Sep 132010
 

A lot of you have heard of, read about or even seen the TLC mini-series called “Strange Sex”. I’ve come across a number of articles about this show in the sex-blogger/sex-positive community, from small bloggers to major sites. From what I gather after reading these articles/posts…many people haven’t even really watched the show. Their biggest bitch is the title of “Strange Sex”. I read one entry on a blog whose focus is polyamory….they praised the episode about poly but wrote off every other portion they supposedly watched as “a freak show”. Not that TLC is going for that angle, but this blogger thinks they achieved it, they truly believe the rest of it is “strange/freakish”. Hypocritical, much?

I’ll admit, combining that title with the intro….blood-red background, black/white flashing letters and this very ominous-sounding almost Twilight-zone music….it feels like TLC is preparing us for some circus freak sideshow. They’re creating drama and using that to drag in viewers. The half-hour shows always feature two different people and issues with the more “strange” of the two being shown first of course.

But the thing is, is that there’s a lot of people being shown on this series that I would never put in a box labeled “strange sex”. Hell a good number of the features are about a sexual-related disorder. Just because these people have a medical disorder, that makes them “strange”? That makes their sex “strange”?? No. It feels like TLC is trying to rip off the long-standing HBO series called “Real Sex”. While HBO featured a LOT of non-normative sex practices, they never tried the circus-side-show PR tactic like TLC.

Here’s the thing: Anybody who reads sex blogs, sex columns, is part of the sex-positive community…is going to be offended by the title of this show. Why? Because we’re more sexually open. More accepting of kinks, fetishes, various genders, etc. But guess what – we’re not the majority here, folks. For every one of “us” there are 9 other people who are very conservative and straight-laced. I’m reluctant to use the term “Vanilla” because not all people who eschew anything BDSM-related are inherently closed-minded, conservative, unaccepting judgmental bible-thumpers. These 9 other people are going to be offended or squicked or point-and-laugh-at-the-freaks such as balloon fetishists, the polyamorous, sex addicts, or people who can think themselves to orgasm.

So yeah, while I personally find the title offensive, and their content to be really misleading…..I know that their target audience gets out of it exactly what TLC is aiming for. It doesn’t mean I like the show, though.

Warning: Show spoilers ahead


Ep 1: This episode focuses on both “Cougars” and “Cubs”. They feature Hattie first because I suppose that she would garner the most appalled gasps. Why? She’s 73. Dressing like she’s 23, chasing after guys in their 20′s and 30′s. And she gets em, too! The second half interviews the Cubs, the men who pursue only older women. It’s less controversial.

Ep 2: The majority focuses on Barbara Carrellas who, in the 80′s, developed a way to orgasm using what seems to be a sort of meditation. Focusing on energy and breathing and such she can, and can teach others to, have an intense full-body (as opposed to genital-centric) orgasm. I will admit that during the segment where we watch a teaching session, some of the class participants seem to be acting it up for the cameras. Swear to god it looks like one guy is possessed, straight out of Poltergeist or something. But hey people experience orgasm in different ways. The second part talks about a couple dealing with a husband’s sexual dysfunction and how he overcomes it with a therapist. It’s a condition called “Sexual Anorexia“.  This second couple are not freaks, this is not “strange sex”! This is a look at a sexual dysfunction, nothing more. I think it’s great to showcase the less common sexual dysfunctions but to showcase it under a television show title “Strange Sex”? Misfire.

Ep 3: The “strange” portion is about polyamory. Specifically it focuses on Jaiya, a sexologist, educator and more who is affiliated with Liberator and EdenFantasys to name a few. Of course the show doesn’t talk about any of THAT. The story is about how her polyamorous relationship developed – she has two male partners and a baby with the second partner. They all share a house. The second male partner also has another female partner who doesn’t live with them. Is polyamory really that strange to the general population? I know it is to christian or other religious sects that view marriage as sacred and between one man and one woman. The second part of the show talks about a woman who, through natural childbirth, experienced an orgasm as her baby was delivered and they interview her about that and about how she would like to have another “orgasmic birth”. How is this strange sex? It’s not even about sex!

Ep 4: The main portion of this episode focuses on a former rock n roll band member turned comedian who battled sex addiction. Honestly, big whoop. I’d wager that half the male members of music bands in the 70′s and 80′s could be labeled a “sex addict”. The “dysfunction” portion leads us to believe, in the teaser bits, that it is about a woman who ejaculates/”gushes” during sex and how her redneck husband hates it. No. It’s actually about a condition called XXX and she truly does urinate during intercourse. What also bothered me about this segment was this one they actually had the couple give their full name, the city and state they live in, and at the end showed their children’s faces. Fail. So much fail.

Ep 5:  This episode gets into fetish territory that is perceived by many as “strange”……a balloon fetishist. Like many fetishists, the guy sexualizes an object – specifically, balloons. Blowing them up, popping them, etc. Hey, it’s not my thing. I couldn’t participate in it. But it makes him happy……so can I really judge? The “dysfunction” portion interviews a guy who, sadly, doesn’t feel his orgasms. The sex in and of itself, that he feels. But the moment of orgasm? Nada. Zilch. This poor guy, and his wife, are trying in vain to find a solution, a cure.  Apparently it’s called Anhedonia/PDOD, and although rare, it’s being worked on.

Ep 6: I have to be honest….watching these episodes is getting to be painful. Not so much because of the content but because of the production. The interviews are interspersed with staged walks in a park or walks on a beach or whatnot, it depends on where the person lives. This episode is some very staged and fake-looking public kissing between the couple. Anyways. The first portion is about female ejaculation. In the intro they show the woman saying “I thought I peed on him!” and they go on to clinically but non-judgmentally talk about female ejaculation, how it’s not at all like urine and many more facts. They talk about the differences between clitoral and g-spot orgasms, and stress how normal female ejaculation is and how it needs to be accepted and rejoiced about by all involved. It’s nice, in that I’m sure a lot of people will learn from this but the show itself is hard to watch. Although the conclusion to their section is a little humorous I think it is just to play up the “strange” part: “Chris and Jeff are still going strong. They have just bought some rubber sheets.” The “dysfunction” portion is about an adorable, young military couple. The woman, now a stay at home mom, has always had excruciation pain during sex. And yes, it comes out that she was sexually abused as a kid but she didn’t want to discuss it on camera. She talks about how bad the pain of sex was, and how it got 10 times worse after child birth. God you just feel so bad for this woman, to have had to endure this pain – and not just the physical pain but the mental, the emotional, the strain on her marriage, the worrying on her part if he’ll have an affair….it’s heartbreaking. But she finds a doctor who says the condition is Vulvodynia. Sadly, they don’t really know the cause and so there’s no cure.


Readers, what do you think? Is this stuff strange? If you asked your non-sex-blogger friends about these topics, do you think they would agree that it’s mostly strange and freakish stuff?

  • Boo on TLC

    I have watched this show several times, agree with you 100%. I fail to see how the title “Strange Sex” accurately describes the content. I guess this is the title TLC decided on to bring in the viewers. Shame on TLC!!!

  • http://www.kinkylibrarian.net Nadia West

    I don’t think us sex blogger types are strange, I think we are progressive. All these sexual things have gone on for the longest time (some longer than others – I’m not sure how recently latex balloons were invented) but yes, I know a lot of average people who would watch this show as if it’s a circus freak show. This is why we must continue to write about sex and expand people’s minds.

  • http://www.dustbunnyinthewind.com nitebyrd

    None of these shows sound “strange”. The name is just a hook to get viewers, I think. There is hope that maybe people who tune in for the bizarre with watch, learn and become more aware.

    They probably should call it Science Sex!

  • J

    Those don’t sound strange to me, though strange is a matter of perspective. As nitebyrd said, it’s a way to get more people to watch. Though if those are the things that TLC labels as strange then it should be pretty easy to figure out what kind of people the producers are.

  • http://dangerousliaisons-aurore.blogspot.com/ Aurore

    Nothing you mentioned is strange except for the way TLC has treated all of these topics. It’s shameful really and it sadly just perpetuates and shames people with regards to sex. Nadia’s right, we need to keep writing in order to help break down these stigmas and misconceptions around sex and sexuality. The more we talk about it and encourage dialogue hopefully the more accepted these things will become. Like you said – who are we to judge what people do?

  • Emme0704

    I quit watching TLC after I got fed up with the overproduction and complete misinformation of A Baby Story – so I had no idea this show even existed. Based on the rest of the TLCs programming, it isn’t much of a surprise the show is also overproduced and shady info.

    The title of this post should be, “I watched it, so you don’t have to!” lol

  • hubman

    If I’m not offended, does that mean I’m not sex positive? ;-)

    Seriously, it’s just marketing by TLC, they’re using a ‘titillating’ title to draw in viewers.

    I think I asked this of Diva (or was it Urban Gypsy?) when she wrote about this show- what would you name the show instead?

  • wushuguan

    Absolutely, I think the title draws everyone in, I associate strange sex when people have sex with their car, yes believe me this happens.

    How do you explain getting your love muscle stuck in an exhaust pipe?!

  • http://feministswithfsd.wordpress.com K__

    Thank you. I’m someone with a sexual dysfunction & it’s really alienating to be labled “Strange” for it. Oh joy, more stigma and misunderstanding. It’s sensationalism. That doesn’t help increase understanding!