Anybody questioning the media’s role in gender construction and acceptable male and female behaviours should take a look at what the tabloids choose to publish. Now you might say tabloids are “trashy” papers, but the fact remains they have devout readers and a strong following. That’s why it’s more than a little disappointing when the likes of the Daily Mail and the Sun decide to run articles seemingly indicating the health benefits of oral sex.
The online sites of the newspapers ran the headlines Semen is “good for you” (the Sun) and Semen is “good for women’s health and helps fight depression” (the Daily Mail). It seems that since the articles were published on August 21st, the oral sex angle has been somewhat toned-down in the titles. What is important to note is that the news sites opted to take an obscure angle on a study carried out in the US ten years’ ago.
Researchers examined the responses of less than 300 anonymous college women on condom use and how they measured on a depression questionnaire. Effectively, it was discovered that women who had sex without condoms tended to be happier. However, the study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, acknowledged its many flaws. Once such loophole includes the possibility that unprotected sex is more common among women in relationships, which could indicate why they were less inclined to be depressed than their single peers.
The tabloids’ failings did not stop there. New research from Australia recently revealed fetal development is decreased by up to 15 per cent in mice from obese fathers. This suggests obesity among males leads to poorer development in babies, with the findings also indicating they have a reduced chance of impregnating their partners. A Google search will quickly reveal that no popular British news site ran this story. Nothing about how the modern man should cut down on his fast-food diet for the sake of his potential kids. Yet there are dozens of stories about how women must control their size, weight and work schedules to ensure their children get the best start to life.
Well there is no doubt sex sells and a headline purporting the benefits of fellatio is bound to draw readers’ interest. But there are side-effects, such as teenagers thinking it’s best to dump advice on rubber use. What is most important though is the question why we still accept the objectification of women on a daily basis?
Westerners look to eastern cultures to lay blame for the mistreatment of women. One of America’s “greatest” arguments for invading Iraq and Afghanistan has been the liberation of women (despite the systematic rape that is standard in warfare). Take a look at the clothing of girls on a Saturday night – can you really argue they are not treated as sexualised commodities? The only difference in some eastern cultures is that female sexuality is repressed. The one pervading likeness is that women’s sexuality is only ever illustrated for the benefit of men. The blame doesn’t lie with teenage girls and boys. But the rest of us are culpable.
Expanded analysis on the US study can be read from the NHS.