Like any newscast, it has its own musical theme, a logo, and an anchor who delivers headlines in a suit and tie. But Notisex is a different kind of show. Its motto: Where sexuality is news. Its stories have included ”Why future generations will have smaller penises” and “the app that will help you track your sexual activity.”
Notisex is one of a slew of programs streaming 24 hours a day on a Mexican cable channel solely devoted to divulging information about sex. The channel has an English name: Sexuality, Health and Entertainment, or SHE.
Besides Notisex, SHE’s lineup includes shows such as “Sexuality ABCs”, which advises parents on how to have “the talk” with their children, and “The Human Brain: Sexual Impulses”, a neurological look into sex. There’s a program devoted to the latest scientific research in the field, and another to how to dress with the appropriate sexiness for different settings.
Sexual diversity, disability and sex, sex among the elderly, sexual compatibility based on astrological signs, sex in film, music, and literature–these are all topics covered during the daytime. At night, there are raunchy talk and game shows.
Just don’t expect to see any actual sex.
“When you say the word ‘sexuality’ people rapidly associate it with sex, and sex with pornography, and pornography with people having intercourse,” says Rubén Gómez, SHE’s chief executive. “We’re trying to give the word another meaning and context.”
It may seem unlikely for such a channel to have emerged in a place like Mexico, where the topic is still such a taboo. But the lack of information about sexuality—and, consequently, the demand for it—is precisely why SHE was publicly launched in early 2015. Gómez believes that people who have a better grasp of sexuality will form more open and healthier societies. If teenagers know how to use contraceptives, teenage pregnancy rates will go down; if homosexuality is better understood, there will be less homophobia; if couples have better sex, they’re more likely to stay together.
Nearly 20% of babies in Mexico are born to teenage mothers (link in Spanish), and 55% of those pregnancies were unwanted, according to researchers at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. That’s makes for the highest teenage fertility rate (pdf, pg. 3) among OECD nations. A series of surveys and interviews in 2011 that attempted to measure Mexicans’ “erotic intelligence” found that most had few satisfying sexual experiences, and few sexual experiences in general. Of those surveyed, 94% said it was necessary to be well informed about sex-related topics, yet more than half considered themselves informed only a little or not at all.
Other Latin American countries also get less than stellar (Spanish) marks in sexual education, making the region a tantalizing market for SHE. Despite its English name, the channel is all in Spanish. Its audience in Mexico has grown to a million viewers since its start, and is set to grow more after the channel was recently picked up by Total Play, a big cable operator in Mexico. Gómez says SHE is about to hit the airwaves in Chile and Costa Rica as well.
The biggest challenge is not generating an audience; people have been ready for this kind of programming for 15 years, he says. It’s convincing the media industry that sex information is as indispensable as the news. That Gómez calls a ”titanic” effort.