The Sex Clinic
Thursday 11 Apr, 10PM on C4
Cashing in on the success of other STI-based factual shows like Unsafe Sex in the City and Embarrassing Bodies, The Sex Clinic is a new 4-part series on Channel 4, chronicling the day to day events of a handful of sexual health clinics, and the lives of some of the patients.
Quite why close-ups of diseased genitalia is such a ratings-grabber is unclear. All I know is there’s been more shots of urethral swabs on telly in the past 12 months than there’s been in the previous 50 years of broadcasting history. Clearly someone’s watching these shows.
As an STD-TV aficionado myself, this is nothing like the similar shows that clog up BBC3 schedules – there’s not the same gross-out, comedy element. The Sex Clinic is full of dominatrixes, sex workers, escorts, people living with HIV – it’s much more serious, and occasionally, fairly gritty. There’s certainly none of the usual twentysomethings who talk about ‘forgetting’ to use condoms, with a nod and wink into the camera.
This naturally makes for a better TV show, but it’s not quite as grown up as it seems. The Sex Clinic could have been an interesting, straight-faced documentary about the sorts of problems like the clinic’s patients face. Unfortunately, if often strays into ‘ewwww, look at these weird people and their horrible diseases’ territory.
Thankfully, it’s not all Embarrassing Bodies-esque exploitation, there’s actually a lot of interesting stuff in here. A segment about an HIV-positive guy talking about the huge advances in treatment he’s experienced over the years is fascinating. Transgender escort Tomisha and her pre-op friend Damien are featured heavily, and they deserve a show all to themselves.
The look we get into Mistress Jezebel’s dungeon is… an education. It’s probably not best to watch this show with your parents, put it that way. No-one needs that awkwardness, especially when she starts talking about watersports, or when we see her piercing her gimp-suited client’s nipples. I guess you could say this is pretty groundbreaking stuff to be showing on TV, but it feels more like shocking for the sake of it.
I’m not really sure what to make of this show. It’s alternately immature and enlightening, fascinating and boring. If anything, it really sums up the difference between BBC3 and Channel 4. C4 may look more grown-up, but underneath, it’s basically the same thing.