Funography Watch. Programme makers fight back!September 23, 2007
A few days ago, I linked to a clip from a BBC program entitled The
Truth About Food in which (not to beat about the bush)
women drank sperm from test tubes and then described the taste. I
didn’t really know what to say about it, because I was so stunned, and
the implications seemed so enormous. To my mind,
if you can show women drinking sperm from test tubes, and pass it off
as quite a light hearted, ‘educational’ experiment, then British
television has turned into something very ugly indeed. Let me put it this way, if anything
worse is around the corner, I don’t want to turn the corner.
I’ve sent the clip to quite a few people (including a BBC executive)
and everyone has expressed utter disgust and amazement that the thing
managed to get broadcast. I was interested to see what would happen if
I actually complained, so I did.
I went to the BBC site and asked whether there had been a change in guidelines regarding sperm-eating on the BBC. Then I ticked the box that said I required a response.
Here it is, with my notes.
Dear Mr Linehan
Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘The Truth about Food’. I note that you found certain footage to be offensive.
Yes, the sperm-eating. (They can show it on television, but they can’t bring themselves to write it down.)
It has to be noted that all programmes must pass our stringent editorial guidelines, so none of our rules were broken in regards to the footage itself.
Any set of guidelines that allows sperm-eating in any form cannot be described as ‘stringent’. Perhaps the truth is that the guidelines haven’t quite caught up with the cynicism of some producers. Perhaps there needs to be a review of these “stringent” guidelines in the light
of the fact that demented JG Ballard characters are now making television programmes?
A spokesperson for the production team has issued the following response:
‘We apologise if this story offended you. It formed part of a wide investigation by BBC Science into the way food affects all aspects of sex and sexuality – for post-watershed transmission only. The story wascarefully set-up at the beginning of the programme, giving viewers the option not to watch if they felt they were likely to be offended.
The warning before programmes like this one is the funography badge of honour, and it appears before so many shows that it has become meaningless. A warning can mean you’re about to watch something edgy and brilliant (like ‘The Sopranos’) or the most moronic and grim thing
you’ve ever seen, like this. A punch in the face is always a punch in the face, no matter what kind of notice you receive before you get it. Maybe the warning on these types of shows could in future read “This programme was made by cynical pricks .”
We decided to include the piece during the research phase of the project when we discovered a commonly held belief that what men eat can affect the taste of their semen. Some people claim (for example, see reference 1) that pineapple and parsley improve the taste, while meat, dairy produce and asparagus do the opposite.
Ahhhh, forgive me, if I had known the idea had come about during the exalted “research phase” …How, pray, was this research conducted? I know you didn’t use Google because if you had written in ‘sperm-eating’, you wouldn’t have stopped masturbating long enough to make the show.
“Research phase”. Puh-leese. You and I know that the research phase involved you and the monkeys you made the show with sitting around in the office trying to make each other laugh (an easy gig, if ever there was one).
If you think I’m being harsh here, consider for a moment what this section of the letter is doing. They just said they were sorry if I was offended, and now they’re providing me with lots of loving detail on sperm-eating. Basically, they’re making fun of me for having the temerity to write, and the BBC are colluding with them by forwarding the letter. Way to “restore trust“, guys!
This idea seemed like a good place to start an investigation. If we could find evidence that this is true, it would provide an unusual and memorable illustration of the fact that ‘you are what you eat’.
Here, they’re just trying to break my contempt-o-meter.
It is known that molecules associated with food flavour do pass into bodily fluids. Several studies into children’s flavour preferences, for example, confirm that
complex food molecules pass directly from mother to foetus. In one study, children whose mothers ate garlic during pregnancy were far more likely to take to garlic as they grew up (e.g. Schaal2, 2000). The same happens for children whose mothers eat foods with strong flavours when breastfeeding (e.g. Mennella3, 2001).
Furthermore, experiments into the effects of vitamin E and the mineral selenium supplements on semen quality (e.g. Vezina4, 1996) on sperm motility found that levels of these micronutrients in semen increased when supplements were taken.
Given the above it seems reasonable to investigate the possibility that flavour-carrying molecules can make it into semen.
Let me summarise the above…”Breast-milk contains food molecules that
affect their children’s eating habits. So we thought we’d show you some
women eating sperm.”
Incidentally, there are several products available that are designed to improve the
flavour of semen. One of them is even the subject of a US patent. That product’s manufacturers claim 98.5 per cent customer satisfaction. This product has been featured previously on television.
Wow. Again, they’re just making fun of me here. “That product’s
manufacturers claim 98.5 per cent customer satisfaction.” Tee hee!
(Can you believe this?)
1. One of many websites dedicated to this subject:
2. Schaal, B, Marlier, L. and Soussigan, R. (2000) Human Foetuses Learn
Odours from their Pregnant Mother?s Diet (Chem Senses) 25:729-737, 2000.
3. Mennella, J. A., Jagnow, C. P., Beauchamp, G. K. (2001) Prenatal and
Postnatal Flavour Learning by Human Infants (Paediatrics) Vol. 107. No.
4. Vezina D, Mauffette F, Roberts KD, Bleau G. (1996)
Selenium-vitamin E supplementation in infertile men. Effects on semen
parameters and micronutrient levels and distribution (Biological trace
What are these meant to prove? Nothing. It’s just more fun at my expense. It does accidentally prove that the contempt they feel for the viewer is not simply a vague, general contempt, but one that can be refined and tailored for individuals.
Public service broadcasting that hates the public. Haven’t you heard? It’s the new thing!