Sunday, 20 March 2011

Using soaps for discussions - Waterloo Road

Last year as part of the Sex: Worth Talking About campaign, Brook worked with the Department of Health on developing ideas for soap writers to contribute to a positive culture about sex.

And over the last year we have seen many examples of great opportunities for discussion with young people as a result of story lines in a number of soaps such as Christian and Syed in Eastenders, Chesney and Katy, and Sian and Sophie in Coronation Street.

Last week EastEnders featured sexual violence, and similarly today I watched Waterloo Road which has a story line involving Bex and Jess, two sisters, that many young people will already be talking about.

Yesterday at the Brook clinical leads conference, Dr Maddy Coy from London Metropolitan University gave an excellent presentation about sexual violence and exploitation. She told us the evidence from young people is clear - discussion on consent, exploitation and sexual violence is too often absent from sex and relationships education.

So the challenge is in our hands - we all want to reduce the levels of exploitation, coercion and sexual violence so what are we going to do about it? At Brook in Blackburn they have a programme called 'Telling Everyone About Sexual Exploitation', and the clue is in the title - at its most simple we need to talk with everyone about it - young people and indeed adults - so that everyone is aware of the issues; and as parents and professionals we must be able to have a genuine dialogue with young people and be able to recognise the signs.

And this soap coverage of the issues gives us a good trigger for discussing an issue that is still taboo. It was also good to see Waterloo Road with two gay young lads who are fairly comfortable with their sexuality. About a decade ago I wrote a book for Working with Men called Young Gay Men Talking. In the research the young men said they just wanted some everyday story lines in soaps which were not extreme and showed gay young people being happy. This story line does just that.

From sexual exploitation, to gay sexuality, to trust and pregnancy and early fatherhood - in just one episode, Waterloo Road covered a whole multitude of issues. If I was doing face to face work with young people, Waterloo Road is a programme, alongside many others that I would be 'taping' and using clips of.

Here is the link to Barnardos briefing on sexual exploitation


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