Swedish show gets flak from all sides for its sexual education segment aimed at young audiences
In the past week, the Swedish population found itself divided. The fight is not over foreign policy, the economy, or religious ideology; its focus is rather on a minute long segment aired on Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT: a children’s T.V. show for ages three to six.
The segment in question features charming dancing cartoon genitals singing about themselves, using language commonly used by children to refer to their private parts.
Unsurprisingly, this has galvanized both ends of the political spectrum. Strangely they both agree that the cartoon has failed its audience.
Conservatives have taken to SVT’s Facebook page to express their discontentment. They largely question the show’s choice to present such information to such young children, and its value as an educational tool. One commenter stated that they “apparently have no limits as to how early you want to make the kids sexually conscious.” Another asked, after a few expletives, if such a video is “supposed to be educational.” Other parents have started to outright ban the channel in their households for fear of their children seeing similar programming.
This position was satirically summarized by Caroline Ginner, project leader for the show, in a press comment on Jan. 14: “let’s keep the secret that children have vaginas and penises until they are 18. They probably won’t notice anything in their pants before then.”
Even among sex-positive parents, the segment has garnered much criticism. According to Program Director Peter Bargee in conversation with the Associated Press on Jan. 23, they drew “unexpected criticism … portraying the penis with a moustache and the vagina with long eyelashes reinforces stereotypes.”
Though it’s true that both genitals conform to their gender coding, evaluating the segment only on this one aspect sells it short. The program has done something no other show for children has: talk about genitals.
This aspect alone is a huge step forward, and not one that would necessarily be seen on air in North America. As seeming proof, the YouTube video posted by SVT was briefly flagged as containing mature themes and requiring the user state they were 18+. It should be reiterated that its content was originally created for an audience aged three to six.
Even if opinions have been split on the segment, SVT’s YouTube posting has been viewed almost five million times since its initial upload on Jan. 5. Given its popularity, the creators have planned to release an English edition in the next two to three weeks.
Hopefully this is the first in a long line of children’s broadcasting discussing the facts of life to children of all ages.