The Sex Researchers Review: Porn Timewatch

THE SEX RESEARCHERS: Thursday 16th June, C4, 10pm

Following its launch in the 80’s, Channel 4 quickly become synonymous with three things: innovative programming, Countdown and sex. Viewers, and by these I mean schoolboys and nerdy men who should know better, would turn the TV sound down and tune in to late-night programming delights. Eurotrash anyone? Then Channel Five came along and took this sexual crown, with it’s own eclectic mix of porn ‘documentaries’.

Watching Channel 4’s new programme The Sex Researchers returned me to these pubescent days somewhat, with plenty of nostalgic memories flooding back thanks to the unnecessarily cheesy jazz music and more nipples than a page 3 convention. Whichever intern at Channel 4 was put in charge of selecting footage for this programme deserves a comedy award, with viewers being subjected to retro 1970’s porn, abound with perms-a-plenty and enough Ron Jeremy style moustaches to give me nightmares for the foreseeable future.

Yet despite this, the programme was very interesting, and with the first episode focussing on the history of the search for the female orgasm, it all felt a bit like an all erotic version of Timewatch complete with plenty of reconstructions.

Starting off in Greek mythology, the narrator explains how a ‘researcher’ called Tiresias spent seven years dressed up as a woman in a bid to understand the fairer sex better. On his travels, he somehow discovered that women enjoyed sex better than men, claims which led to the authorities blinding him.. (A threat that will sound familiar to many lonely young men..)

The programme then fast forwarded to the prudish Victorian ages, where doctors logically decided that sexually active females in society were obviously mentally deranged, for which a novel ‘cure’ was devised – masturbation. Understandably, the remedy became so popular among sex-starved wives that overworked GPs started to develop what can only be described in today’s terms as ‘tennis elbow’. Luckily, lateral thinking Victorian inventors were soon on the case and created what perhaps is now the most successful battery operated device in history, second only to the Walkman: the vibrator.

Take-up of this new ‘medical cure’ was so popular that vibrators were soon mainstream items in society, with adverts for the products becoming a common sight in publications like The Home Needlework Journal, which once promoted a stimulation device to could attach to any light socket, so women would never again be caught short.

Once people became to come to their senses and realise that female sexual desire had nothing to do with madness, the boffins moved in. Over the course of their career, sexual science pioneers William Masters and his secretary Virginia Johnson witnessed more than 10,000 female orgasms in a bid to understand them, and at one point even recruited a load of womanless nerds, setting them up with random sexual partners to further understand impotence.

These days, things are a bit less ‘hands on’ but the scientists are just as mad, with one researcher strutting around followed by her partner, a dog in a lab coat. To test theories, people are now roped in from the street to have probes inserted or wires attached to their genetalia, before being shown nature scenes, monkeys having sex, and gay and heterosexual videos. Their progressive sexual excitement is measured by a boffin in another room, with the findings so far showing that whereas heterosexual men were just turned on my the lesbian scenes, most women are turned on by all types of sex regardless of gender or animal. Quite what this discovery means for the future of study in this field I’m not sure, but fancy dress shops might want to watch for a rush on gorilla costumes.

Lastly, one other thing is made clear by the programme – the jury is still out of the G spot. Don’t us fellas know it.

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