Susan Ryder’s been watching TV . . .
It started in the latter half of the last decade. Sex – the word, not the activity – in US sit-coms.
Did you have sex last night? I haven’t had sex for two whole days! Are they having sex?! God, the sex was GREAT! I can’t believe I’m having sex! I really, really want to have sex!
On and on it went as if the sit-coms had just hit puberty, along with the studio audiences who roared with laughter on cue every time.
It was painful. I was hoping they’d all get a collective STD and go away to scratch, but no such luck. There was mileage in it and they were milking it for all it was worth. It was almost as if the writers sat around the table each week and said “So how many times can we work it into the dialogue this time?”
I think it hit its nadir in an episode of Friends where a woman in childbirth screamed “Oh My God! There are babies coming out of my vagina!!” The studio audience – true to form – were beside themselves. I remained unimpressed. Where the hell were they supposed to come from, her bloody ears? Now, that would have been something …
But quite aside from the sheer stupidity of the writing, what really disgusted me was the ill judgement from TV2 in promoting the upcoming episode later that evening, using that particular clip during the children’s programmes at 4pm. More than anything, it spoke volumes of the clowns at TV2.
But then we are talking about the organisation that brings us Fear Factor, Footballers’ Wives and – it’s a big call, I know – arguably the most stupid show ever created, The Bachelor. I watched an episode once out of sheer curiosity, thinking that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the promotional trailers suggested. I was categorically wrong. If there was ever a time to experiment with recreational drugs in order to alter reality, that was it.
Look, I’m sure most of us have our secret, private trash and that’s fine. I fully admit to watching Coronation Street and have done for ages. At nearly 50 years old it’s a British institution, but a soap opera nonetheless. And even though there are quality programmes available on free-to-air television, there is definitely a lot of junk created for shock value in an increasingly shock-proof society. Sadly, it’s not limited to entertainment programming.
Last week, TVNZ screened a British documentary from the Real Life series, “The Perfect Vagina.” Based on the premise that you can’t comment on what you don’t watch, I tuned in. As it transpired, it made for fascinating, albeit alarming viewing.
Over the course of two years, a 35 year old journalist and mother of two young girls researched the increasing numbers of British women seeking cosmetic surgery on their genitalia, many of whom are only in their teens and early 20’s. She interviewed several women and the doctors who performed their surgery.
It was graphic, leaving nothing to the imagination. A 21 year old reckoned that she’d been publicly teased by her sister and a group of young guys in a pub as to the “state” of her genitalia. The resultant humiliation led her to the drastic resort of surgery, in spite of her best friend’s warnings. I was with the journo and girlfriend: ditch the cow of a sister and find a better group of guys to hang out with. However, the young woman went ahead with the procedure at a cost of more than three thousand pounds. Several months of intense post-operative pain later, she was pleased with the final result. Her friend still couldn’t see what was so good about “having your body cut into.” Needless to say, the issue is now up for discussion with regard to National Health funding. Did someone mention floodgates?
It got sillier. A beauty therapist put the fad down to the consequences of newly-bared skin due to the rise in popularity of the Brazilian wax, occurring she said, as a result of an episode of Sex and the City ten years ago. “You can date the increase from right after that,” she said. I did say it got sillier.
The journalist consulted a group of her male friends in their 30s. They were horrified to learn that women would go to such measures to, as one said, “change something that you can’t even see! And why would they put up with partners who were so shallow?!” Why, indeed.
The documentary reported growing numbers of UK-based Islamic women insisting upon hymen-restoration procedures prior to being married. The journalist went along to shoot pool with a group of young British-raised Islamic men, all of whom were adamant that their eventual wives would have to be virgins. After being questioned as to their own sexual status, they openly admitted to sleeping around. They scoffed at the notion of any double standard, saying that it was “different for women.”
The nonsense wasn’t limited to these young men. The journalist asked a couple of middle-aged British tradesmen painting her home as to their opinion. One was very vocal. He definitely wanted a woman “who looked tidy down there, with nothing hanging out.” Given his own grossly hirsute, overweight, rapidly-aging status, he’d be bloody lucky to come within a mile of one, I thought. Tosser.
I nearly switched the channel when we reached the male artist who was so struck by “the beauty” of female genitalia, he has made a wall of them. Yes, you read that correctly. He has persuaded numerous women to bare all so he can personally make a clay mould of each, er, one, and then add it to his collection. Is that art or perversion? I’ll leave it up to you.
There is an organisation of brave Iranian and Kurdish women trying to stem the tide of Islamic women in the UK undergoing these procedures for marital reasons. The journalist interviewed a group of unmarried Islamic women, who all admitted to having lost their virginity. “What would you do if your husband-to-be insisted upon your virginity being intact?” asked the journalist. “Get a better husband!” said one defiant young woman to cries of agreement from her girlfriends. Well said, that girl.
The doctor who performed the surgery in the case of the 21 year old admitted to performing 10 to 15 similar procedures every month. When asked if he did not think it absurd for grown women to have surgery to attain the (genital) appearance of a 12 year-old, or just plain wrong to perform this type of surgery on teenagers, he stated that psychologically, all his patients felt better for the procedure. And this was verified by the women interviewed.
Enter the Earth Mothers, bless their organically-grown cotton socks. Centres exist, complete with crystals, beads and herbal teas, where small group sessions are held for women to “reconnect with their genitalia.” This involves sitting cross-legged in a circle. When the time is right, you’re presented with a mirror and off you go, just you and your yoni; (‘yoni’ being the Hindu term for the female genitalia, regarded as a divine symbol of sexual pleasure and matrix of generation). Yonis have a history, Earth Mother Superior said. They have likes and dislikes.
At that point I felt a bit disconcerted. I certainly wouldn’t want to revisit my yoni’s history, thanks all the same. Some things are best left in the past. Likes and dislikes, though, were dead easy. Mine likes chocolate cake, The West Wing and Harry Potter. It absolutely loathes socialism, Sue Bradford and mince & cheese pies. Yoni sorted.
I liked the journalist’s style. She was as troubled as I was with this latest western female obsession to radically change a body part that remains hidden from many, if not nearly all, of whom we encounter. The odd absurdity aside, the shock-documentary was serious in the main, raising serious issues. A silly sit-com, this was not.
It’s just all so public, though. And I still can’t decide whether that sits well with me or not. Sometimes there’s a very fine line between a serious adult topic and juvenile titillation.
* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *
UPDATE: Bet Sus didn’t know this: Apparently you and I and every other taxpayer has generously provided corporate welfare of $200,000 to an American production crew to film the dating show The Bachelor in New Zealand earlier this year. Nice of us, huh. News over at Motella.