News Opinion

Friday 21 October 2016

Radio review: It's always time for the sex o'clock news

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 10/10/2016 | 02:30

Therapist Mary O'Connor
Therapist Mary O'Connor

Was it inappropriate for The Ryan Tubridy Show to feature a discussion about tantric sex so early last Tuesday morning?

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Some listeners, worried that there may have been children around, certainly thought so. But if there are children listening at 9.30am, then they might also be listening at 11am, which would rule out the interview with Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex - Navigating The Complicated New Landscape, on Tuesday's Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk as well.

And if children are still listening after 3pm, that would further rule out the regular feature with Sunday Independent columnist and sex therapist Mary O'Conor on The Ray D'Arcy Show, which this week discussed sex for older people following widowhood or separation.

Rather than impose a blanket fatwa against talking about sex before some arbitrary watershed, it would be better to concentrate on the nature of those discussions. No one seems to object when rape or sexual abuse come up during topical news shows, which are surely far more traumatic for children to overhear.

At least Ryan's guest on Wednesday, tantric sex expert Dawn Cartwright, was discussing sex in the context of pleasure and fulfilment rather than coercion and harm, which is far more healthy.

As Orenstein told Pat on Tuesday, and BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour on Wednesday, so much discussion of sex revolves around risk and danger that it skews young women's experience, meaning they may be making huge ground educationally and career-wise but are still passive and/or used in their own sex lives.

The real problem with The Ryan Tubridy Show is not some intermittent sexual content, but its lack of an identity. Sometimes the host may tackle a subject on the news, or interview the author of a topical book; other mornings, listeners find themselves subjected to, sorry to say it, insipid chats with women who collect celebrity autographs (Wednesday) or men who collect pop memorabilia (Monday), which are like the talk radio equivalent of muzak. Tubridy could do so much better.

Another sexual pioneer - Erica Jong, author of the famous Fear Of Flying - featured in a fascinating interview on RTE Radio 1's Book Show; though it was rather disappointing to hear such a successful, ground-breaking woman still moaning about the bad reviews she received nearly 40 years ago. "The reason men review women's books that way," she said, "is they're threatened… by a sexual woman, they're threatened by a woman who's really a good writer." Or, alternatively, maybe they just didn't like your book?

Finally to a terrific, sparky discussion on Tuesday's Late Debate, during which Richard Boyd Barrett TD decried the "gratuitous use of labels." He meant ones levelled against the Left, such as "Trostskyite", but no doubt he won't mind taking a lead by banning lazy phrases like "neo liberal" and "right wing conservative" too. You know, just to be fair?

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