really need any more? And in any case what teenager with any sense of rightful pride would welcome a ‘conversation’ with The Parent about it? I can just imagine the scene: teenage boy in kitchen, just off the soccer field and starving hungry (or having dragged himself away from his computer only because he’s desperate for dinner) being accosted by his mother and given the full monty on the physical mechanics and the possible outcomes. Where’s the mystery, the excitement, the sense of self-discovery? Sometimes talking just isn’t good for you.
In the end, Monday’s first sex session on The Jeremy Vine Show was upstaged by the astonishing news at the weekend that the former DPM John Prescott had secretly suffered from bulimia for about ten years. Vine wanted to know what his listeners thought of these revelations, and their timing, just as Prescott’s autobiography is about to hit the shelves and Brown’s government is under threat from its determination to cut the 10p tax rate. Opinion from those who phoned in to his programme was divided; but no one made what seems to me the obvious point that eating disorders, when they’re truly bad, take over your life to such an extent that you cannot, you absolutely cannot, continue as normal. It’s just not realistic to think that you can hold high government office and be that ill.
Does Prescott, a heavyweight politician of a certain age, really think he can influence any teenage girls (or boys, for that matter) who are suffering from bulimia? Is talking about a problem guaranteed to make it seem less impossible to overcome? We are now prepared to talk about anything and everything and yet are far less realistic and honest than those arch hypocrites the Victorians about human frailty and our capacity for insensitivity and intolerance.