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‘Am I Normal? Sex’ a TV programme on BBC iplayer

From:     Eva
Category: TV
Date:     07 May 2008
Time:     07:32 PM


Ridiculous TV programme about sex, brought to the British public by clinical psychologist Dr Tanya
Byron, a woman with two overused facial expressions - disgust and pity. This programme is all about
her prejudices.

The first ‘deviant’ practice under scrutiny is cottaging. She says she doesn’t have a problem with
sex in public places, but she can’t get over the fact that this may include toilets. She keeps
repeating ‘but it’s not clean’ a look of total prudish disgust crossing her face, ‘what’s sexy about
piss’. She then goes on to suggest that the reason why Tim Fountain likes to cottage is because of a
‘strong sexual experience’ when he was 14. The suggestion is that it’s a traumatic reaction.
Therefore his deviancy can be explained, it’s okay. He himself believes it to be an erotic formative
experience. The programme starts with a Victorian pissoire and it’s attitude is that of a peepshow.
The public is given another opportunity to gawp at other people, this time with a bit of sexual
frisson thrown in. Nobody in this programme is really ‘normal’, but not because ‘normal’ as a
concept is properly rubbished. ‘To be fair’ she then casts a speedy look over hetro soft porn
marketing via Loaded magazine, more moral judgements. Whoever this middle Englander meets she passes
some judgement, ‘the girls were intelligent’, ‘the children were delightfully innocent’. The
programme then moves on to dogging. The look of disdain reappears. This time she takes great triumph
in discovering that the dogger she talks to is doing it because his mother didn’t let him do what he
wanted as a child. He again articulately denies this but too late, the public has heard and
conclusions reached. 

Dr Byron then decides to find out if women are as predatory as male - starting off with the
delightfully bourgeois shop ‘Coco de Mar’. The bottom line here is that sex is good but many sexual
partners are unnecessary for women, cue interview with woman who has written book about ‘sleeping
around’. AGAIN: ”a lot of people will want to pathologies you, they will want to say there’s
something wrong with you and that’s why you do what you do” – interviewees answer along lines of
‘yes but that’s crap’ - our clinical psychologist’s reply ‘ yes but your father did leave your
family when you were a child and you have trouble with commitment?’ Blah blah, trip to American
beauty pageant (“why do women do this to their children, as a mother I can’t understand”). Then, for
the first time, Dr Byron betrays a look of *empathy* - when she interviews the author of a book
claiming women prefer chocolate to sex – “a blessed relief”.

Back to Mr Fountain, a funny guy, Dr Byron has no sense of humour, it’s just not one of her
expressions. She says “I still wanted to know what Tim got out of his behaviour”. She really has
managed to learn nothing. What’s unsettling here is the portrayal of homosexuality as essentially
promiscuous and the not so concealed implication that gay men have issues with long term relationships. 

And now the crescendo – an interview with a real life paedophile! First we, the audience, is
prepared by being shown the very nervous Dr Byron. Then we are warned that this man is intelligent
and articulate - in case he tries to play with our minds. Next we are told he had a traumatic sexual
experience when he was four which led him to where he is today. Then we are allowed to be ‘shocked’
by him. “the most horrifying thing about (this man) is that he thinks what he says is logical and
normal”, “many of you may think that the only thing to do with a man like this is castration,
incarceration or worse”, actually he just needs help – basically like everyone else in the programme.

So this programme starts with homosexuality, moves to dogging, then women who have had multiple
partners and ends with a paedophile. Are these people normal? Well every one of them has apparently
had a traumatic experience in their past which the clinical psychologist is keen to point out. Her
conclusion is that they are damaged but they are not doing anything illegal so it’s okay – except
the paedophile who is just plain sick and the only reason he was included was to up the ratings. 

Bizarrely, her conclusion seems to have been filmed in the hall of her middle England house, her
silvery eye shadow catching the light. There are so many questions left unasked. Why did Dr Byron
choose these groups to focus on? This programme is clearly not meant to present an exhaustive take
on all sexual deviancy, so why focus so much time and attention on certain acts and then not go into
the issues deeply enough? Why only interview one gay man then run parallels between the history of
homosexuality and cottaging? And why does Dr Byron not address her own sexuality? She clearly
attempts to transmit a sexy screen presence – from cleavage shot to lip gloss – is this normal? Why?

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