BBC3’s Unsafe Sex in the City: Episode One Review – it’s enough to make you celibate!

by Matt D

There is one point during BBC3’s new documentary Unsafe Sex in the City when a young nurse named Lauren tells us that some of the cases she deals with at the Manchester Sexual Health Clinic are enough to make her celibate. I had a similar feeling when watching this documentary which aims to show young people what will happen if they don’t use protection while having sex and in some cases the results are very serious.

Right from the start Unsafe Sex in the City demonstrates how busy the clinic has become in certain years as a queue starts to form before they open while later the practice manager shows us that they have so many patients on record that the files have had to be stored in the majority of the rooms. It also focuses on certain characters some that are sure they have STIs while others indulge in so much unprotected sex that they get themselves checked out on a regular basis.

One of these characters is Kervin who cheated on his girlfriend while drunk and had one night stand without, to use his friend’s lovely phrase, ‘strapping up.’ Kervin isn’t a stranger to STIs as in the past he’s had both chlamydia and genital warts however the pus dripping from his genitalia would indicate that he has gonorrhoea. Fiona, one of the clinic’s staff members, says she loves a dripping Willy as it’s almost always gonorrhoea whereas if a patient came in with just a spot it would take ages to diagnose.

Later in the day Kervin is diagnosed with gonorrhoea and has to have a painful injection in his posterior in order to cure him of the infection. Possibly more uncomfortable than the injection was Kervin’s phone call to the one night stand, who can barely remember him, to inform her that she needs to get herself checked out. Contracting the STI also meant revealing all to his girlfriend who consequently split up with him and to be honest I don’t blame her as he doesn’t seem to be the most honest of chaps. His conversation with friend Joe also revealed that neither of them particularly liked wearing condoms, as they don’t feel the sensation; however they summarise that for now it’s the only option to counteract the STIS.

Joe’s story is also documented as he often doesn’t use protection claiming that if he does put on a condom his female partners usually remove it before the deed is done. Joe likes to think of himself as a bit of a lothario as he shows us the blog he’s written, which includes a post about how to get any girl to sleep with you in under five hours. We then follow Joe on a night out where he uses some of his ‘charm’ to try it on with the ladies but none of them seem to be buying his cheap lines and so-called cheeky smile. Even during his test at the clinic Joe tries it on with Lauren, who laughs off his efforts and so she should especially as she suspects he has an STI. After hearing from Joe about his conquests I was surprised that his tests came back negative however you get the impression that he’ll have unprotected sex again and next time he won’t be so lucky. With Joe in the clear for now I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for Kerwin who had unprotected sex once and ended up with an STI while for now his friend who often doesn’t use protection is clean.

The youngest character in this first episode was 17 year old Courtney who lost her virginity aged 12 and since then has slept with nearly forty different men. Courtney freely admits that most of these sexual encounters were with men who didn’t wear a condom and she said this didn’t bother her. Courtney’s best friend Danielle tries to warn her as best she can about the dangers of unprotected sex but she just doesn’t listen instead telling her stories of having sex both on the bus and in the cinema. Even Courtney’s mum can’t seem to get through to her as she is disgusted that her daughter often goes to the houses of men she’s just met and doesn’t realise how dangerous this actually is. It seems the reason Courtney doesn’t insist that her partners wear condoms is so that she doesn’t get a reputation as a girl who insists that men wear protection before they can get it on however my question was wouldn’t she get a reputation as being a bit of a tart if she kept doing what she was doing? As Courtney prepares for a holiday with Danielle she gets her results from the clinic and I have to say I was surprised that they came back negative however, like with Joe, I don’t think it will be the last time that Courtney will journey to the clinic.

It was clear throughout Unsafe Sex in the City that the staff at the clinic does a brilliant job and employ a certain amount of humour in order to get through some of the more uncomfortable tasks they have to perform. We are provided with several anecdotes throughout the programme, mostly from Alison, who reveals that when she first started she performed a test on a patient then realised she still had his penis in her hand not knowing what to do before eventually patting and placing it where it was before. Alison was first on hand with some of my favourite quotes of the episode namely when she tells us that ‘I’ve seen thousands of penises in my time’. Alison later goes on the road with Pam as they take a trip to the Gay and Lesbian Foundation to carry out 30 minute HIV tests on those in the gay community who have had unprotected sex. This is where we meet Tim an amiable Welsh escort who tells us of one of his clients who likes to be kicked in the genitals while pleasuring himself and today Tim is having the test as he needs to be infection-free to carry on with his job. Unfortunately, in the most heart-breaking scene of the episode, Alison has to break the devastating news that the test was positive and Tim does indeed have HIV. Thankfully though this tale had a happy ending as Tim was one of the very rare cases in which the test got it wrong and Tim’s blood sample proved that he didn’t have HIV.

Unsafe Sex in the City was a very informative documentary that I believe should be aired in high schools as part of sex education classes as it really demonstrates the realities of unprotected sex. I would certainly show them Kervin’s story as both the examination and subsequent injection look so painful that it would make most people think twice about not using protection. The programme also looks at the probing and somewhat embarrassing questions that are asked at the clinic which some people are really coy about answering. I did like the fact that there was some humour employed throughout the documentary and I have to say I did warm to all of the staff who does a sterling job in what must be an uncomfortable environment at times. Aside from the staff members I can’t say I enjoyed a lot of Unsafe Sex in the City as it made me wince and squirm a lot of the time while at one point I even vocalised my disgust. I’m also unsure how this is going to spread over another three episodes as I think this instalment covered all bases so it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Ultimately though this programme is carrying out an invaluable service namely to demonstrate what can happen if you don’t use all the protection that is available to you and to that end I do feel that certain parts of it should be shown to youngsters as part of their sexual education.

Did you watch Unsafe Sex in the City? Did it make you wince and squirm as much as it did me? Leave Your Comments Below.