Interview with Jessica, 20-21, British, middle class, no religion. Women, Risk and AIDS Project, London, 1990. Anonymised version including field notes. (Ref: LSFS34)
Anonymised transcript of an interview with Jessica, who is studying Classics at university. The sex education at her Church of England all girls' school was very basic and biological, though she learnt a lot informally from her brother, her father, her friends and reading magazines. AIDS education came from the media. Jessica has had several sexual relationships. Some of these were more pleasant than others, some were unwanted, and she talks about what both love and sex mean to her. She also talks about pleasure, oral sex, masturbation and gender. Jessica has used condoms, the sponge and the pill, but the pill didn't seem to agree with her. There are lots of different careers that Jessica would like to pursue in the future and she would be happy to get married and have children at some point too.
Reanimating Data Project
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Q: ... start with kind of where you are at the moment, 'cos you're doing a course at
[UNIVERSITY], and - and living in digs, is that?
A: It's actually a flat, it's - yeah, I suppose it's digs, yeah.
Q: With a ...
A: That's right, yeah.
Q: And how long have you been there?
A: About three months, since November.
Q: And how far are you through your course?
A: Halfway through the second year.
Q: Right, so you finish like after next year.
A: That's right, yeah.
Q: And that's - what subjects?
A: Latin with Greek.
Q: What are you gonna do with that?
A: I'm still not absolutely sure. I'm thinking of doing and MA in linguistics and
perhaps teaching English as a foreign language. I'm tempted by archaeology, but I
think it's very, very, hard to get into.
Q: What, in general or A: Yes, I think so. Yeah, I think you have to be very well-qualified and very
enthusiastic, yeah. Otherwise I'm not quite sure at the moment.
Q: And where did you come from before that? Were you always in London?
A: Oh, no, no. I was in a school in [SOUTHERN ENGLAND], which was about ten
miles from my home.
Q: What was that like, was that a - well, it's on here but...
A: It was - yes, it was an all-girls' school Q: - it was an all-girls' school A: Day school. Fairly religious, quite strict; they didn't let you get away with an awful
lot. It was okay but - quite good.
Q: But you got a lot of qualifications.
A: Yeah, yeah... managed that, yeah.
Q: Was that because they worked you very hard or because kind of everyone
worked for that sort of level?
A: Yeah, they expected everyone to - to get good O-levels and fairly good A-levels,
it was a sort of standard thing, yeah.
Q: And on the questionnaire where - you probably saw, it asked about sex
education A: Uh huh.
Q: What was A: ... It was really, really, bad. We got told about frogs and sticklebacks, and then we
learnt about how the baby grows in the womb, and we never actually sort of got got down to the bare facts at all.
Q: What, of how the baby got to the A: Yeah, right.
Q: And what did they do that in, was it a particular lesson?
A: Oh, that was biology, yeah.
Q: So you didn't have anything that...
A: At junior school we had a bit - the thing is, they - my junior school for the last
three years was a boys' school -
Q: That's right, I was gonna ask you that.
A: Yeah, that was round the stage - my dad was a [EDUCATIONAL ROLE], so in
the science lesson about - I suppose about a year before I left, we got told all about
what happens to boys when they grow up and what to expect.
Q: What, so you knew all about boys?
A: Well, yeah, but - perhaps not so many other useful things.
Q: No, I notice you put down you'd learnt about wet dreams, which must have been
A: Oh, I know! (laugh) It was really strange - "oh, don't worry if you have a wet
dream, it's perfectly natural". A bit peculiar. This was talking to the class as a whole
of course. But that's - that was about the only things they covered at school, I think.
Q: So how did you learn?
A: Well, I've got another brother, and he tended to talk about that kind of thing quite
Q: To you, or just sort of A: To everybody. I suppose my dad told me a bit. My mum didn't talk about it very
much really. And obviously, friends at school... talk about it.
Q: So did you find that that was sufficient? Did you feel that you learnt what you
wanted to know?
A: Well, that and reading magazines. I got by. I think there were a few things I could
have done with knowing earlier, but Q: What were they?
A: Well, basic things like periods. I hadn't the faintest idea how it worked. I suppose
contraception - I hadn't much idea, I sort of - I let - I found out a fair amount talking
to friends at school, but otherwise not very much.
Q: And at school they never showed you any alternative...
A: Oh, God, no. No. (laugh)
Q: Was it Catholic?
A: No, it wasn't, but it was very strict C of E..
Q: So presumably at that time they never talked about things like AIDS?
A: Well, no, but Q: Was that pre- ?
A: Really, yes. AIDS happened, I suppose, when I was about - well, I became aware
of it when I was about fifteen or sixteen, so it was really pre-AIDS. I think in junior
school we got a bit about sexually transmitted diseases and basically nasty
symptoms, that was all.
Q: It's a bit early in junior school, isn't it?
A: Well, yes, I thought so; yeah, it was a bit.
Q: 'Cos had they taught you how - how you might get the sexual transmitted
diseases in the first place?
A: Oh, yeah, yeah; oh, yeah, that was fairly well sorted out, yeah.
Q: So you had learnt about things like intercourse...
A: Yes, it's just it was never covered at - at senior school at all.
Q: And that's the time when you might sort of be thinking about it more A: Well, it does make sense Q: - in reality rather than A: - yeah, 'cos I'm sure a lot of the other girls weren't told anything in junior school at
Q: Then they'd have got nothing.
A: Yeah. Well, I mean they're bound to find out sooner or later but -
Q: Yes, but not always in the best way.
A: No, true.
Q: So did you find out about AIDS through A: I think the television or a newspaper or something like that.
Q: And what effect did it have on you?
A: Panic. To begin with, I was - well, obviously you take it really seriously, but you
sort of wonder if you can catch AIDS, not just by having sex but all sorts of stupid
things like - I don't know, people preparing food and they cut their finger, or things
like that. Obviously, you don't - you can't take that seriously. I suppose you're just
generally more careful. If you get involved with someone you take precautions and Q: So what - I mean do you know how AIDS is - what it is and how it's passed on?
A: A fair idea - it's a virus; and it's passed through blood or bodily fluids, but mostly
blood, I think.
A: Well, if you have sex, or things like needles or - I suppose that's the most... most
of the ways really.
Q: And did it affect the way you saw things like sex or anything else?
A: Yeah, yeah. I was definitely quite a bit more careful. I obviously can't predict how
I would have behaved otherwise, but it certainly made me think a lot harder about it,
Q: Were you actually having a sexual relationship at that time?
A: Yeah, yes, I was. Quite a long-term one in fact, so I didn't worry about it so much
within that. But I think I may have stayed with that person a bit longer because I was
worried about splitting up and finding someone new and the risk of AIDS, so Q: Do you think that the - like what you can remember of the media programmes, do
you think it was okay or do you think it should have been differently handled?
A: Some were helpful, some of them just looked a bit stupid, but - yeah, it was okay,
I think they had to cover it, and I think it's something you've got to take seriously, I
don't think they tried to panic people too much. No, I thought they were quite helpful.
The only thing is they never really give you a proper idea of what safe sex is and
what it isn't and what the risks are. It seems to me there's practically nowhere you
can find that out. No, they're - they're better than nothing anyway.
Q: And do you know what safe sex is?
A: Well, it seems there are various different levels: things that are totally non-risky,
things that are a bit risky, and things that are really, really bad news.
Q: Which are they?
A: Well, having sex without a condom or anal sex - I suppose that's it really. Oral
sex is a pretty bad idea, I think Q: What, because of passing A: Well, yeah, I know the government doesn't talk about it; I don't know why they
don't talk about it, but it seems to me that it's a pretty risky thing to do. Yeah, I think
Q: So what would you think would be constituting safe sex A: Safer?
A: Safe or safer? (laugh) Well, a condom I would put as safer but still risky, and then
just sort of touching and stuff like that would be pretty damn safe, I would guess.
Kissing and that kind of stuff...
Q: So sort of lots of things you can do that don't include intercourse -
A: Yeah, right. Yeah.
Q: And going back to like when you first had a - I know you talked in your
questionnaire a bit about the various sort of short-term relationships and the longerterm things A: Oh, yeah.
Q: - when did all that start, how old were you then?
A: Oh, well, just - just turned seventeen really, just - just turning seventeen. I - sorry
- no, I first slept with a man and it was just for one night, but it wasn't anything anything really serious, or nothing very much happened. And then I got involved Q: What, you didn't have intercourse.
A: No. Right (laugh). Sorry.
Q: But did anything sort of interesting happen in the sense that, you know, it was
quite a nice or not so nice sexual experience?
A: It wasn't very pleasant, to be honest.
Q: It wasn't?
Q: Did he want more?
A: Yeah, he wanted to have intercourse and he was pretty disappointed, it was New
Year's Eve, and he was obviously out for a good time and I was not really
interested. I was too young, and I wasn't gonna get into that kind of thing. And then I
started going out seriously with a boyfriend and about three months later we had
Q: Was that something that you planned?
A: Planned.. I suppose so kind of, yeah. Yeah, I suppose so. We'd certainly thought
about it beforehand, yeah.
Q: Had you talked about it?
A: Oh, yeah, rather a lot (laugh), yeah.
Q: And then - was it something that you enjoyed?
A: Oh, yeah, yeah, it was good.
Q: 'Cos was that losing your virginity or A: Well, yes, I suppose it was, yes.
Q: 'Cos people often describe the first time as being sort of not so nice in the sense
that it's - you know, a disappointment or too painful or something like that.
A: No. I mean, it wasn't sort of earth-shattering or anything like that, but it was really
nice 'cos we were really close and, you know, it was good.
Q: And how old were you?
A: I was nineteen.
Q: Was it his first relationship?
A: No, he'd had one before that - not a very long one, I think.
Q: So was he quite kind of - I mean, who actually negotiated how you went about
the first time?
A: Ah, both of us really, it was a sort of joint effort. We both wanted to - yeah. I can't
really say - I don't think either of us really...
Q: And it was - I mean, you could find somewhere to do it quite easily, 'cos that can
be a problem, finding A: He had a room in London Q: Ah.
A: - so that was quite straightforward, yeah.
Q: And did you take precautions?
Q: What was it?
A: A condom.
Q: And that's - that - kind of alright with both of you?
A: Yeah, fine.
Q: 'Cos sometimes people have problems A: - I know, particularly men tend to get a bit difficult about it, yeah. No, he was
perfectly happy, I don't think he'd ever known anything else, so it didn't really matter.
Q: Have you found other men who have been difficult about it?
Q: Can you tell me about that?
A: Yeah, I suppose I'd better really (laugh). I was working in [EUROPEAN
COUNTRY] for a while. I got involved with a man, and it sort of - I bought - I bought
a whole load... tried and said, "oh I don't like that very much" - got pretty - pretty fed
up about it.
Q: Did he actually refuse to use them?
A: Yes. A couple of times, yeah.
Q: And what did you do?
A: I got very angry. And eventually gave in, I'm afraid.
Q: But did you feel - you know, you were taking a risk?
A: Yeah. Yeah, I did really.
Q: 'Cos were you protected any other...?
A: No, I wasn't.
Q: So you could have got pregnant.
A: Yeah. I mean, half the problem then was he was going on about how he wanted
to get married anyway, so he thought - well, I don't quite know what he thought, but
- I don't know, there may have been something in it.
Q: What, he thought you were the one and therefore it didn't...
A: I think possibly, yes.
Q: He wasn't just putting a line and A: I really can't tell now (laugh). Both are quite possible.
Q: Was he [EUROPEAN]?
A: No, he was Algerian.
Q: And was that - how old were you then?
Q: So had you had other relationships between that and your previous A: No, no, it was a really messy breakup. I went straight from one to the next and no, that was - that was it.
Q: And so what happened after him?
A: Well, we split up. I came back to England and didn't see anyone for quite - well,
about four months, I suppose it's not a very long time really but it seemed it then;
and then I had a terrible string of boyfriends when I came up to [UNIVERSITY]. I - I
suppose it's the shock of - of being at university and - I don't know, there seemed to
be hundreds of really rather nice men around. It was dreadful.
Q: Why was it dreadful?
A: I don't know, really, it just seems rather shocking looking back on it. 'Cos it was
rather - rather a lot in a short space of time, that's all.
Q: Well, how many were there?
A: Four last year.
Q: What, and were they sort of fairly serious or were you A: Some was - well, to begin with they were all fairly serious (laugh), yeah. The first
one I took very seriously and he couldn't handle that; the second one was a sort of a
thing at a party and it dragged on a bit because he wanted it to and I - I wasn't sure
about it; and the third one suddenly decided he wanted to marry me. I was quite
flattered and thought, "oh, yeah, why not?", and then suddenly realised why not
(laugh). The last one was just like a really good friend that - it went that way.
Q: Mm. But you're not with anyone at the moment?
A: No. No (laugh).
Q: You don't sound very sure. Is there somebody you might A: Well, kind of. I've got my eye on one of my brother's friends and he's got his eye
on me, but there's nothing actually happening at the moment.
Q: But there's a potential?
A: Oh, yeah, I think so.
Q: And were all those relationships last year - I mean, they were all sexual
Q: And how did you sort of negotiate things about A: Oh, oh, I insisted.
Q: You insisted?
Q: Was that alright?
A: Yeah, that was perfectly okay.
Q: That's insisting they used condoms A: - used condoms, yeah.
Q: Did you use anything else as well or just A: I used the pill for a short time, and it disagreed with me badly and I decided I
couldn't put up with it. I started feeling really sick and... No, that was it.
Q: I'm quite interested in just how - in terms of your sexual relationships and
negotiation, kind of how it is that it's - at the point at which it's assumed that a
relationship is going to become sexual, or is there a point when A: Right.
Q: - you know, there's no - not exactly no excuse, but the point has come where
either you sort of do it or you don't do it, do you know what I mean? - whether
you've found that in any of these, or whether the assumption is there maybe from
the start, that - that it would be A: It - it varies quite a lot. I mean, so normally the assumption isn't there from the
start, you know; I suppose it has been. I don't know - that's a really difficult one.
Q: I mean, if you think back to the first one, did you sort of assume that you would
end up having sex or A: No, definitely not. What I really liked about him was that he was - well, that he
actually claimed not to like sex, which I suppose you can't really take that seriously,
but he was not at all pushy and obviously wasn't really expecting it. I suppose after
that I sort of wondered and - but - yeah, I suppose there is a certain stage where
you either carry on or you - you know, cut your losses, I think. Or I suppose you can
keep it at a certain level, but it causes problems. Yeah.
Q: And did you know where you wanted to keep it?
A: Yes, normally, yeah.
Q: Was that with a sexual relationship or A: I - not all the time, but mostly, I guess - perhaps all but one, something like that.
Q: And was it something that was talked about again, so that you, kind of...
Q: Was it something that you and your boyfriend, whichever one it was, talked about
like beforehand, or did it A: Oh, I see.
Q: - just sort of one night it happened and A: No, generally we talked about it beforehand, and the only one we didn't was the
one I didn't want it and regretted it. Yeah.
Q: And was that - I mean in each case, was that something that you wanted, or you
enjoyed or was it something that...
A: Yes. I think perhaps a couple of times I went into it too quickly.
Q: How quickly is too quickly?
A: Gosh, this is getting personal! (laugh)
Q: Is that alright, I mean...
A: Oh, yeah, yeah. I suppose sometimes a couple of weeks. Yeah. That was with
the one who said he wanted to marry me (laugh)... taking it a bit too seriously.
Q: So was he the one you got engaged to?
A: Oh. Well, actually, no, that was - that was slightly peculiar. The person I was in
theory engaged to, I'd at that stage never even kissed him, it was (laugh) - I just well, he decided that he really liked me and I really liked him and... really good
Q: Is that when you were at college or...
A: Yes, this was last summer, about July. But he's very religious and he can't accept
the fact that I don't really believe, and so that's that, finished. It's a shame.
Q: So A: Sorry?
Q: So have you felt seriously - I mean, have you had regrets about any of them?
You said you felt seriously about them at the beginnings, but it sounded like they all
sort of came to an end.
A: Regrets. Yes, a bit. The Algerian in [EUROPEAN CITY] I was very fond of, and
now, looking back on it, he would have been a pretty bad prospect long-term, but he
was great fun. Otherwise I suppose not too many regrets, except this guy that I told
you about, last - last summer, which never became anything sexual, but it's a
Q: Yeah, it sounds like you liked him.
Q: And in terms of the actual - like, sexuality, was that something that was important
to you within the relationships?
A: Not particularly. If it was good then that was great, but if that was good and the
rest wasn't so good, then that was - that was too bad really. No, it wasn't so
Q: So what was - what would be most important?
A: I suppose the comfort of knowing you could rely on somebody, the closeness and being able to communicate with the person so that - not -... reasonably bright
and it's possible to talk to them.
Q: Did - I mean, the men that you were with, was it important to them, do you think,
more than it was for you?
A: One very definitely. I - I suppose a fair amount, yeah. The first one not so much,
he just wanted - he just wanted a girlfriend. Some of the others, probably more,
Q: Was he the first one - the one who said he didn't like sex?
A: That's right, yeah. (laugh)
Q: And did they sort of define when you had sex?
A: I think not very much. ... I really don't think so.
Q: No, I was just wondering, thinking of sort of who - who decides really, do you
know what I mean?
A: Oh, I see. What, you mean to begin with or Q: No, I suppose generally A: - generally?
Q: - as it goes A: Oh, I see.
Q: - along, 'cos - unless it just happens every time you see somebody sort of thing,
but there might be a point at which someone has to decide whether they wanted to
do it on a particular night.
A: Yeah. No, not really. If I didn't want to then I'd say so and if - if they didn't want to,
they'd say so. No... just happened.
Q: And - if it's not too personal, when you said sort of "if the sex was good then that
was fine", what did you mean by kind of good sex for you?
A: Well, obviously, if it feels good and if they actually make some kind of effort to
make it decent, 'cos you get some men that just sort of think "oh, right, got a girl
here, let's - let's have a quick orgasm", that's that. And that's completely foul.
Q: Orgasm for you or for them?
A: For them (laugh). Of course. But normally, yeah, it's the ones that actually make
the effort, and also if they're fairly passionate and actually seem fairly keen about it.
I mean, you get some men that just sort of lie there and - although they're making
the effort, you think they're really bored with it or something, that's the worst.
Q: What, thinking they're bored?
Q: Is that bored with kind of making the effort to please you, sort of thing?
A: Yeah. And the way they show it, and it takes all the fun out of everything, so you
might as well not bother.
Q: What ... do?
A: I don't know, they keep sort of asking, "are you okay?"... (laugh)... don't need that
kind of thing.
Q: So they say afterwards, "was it alright?..."
A: It has happened, yes (laugh). I don't think I've ever answered that one though.
Q: And has it been alright for you?
A: Normally, yes. Yeah. It's only, as I said, the ones that are too eager - and often
the more experienced ones - everyone seems to think that experienced men know it
all and they're really great for girls, but often it's the more inexperienced ones that
make the effort and are really - I suppose really keen and really - I don't know
(laugh); well, I don't know, they're more interested in - in - in finding things out,
whereas experienced men seem to think they know it all and they'll just sort of say,
"oh, yeah, this is what a woman likes" and go for it. You think, oh no! It's really bad.
A: Yeah, quite. Yeah.
Q: And then is it possible to - to talk about it with them or is it hard?
A: Sometimes both. Yes, normally, but you have to be slightly careful how you do it,
Q: So who's been the person you've been able to kind of talk to -kind of have the
best kind of relationship - though that may not go together actually, being able to
talk A: No, it definitely doesn't (laugh).
Q: ... have a much better time with someone else.
A: Yes. The first one I found by far the easiest to talk to. I suppose I had the best
time with the one in [EUROPEAN CITY], because he was great fun; and also, the
last one, I think, last year, he was really good fun. Yeah, he was nice.
Q: You mentioned a couple of times - I think you suggested you'd had sexual
A: Oh, God, yeah, that was - that was - well, it wasn't - it wasn't exactly sexual
intercourse, which made it even worse because you couldn't sort of say "ugh", you
know, "he's gone too far", but it was still really frightening so Q: What happened?
A: - it was worse in some ways. Well, the first one - and it was difficult because I'd
been going out with him and then I went to see him after we'd split up, and he - well,
we were just sat there talking and then suddenly he grabbed me and pulled me
over, and came as close as he could possibly come to raping me without actually
getting it. I don't think I want to go into too many details.
Q: Were you frightened?
A: Yes, but I felt fairly sure he wasn't going to get really, really bad. I didn't think he
was going to kill me or anything like that, but on the other hand I was very frightened
and really annoyed that someone would do something like that.
Q: So did you have to sort of fight him off or something...?
A: Well, I tried, but I didn't get very far, I'm afraid. And in the end, I just - I persuaded
him to go away (laugh).
Q: So that's why he stopped A: Yeah.
Q: - otherwise he would have just gone ahead.
A: Well, I think so, yeah. And the other one?
Q: The other one?
A: This is really silly. I was sharing a flat with somebody earlier this year, and he had
been living with his girlfriend for four years, so that was quite good, but it just was a
nice situation, and of course, it wasn't; and one night he came in drunk and, you
know, I thought he was okay - he had always seemed a fairly sort of nice person.
And we were just watching telly, and he just grabbed me, and he said he didn't want
to have sex with me, he just wanted - just basically just a grope and stuff like that,
and I said well that sounded pretty revolting, particularly as I was really rather
attached to somebody else - well, this - this religious person I was supposed to be
engaged to. And I got frightened - I - I went and locked myself in the loo, and he
knocked the door down and Q: God, that's quite frightening, isn't it?
A: It scared me to death. And then he came into my room stark naked, took me like
to my room, came into my room stark naked and then changed - changed me into
my nightdress, ... oh, God, I was really terrified; and then I started screaming and
screaming and telling him to go away and leave me alone, 'cos I was really fed up,
and I - I don't know what was wrong with him, but he kept saying all sorts of really
funny things. He was Irish and I think he had some kind of chip about being Irish,
'cos he kept going on about how the English aren't really better and all this kind of
thing, which really - really bothered me in that situation 'cos he was obviously pretty
Q: He wasn't drunk A: Yeah, he was a bit drunk. He'd had some Guinness... And then when I started
screaming a lot, he started putting a pillow over my face, and that really freaked me
out, I was terrified. And so - so eventually he went away, and I got dressed and ran
out into the road. I didn't know what to do, it was about four in the morning, I was so
Q: Did you call the police or A: No. When I ran out into the road, he came after me and there was a police car -
Q: What, still stark naked?
A: Oh, God, no, he was dressed Q: Yeah.
A: - various threats, he threatened to throw out all my stuff, which could have been a
good deal worse. And I got to the police car and I just chickened out - because, oh, I
didn't know what they'd say, I Q: Did they stop?
A: No, they were just driving past, they didn't take any notice. And also, he'd said if it sounds like a harmless threat now, but he said at the time that he had friends who
would kill me if I said anything to anybody. I know that's - that's the sort of thing little
kids believe, but in that situation Q: Oh, it's frightening A: - having been that close, and he scared me to death, and - and I sort of saw that
he was perhaps a bit rough, he might have those kind of friends. He was obviously
fairly hard-hearted and he even said he'd - he'd wanted to take advantage of the
situation, which Q: No, that's awful. So did you... shock?
A: Very quickly, yes (laugh). He said - the next morning he was all terribly sorry, "oh,
God, I can't believe I did that, it's like - it's like molesting a child or something" "yeah, it was a really foul thing to do". And he said he'd move out, and I moved out
straight away anyway, I was so scared.
Q: Did you have somewhere to move to?
A: Well, I live about thirty-five miles outside town, so I just moved back home...
probably about three days, a week later, so I was quite lucky with that, a very good
Q: Yeah. And did that affect the way you felt about men?
A: Yes. Yes, definitely. Yeah.
Q: In what way?
A: Well, I'm a good deal more careful now, and nervous of all sorts of people, which
is a bit...
Q: Well, it's quite understandable A: - it's a fairly natural reaction, yeah.
Q: And did you talk about it to other people?
A: Nobody yet, no. I haven't dared. I know it's stupid, I suppose I ought to.
Q: No, because it's such a horrible thing to happen.
A: Yeah, it's just a really difficult thing to talk about, and a lot of people say, oh, if
you're sharing a flat with a man then you're asking for trouble, but - he'd had a
girlfriend for four years, I'd met his brother, I'd met loads of his friends, I'd assumed
he was okay.
Q: Yeah. Well also, I mean people - perhaps the assumption there is that - that men
do that - men are sort of animal-like...
A: Well, yeah, yeah.
Q: I suppose if you make that assumption then it's logical, but I would like to think
that men don't do that A: Well, I would like to think that. My mum says they all do, but Q: What, leap on you?
A: Well, this is her - her idea, yes: men have some uncontrollable urge, it's not their
fault, you know.
Q: What, when it happens, they can't control it?
A: Yeah. So, whatever they do, that - that's only natural so that's okay.
Q: What do you think of that?
A: It makes me feel very sick, it's... do, it's ingrained Q: What, so you agree with it?
A: No, no, I can't, but I have to accept it because I don't think she's going to change
Q: ... oh, I thought you meant it was ingrained in men.
A: Oh, no. I don't think it need be, I think they can overcome it. I suppose they do
have fairly strong urges, but they have got brains as well.
Q: Is this true? (laugh) No, 'cos some people have suggested almost as though,
say, if they knew a man and because of being with him or whatever, he's become
aroused, then somehow they've got to follow it through because they were
responsible for arousing him, do you know what I mean?
A: Yeah. Yes, I understand that, and I think it's wrong.
A: I just - if you make the effort and you're really trying to seduce him, then that may
be different; and even so, I think - I think it's a difficult question.
A: Just being with a man and he - he thinks that way, it's not your fault.
Q: No... have the same expectations. And do you - I know you said a couple of
times you haven't used - like with the Algerian... when you didn't use condoms, have
there been other times when you haven't used - ?
A: Haven't used anything at all - I don't think so. No.
Q: 'Cos you mentioned you used a sponge A: Oh, yeah, that's right. Quite funny. It was - it worked okay, but that was only at
times when it was really safe anyway, sort of like right near the end of the month
and things like that. Yeah, it's fairly practical. That - that was just with WILLIAM, my
first boyfriend, so I wasn't too worried about diseases or anything like that.
Q: That was the very first one?
Q: Yeah. How long were you with him?
A: Ages. Gosh - about a year and a half I think, maybe even two years - yeah, two
years and a bit. Oh, well.
Q: So was that until you came to college or A: No, that was until I went to [EUROPEAN COUNTRY], my year out.
Q: So it was during your first year at college A: Sorry? - oh, no, sorry Q: ... dates...
A: - started the beginning of sixth form and carried on ‘til the beginning of my year
out Q: - right, between A: - before college.
Q: Right. Yeah. And who finished it, who - ?
A: I did eventually; we had a sort of a break about halfway through where we both
got a bit fed up with it, and then decided it was okay anyway. But yes, eventually I
Q: Were you very close to him?
A: Yes, I was at one stage. I think he was slightly looking for a mother figure, but he
was - he was very kind.
Q: And did he make sure - like, being your first sexual relationship, was it something
that kind of grew - like you explored and A: Oh, yeah, loads, yeah. He was - he was terribly keen on that, and - he actually
bought me The Joy of Sex too, to help things along a bit.
Q: And did you find sort of things that you liked more than others?
A: I suppose so, but it varied quite a lot. (laugh) (pause) I suppose I wasn't so wild
about just straightforward intercourse. I mean, it was okay in it’s place, but not the
Q: What, so you preferred other sorts of things?
A: Yeah, I suppose so, yeah.
Q: What did you like?
A: Well, I suppose oral sex quite a lot Q: That's presumably oral sex where you kind of have it rather than giving him...
A: Well, yes, either/or, or both, or whatever. Yeah. Just generally touching, stuff like
that. Or - or just talking about things you'd like to do. Yeah, that's about it.
Q: No, because a lot of people say that they really like kind of other things apart
from intercourse A: Oh, yeah.
Q: - you know, men who just want - who think that that's the way women A: Oh, that's terribly boring, yeah.
Q: - or that they have to give a woman an orgasm during intercourse for it to be sort
of proper sex.
A: Yeah (laugh).
Q: Have you met people like that?
A: Yeah, definitely. Luckily not too many.
Q: And things like oral sex, which is often - I mean, as you say, the government
doesn't talk about it much, and A: No, I think they really ought to because quite a lot of people are doing it, I think.
Q: Yes. Do you think they're doing it more now, because of A: I don't know. I hope not, for their sake. I shouldn't think so very much.
Q: But do you think oral sex is dangerous?
A: I just think it's a bit risky, yeah.
Q: But you'd risk it.
A: Only if I were very, very, serious about somebody now, ... normally probably not.
Q: What, either way?
A: I don't know. I've always wondered about the idea of putting a condom on and
then - and having oral sex with him, that might be okay, but it still seems a bit
revolting with all that rubber.
A: (laugh). But on the other hand, I - I really don't think it would be worth the risk.
Q: And what about him doing it to you?
A: I don't know. That sounds okay.
Q: I mean, do you do that, or is that not something you've done?
A: Oh, yeah, I've done it, but not - not for a little while.
Q: 'Cos I mean I was talk- A: ...
Q: Yeah. 'Cos I mean, it becomes hard saying - some people can easily talk about
things like oral sex... things like masturbation, I mean I was talking to A: Oh, God, yeah.
Q: - like some girls who talk totally openly and then say "oh, that's something I never
talked about with my friends", you know.
A: That's absolutely true, yeah, all my friends maintain they never ever did it or - or
anything like that, it's just something Q: I'm sure somebody must...
A: Well, I suppose so, yeah.
Q: 'Cos did you sort of learn or do masturbation?
Q: 'Cos girls often do, although it's often thought to be something that - that's more
concerned with boys.
A: Well, I suppose so, yeah, yeah. My brother's always talked about it when he was
very young (laugh)Q: ... probably do...
A: Well, quite likely, yes.
Q: I don't know, why do you think it's so taboo with girls talking about it - or maybe
doing it, I don't know.
A: I suppose there's the idea of the single girl who shouldn't be thinking about that
kind of thing. I don't know really. It could be - this is - this is a very vague idea, but it
could be the idea that men don't like the idea of women having that control over
themselves and they think it should be centred on them. That's - well, that's a
thought. Otherwise I don't know really...
Q: But I think, you know, that you've got something there as well, 'cos like some
men put it as a - like something they'd quite like to see a woman doing or
something, that's their kind of fantasy.
A: Oh, yeah, definitely, yeah. I saw a - I saw a letter in the paper the other day,
though - perhaps it was something like Cosmopolitan, going on about some woman
that had been caught masturbating by her husband and he'd virtually treated it as
infidelity. It's weird, it really is.
Q: 'Cos that implies that her body is his, doesn't it, rather than hers.
A: Yes, I suppose it does. Yeah, I hadn't thought of that.
Q: And do you sort of feel that you're a person who takes risks at all?
A: I think I have done. Yes, definitely. I'm hoping I'm becoming more sensible
(laugh). That remains to be seen.
Q: What sort of risks do you take, do you think?
A: Well, I thought - I - I had oral sex with someone I didn't know very well, which was
a bad idea. And not using condoms a few times was also a bad idea. Are you talking
sexually or generally?
Q: Well, sexually to begin with.
A: (laugh) That's probably more or less it, really.
Q: And did you get worried after occasions like that, did you...?
A: I used to get worried the whole time anyway Q: What, even if you were using them?
A: Oh, yeah, particularly while I was at school, I used to be scared to death half half the time. Yes, I did worry, yeah.
Q: And what would you have done if you had got pregnant?
A: I don't know really.
Q: Would you just see what you felt like...
A: I suppose so. Mm. It's very difficult, isn't it?
Q: So what other risks might you take?
A: What, you mean generally?
A: Well, I mean - when I left school I - I was very fed up with things, and I wanted to
travel a lot, and I tended to sort of be out late at night. I didn't do anything really
dangerous, but I had some kind of faith in my good luck, I thought everything was
going to be okay all the time, and normally it was. I was quite lucky. Mm.
Q: But it could have been risky.
A: Well, yes, I suppose it could, yeah.
Q: And things like sort of smoking and drinking, things like that...
A: Not really. I don't think so very much, no.
Q: Do you smoke?
Q: Or smoke - or take drugs, anything like that?
Q: So if you had to describe yourself, what sort of a person would you say you
A: I - I - I'm very traditional. But I tend to sometimes feel I'm stuck and want to - want
to break out and - and do something different. I really - I'm finding it quite hard being
at university at the moment and staying in one place. I suppose I'm reserved,
normally a fairly staid sort of a person. I'm quite emotional but it doesn't often come
Q: What, you keep it inside?
A: Yeah, normally. (laugh) I don't know what else to say.
Q: What do you think will happen to you in the future, do you see yourself as
marrying and having children?
A: I hope so. I - yes, I'd like - I'd like to have a decent husband and children; but if I
don't find a decent husband then I don't think I'll bother. They're quite hard to come
by nowadays, I think.
Q: What do you call a decent husband?
A: Someone who's got a brain, is very open-minded, isn't too stupid and is reliable. I
suppose that's about it really.
Q: And do you see yourself doing other things, like in terms of your career or...
A: I hope so. Yeah. I still don't know what. I've got a bit sidetracked really, because I
love modern languages, particularly French, and I'm doing a Classics degree. But
eventually I - I'd like to work, perhaps in France, perhaps in Switzerland, and if I
could get into something like banking or finance, I suppose, at least the money will
Q: 'Cos is your - do you know French?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: ... A-level.
A: Only O-level, but while I was in [EUROPEAN COUNTRY] I learnt to speak it.
Q: Best way to learn a language. And what do you normally spend time doing?
A: Oh, God. I read a lot, I watch a lot of telly. Obviously, I go to college a fair
amount. The weekends I just sort of - I quite often go home and - I don't do an awful
lot really (laugh).
Q: Does your brother stay at home?
A: Yeah, he's [MID-THIRTIES], so it's a bit late really. And we've got a foster sister
who lives at home, so she's quite fun.
Q: How old's she?
A: She's fifteen, but she seems a lot younger. I fairly often go to an opera or a film or
something like that, and every chance I get I go and travel.
Q: And does that change if you've got a boyfriend?
Q: What you actually spend time doing.
A: Well, I suppose I spend a fair amount of time with him, if I've got a boyfriend.
Sometimes I suppose it would. I might go out - I don't know, go out to dinner or
things like that more often, or - I don't know, it seems like a long time ago (laugh).
Q: ...it wasn't all that long ago, how long ago - ?
A: No, it just feels like it - nine months.
Q: Oh, was it as long as that? I was thinking it was sort of the end of last year.
A: No, sort of April. Not so much.
Q: Like the times - just going back very briefly to the times when the two men who
kind of were trying to have a sexual relationship A: Oh, them Q: - how old were you on those occasions?
A: What, you mean the nasty ones?
A: Twenty and twenty. Both last year. About six months apart.
Q: And before that, had your sort of attitude to men been kind of more trusting or A: Oh, yeah, definitely more trusting. I was still fairly careful, but - yeah, I mean that
- obviously that - that threatened it, and made me realise that there are some some pretty bad people around. And certainly - particularly after the first one, that
really hit me badly, 'cos for a long time when I went home my brother would sort of
say "do you want to come down the pub?", and I'd say "oh, no, I'm going -" - I - I told
him a bit about the first one because I was really shaken up by it, and I said, "oh, no,
I can't go down there 'cos I might - I might meet a man who's - " - I don't know,
might be interested or something like that, and it really - it really scared me at that
Q: Did he realise that you'd been quite scared?
A: Oh, yes, I think so, but then - I mean - I don't know, I mean he wasn't very helpful
about it. He was okay, but not much good.
Q: So he's not somebody you could actually talk to A: I can talk to him Q: - or sensitive.
A: I can talk to him about very personal things, but I've found he's not very good at
keeping his mouth shut and occasionally he'll throw it back in your face and that
would really, really, hurt, so I'm a lot more careful about what I tell him now.
Q: Are there sort of girlfriends, woman friends that you can talk to about things like
A: No, not really...
Q: There is no one at college that you...
A: Not really, no.
Q: That's a shame, 'cos it might be quite nice to share those sort of things.
Q: I suppose it's harder living on your own with a couple...
A: Yeah, I suppose so.
Q: Going back to - sort of going back round in circles to A: Okay.
Q: - things about condoms and A: (laugh)
Q: ... condoms and things like that A: Yeah.
Q: - I mean, is it something that you would sort of take around with you or feel able
to ask someone to put on and things like that?
A: This is difficult. If I - if I were contemplating actually having sex with someone,
then I would carry a packet round with me even if he hadn't mentioned it; but on the
other hand, I wouldn't just walk round with a packet on me on the off-chance that I
might meet someone, because I like to think I wouldn't go into anything that quickly.
I think I probably wouldn't.
Q: When you were in something, did you have like the confidence to actually...
A: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Q: And then - I mean, say if you were in another - got into another relationship now
sort of thing, and somebody didn't want to use one A: Oh, I think I'd tell him to get lost. Yeah, I think so.
Q: What, even if you were quite keen on them?
A: Yeah, because if they can't be bothered to do that, then they can't be much good
Q: And do you feel - which is the more that you think about, say, in having a sexual
relationship, as kind of - not exactly a fear, but in terms of pregnancy or - or AIDS as
a protection, which is the thing that - that most worries you?
A: It depends how much protection I've been using. I suppose now really, AIDS.
Yeah. Because it's - it's so much more final, isn't it? I mean, pregnancy, you can
have the baby and life carries on, but AIDS you...
Q: Have you used - I know you've used the sponge and the condom; there's nothing
else that you would use in terms of contraception?
A: I don't know. If I were married it might be different, I might use - I don't quite know
what I would use; perhaps something like - is it the coil? or - I don't know, something
Q: There's the coil, yes, it gets inserted inside you A: Oh.
Q: - for three years or so.
A: Oh, I don't know. There's one that's inside the uterus, which sounds really bad,
and there's the other one that you just put inside every time you're going to have
Q: That's the cap.
A: Ah, the cap, yeah. That - that seems quite a good idea if you're really going longterm with someone and if you get pregnant, then that's okay, then that seems a
fairly sensible thing to use, but otherwise everything else seems pretty lousy. My
mum's got a coil and she's certainly not very happy with it.
Q: She's not?
A: No. Well, she had it fitted and didn't realise that after that she couldn't have any
more babies, and she wanted some more, so she felt fairly well cheated on that
Q: Well, she could have it taken out.
A: But normally - well, I think normally once it's been in, even if you have it taken
out, you're more or less sterilised.
A: No? No? That's interesting. I think that they'd know anyway. But she was told that
once the doctor had put it in, okay, that's your lot.
Q: No, that's not true.
A: Ah. Wow. Oh, good.
Q: No, it's a form of contraception, which means that - it basically kind of doesn't like
foreign bodies, the uterus A: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Q: - so it means that every time an egg comes down, the foreign body, which is the
foreign body in the uterus, sort of expels everything, so that if an egg was about to
be fertilised or whatever, the action of the coil in there sort of expels it out. But A: Oh, yeah, I understood that. I got the impression that the uterus did damage sorry, not the uterus, the coil did damage to the uterus.
Q: No. No. People have it - just have it taken out, and then in theory you should be
as - as fertile as you would have been anyway. I mean, the only thing that
sometimes happens is that for some people, the coil is - doesn't actually cause, but
it makes you more susceptible to some infections A: Yeah.
Q: - and there is like a certain infection that's quite serious...
A: Right, yeah.
Q: Which can sort of mean that it may affect one or both of your tubes or something,
which if it's really serious - do you know what I mean, it's all these "ifs" A: Yeah. Oh, I see. Right.
Q: - could mean that - that the coil has made you more susceptible to this infection
and that infection can mean that you are less fertile or maybe infertile.
A: Oh, I see.
A: Okay, alright. That's good.
Q: So she should have it out if she wants A: Yes, she certainly should. I've been telling her that for years.
Q: Do you get on well with your mother?
A: Normally, yes. Not so well recently. I found when I'm in trouble she - she just
pretends it's not happening. Shuts herself off and pretends everything's okay. So Q: So she's not very supportive...
A: No, not really.
Q: How about your dad?
A: He - he's a good sort, he's not very sensitive, but if you sort of bash him over the
head and say "dad, something's wrong", then he'll be really kind and really helpful.
But if you're upset then he'll never ever notice. He's quite thick-skinned but he's very
Q: And what sort of things have you sort of been in trouble with that your mum didn't
take any notice of?
A: Well, particularly - I told her when the - the first unpleasant experience, yeah - I
didn't tell her exactly what happened, but I told her that things weren't so good, and
she just got terribly upset and sort of angry, and started telling everyone what a hard
time I'd been having, which - I mean, people that I didn't know so well, family friends
and people like that. It was really the last thing I needed at that stage sort of thing.
"JESSICA's got real problems", you know. It's - it's not the way to deal with it.
Q: No, not at all.
A: And yet she went and talked about things...
Q: So you haven't really had many people to confide in, have you?
A: No, not really at all.
Q: What do you sort of look for in a long-term relationship?
A: Ah, interest - I suppose both wanting the same thing, otherwise you can get in
trouble; obviously some kind of emotion - I don't know, love? Could be. And some
kind of a future - well, I suppose that's obvious, isn't it? And also, just someone
close to - to share things with.
Q: When you say like "love" A: Yeah.
Q: - do you think love and sex go together?
A: Well, they have done, but I mean maybe by chance, I don't know. You can love
people you don't have sex with, and you can certainly have sex with people that you
don't love, so - yeah.
Q: And have you done both?
A: Oh. Yes. Yeah. I mean, it depends what you call love, but, yeah, by my definition,
Q: And do you think, like, for women sex is different than for men?
A: I think it must be, yeah.
Q: In what way?
A: Oh, God. Well, men - most men I've spoken to claim not to be terribly keen on
foreplay and all that kind of thing. I'm not sure if I really believe that, but anyway
that's what they say. I think women are, and I suppose women tend to take it more
seriously, unless they've had an awful lot of men and then it's - it's probably not - not
so important. I suppose women are generally more careful because they're
traditionally the ones who are meant to be more careful, and who get pregnant, so I
suppose there's more responsibility there. And also I think men, if they haven't had
sex for a little while, start thinking "oh, God, I've got to have sex, I haven't had it for
-" - however long they haven't had it for, and then they get quite bothered about how
often they have it, and I don't think women get so - so caught up in that kind of thing.
Q: What, as though it's part of their A: Well, it's got to happen, otherwise something is seriously wrong.
Q: What, they're not a proper man?
A: I don't know what it is exactly, they just seem to feel it's just part of everyday life
like having haircuts once every - every two or three months or something like that.
You've got to have sex every so often otherwise something's the matter. I think
that's about all.
Q: Do you think women get more emotionally involved?
A: Not necessarily; probably on average, yes, but it's too big a generalisation.
Q: In your relationships like that you've had, have you felt that you were in control?
A: I think sometimes yes and sometimes no. About - half and half maybe is a bit
optimistic. Yeah, that's probably about right actually.
Q: Which were the ones where you didn't feel so in control?
A: I suppose a couple of the shorter ones and when I was in [EUROPEAN CITY]. It
wasn't that he had control either, but it was at least evenly balanced, I think he may
well have had the upper hand on that one.
Q: When you say the upper hand, what do you actually mean?
A: I was very likely to do what he asked because I was very keen on him. I think he
was also very keen on me, at least for a while, but - yeah, he was a really strong
personality as well, so he would... do his best to get his own way.
Q: So which have you liked better - kind of being out of control or in control?
A: Oh, right. I don't like the sound of out of control (laugh). I don't think it really
matters. I - I mean, it's best if it's absolutely equal, and the idea of control is a pretty
unpleasant one, though it does often come in. But the ideal is - is just to have, you
know, the right balance. Because if you're in control it gets really boring.
Q: Have you found that?
Q: Which was that then?
A: Particularly the first one really Q: - the one that was - lasted for two years.
A: Yes. He was very nice, but he was too easily influenced. If I wanted to, I could get
him to do all sorts of things and I got really bored with it.
Q: And did that - kind of, was that the same with like your sexual relationship with
him as well, that you kind of defined that too?
A: I don't know really. We both had quite an effect on that really, so I would - I would
sort of suggest the way things should go or whatever, but then he would as well.
That - it wasn't really unbalanced like that.
Q: And did you ever sort of do it against - not against your will, but sort of with him
when you didn't particularly feel like it?
A: Not really. I mean, very different levels of that, aren't there? But never really, no,
not really. I mean there were times when I wouldn't have asked if he hadn't but - not
really, not really when I didn't want to.
Q: And what was that like with the others?
Q: What was that like with the others, did they kind of take control of... take the
initiative, I suppose.
A: Ah, take the initiative. Often, yes. Particularly to begin with I haven't got the nerve
to take the first initiative and actually make the first advance; once I'm involved in
relationships I'm different, but to begin with it's really difficult. I suppose I still think
it's not really expected of girls. I think a lot of men would be fairly shocked.
Q: What, the men would be shocked?
A: Yeah, if - you can never - well, I suppose you can tell if a man's interested or not,
but it always seems like you're taking a risk - and also if you make the first move,
then you don't know what you're making the first move for. 'Cos - just - maybe it's a
result of bad experience, I don't know, but it seems to me that if you make an
advance to a man, he may think, "okay, she wants to go to bed with me" when really
you're just like - I don't know, not quite like to go that far.
Q: So he'd misunderstand it or A: Yeah.
Q: But then once you're within the relationship you can...
A: Well, you know roughly where you are, yeah.
Q: So - and were you happy with the way that worked out in your relationships?
Q: Were you happy with the way that worked out within your A: - sorry, what worked out...
Q: About - I suppose about - well...
A: Oh, I see, taking initiatives?
A: Yeah, yeah, that was fine. Yeah. Because we both felt we could say what we
wanted when we wanted, and that's definitely the... I think.
Q: And who was that most successful with?
A: Oh, the first one, definitely.
Q: Would you say he was the most successful, apart from being a bit A: Yeah.
Q: - boring at times... the most successful A: Yes, I suppose so. I - the only trouble was I couldn't have lived with him for - I
probably couldn't have even lived with him actually. But yes, I suppose he was, on
Q: What, and the others since haven't been...?
A: I suppose on the whole not. The first one... was very good, I could really
communicate with him, but he had much too liberal ideas that I just couldn't cope
with. He used to have really bizarre kind of views about all sorts of funny things.
Q: What, sexual fantasies?
A: Yeah. He was - he was really nice, he was really easy to talk to, really openminded, but - I think he was faithful, but at the same time he - I don't know, I think he
was - I think he was probably naturally bisexual. He'd never slept with a man, but I
think he was naturally bisexual, he was really unusual (laugh). So in some ways that
was a very good relationship but in other ways - because I felt he could never really
be faithful and I - couldn't - I don't think he could have been monogamous long-term,
it never really got anywhere.
Q: What about the second one?
A: I didn't actually like him very much. It's a terrible thing to say. I found him very
attractive to begin with, and I went to a party at his house; and - I'd known him a
little while then, I'd seen him a few times, and then I went to bed with him and I - I
was pretty - pretty horrified really, 'cos sort of - he was really - he was really lousy
and selfish. I know it's a horrible thing to say. And he thought he was fantastic as
Q: What do you mean by selfish?
A: Well, he thought it was all about penetration and nothing else and he was, you
know, he wouldn't make any effort at all, and yet he thought he was a wonderful
lover and he thought he'd got it all together.
Q: And could you actually let him know that it wasn't quite like that for you?
A: I - I used to sort of go into negotiation and not get very far so I'd give up. "Could
you do this, could you do that?", "This is really - really boring" (laugh). He wouldn't
listen but he sort of, definitely...
Q: How old...?
A: He was quite old, he must have been ... something like that.
Q: How old was the one before?
A: I can't remember - ah, no, he must have been (?)24. He kept telling people
different ages so I'm never quite sure (laugh).
Q: And was the third one different again?
A: Yep. He was - sexually he was very, very, good, very - really made an effort, and
he obviously was experienced and really knew what he was doing; but he seemed
really - he was one of these people that seems really nice to begin with and then - I
think he was another person who really needed propping up, really needed
someone to look after him; he wasn't reliable himself, so I didn't put up with him for
very long, I'm afraid.
Q: How old was he?
A: He was about twenty - I don't know, twenty-five, twenty-seven, something like
Q: Were they all students...?
A: No. [VARIETY OF JOB ROLES].
Q: Then the last one A: Oh, the last one, he was a student. He was - well, I mean - I thought he was
wonderful. He was a very striking-looking sort of person and unbelievably intelligent,
and he was very helpful because I was very upset at that stage, because... I'd been
sexually assaulted or whatever you can call it, by the other one, and he - he wasn't
terribly into sex really. And he was just really kind and he'd let me talk about it a lot
and things like that, he was really nice.
Q: And was he good in bed?
A: Yeah, amazingly he was. He was a virgin and he was really - really thoughtful
and really good. He was fantastic.
Q: So he was the one you were thinking of when you said that some people who are
inexperienced actually A: Yes, definitely, yeah.
Q: - take more trouble.
A: Yeah. Right. And he kept making excuses - "oh, I'm sorry if it hurt...", he was
Q: And did you feel that you were - you could sort of show him anything... he was a
A: Well, yes, I suppose so, he certainly did (laugh). Almost approaching it like some
kind of study, it was really funny...
Q: And is there anything that you can think of about kind of sexual relationships and
negotiations that you've sort of experienced or thought about that is important...
A: Well, it would be nice if it was easier for girls to actually initiate things with men
without feeling difficult about it. But I don't really know how that happens. That's
probably about it really. Oh, yeah - some men seem to assume that if you - if you
stay - I don't know, one of them actually said to me - one of them I liked (laugh), that
- I stayed up late one night talking to him and he'd thought that I had - I had wanted
to go to bed with him because of that. And in fact, it wasn't so at all, I just - I just
wanted to be there talking.
Q: He assumed you were staying there - you wanted to stay the night?
A: I suppose so. Yeah. Yeah, I think men tend to assume too much without often
knowing what's going on really.
Q: Mm. Yeah... agree. And - anything else?
A: I don't think so particularly. No, I haven't.
Q: Is there anything that you can think of that would help in terms of, say, a health
education, sex education programme?
A: Oh, right. I suppose perhaps having things more freely available round college; I
don't know how freely available they are, but - I suppose... more information
Q: What on?
A: AIDS. They don't - they don't seem Q: What, nothing around college about it?
A: I suppose there are things, I just get the feeling that we don't know all there is to
know. I suppose it would have been helpful at school if they'd just given us some
fairly basic stuff. Or even at home or anywhere. Yeah.
Q: Do you know anyone who you think might be at risk?
A: From AIDS?
A: Oh, God. Yeah. My brother's got a gay friend who might be, though we're not
quite sure about him; I have wondered about my brother but I think he's okay. He
slept with a French prostitute, which is not really a very clever thing to do, but I'm
fairly sure he's okay. And also, my dad's best friend who's now nearly sixty, is gay,
and he's not... and... I suppose quite a lot of people really (laugh). Another friend of
my brother's, he keeps having one-night stands with girls, he'd sleep with
Q: What sort of people do you think are most kind of susceptible?
A: I suppose the standard - standard things we're told: gay people, African people,
prostitute, people - people that inject; and then I suppose it - it comes down to bad
luck really, the more people you sleep with or the less careful you are, the higher
the chances are of getting it. But I think at that stage it's fairly random - well, not not random exactly, but much less predictable.
Q: Yeah. Yes, 'cos, as you say, it can just be bad luck; sort of one thing in a chain...
A: Yeah, that's true.
Q: I think we've more or less A: Okay. Gosh, that's End of interview
At ULIE office
Aged 21. Met her outside ULIE and talked in office. She is a student at [NAME OF
UNIVERSITY], taking classics degree - latin and Greek. Very clever - got 13 GSEs and 3 A
levels. Rather upper middle class, family from Reading, where she went to an all girls school
about 15 miles from her home. School was rather religious (C of E) and strict. Rather posh
voice. Short blonde hair, bit plump, wearing skirt and sweater and a mac. Rather 'straight'
She was fairly easy to talk to, but was sometimes surprised by my questions, as though she
hadn't expected it to be about sexual experiences. Was bit difficult sometimes to get her to
talk freely about sex, but she said she didn't mind, and answered in the end. Had had
several sexual relationships, seemed rather embarrassed to admit she'd had four boyfriends
during her first year at college (is in the middle of her second year now - did a year out after
school). Talked about men 'making the effort' to give her pleasure, and how in her
experience one guy who was a virgin himself had taken the most trouble with this. Had taken
a few risks in not using anything a couple of times, although thought she wouldn't do it again.
Used condoms, and sponges in the safer times of the month. Used pill once but it didn’t
agree with her so stopped.
Had a couple of bad experiences with men trying to force her to have sex, neither
succeeded but they were very upsetting experiences. The last one was a man she was
sharing a flat with as a friend, who'd had a girlfriend for 4 years and she'd known him before
so she thought he was okay, but he nearly raped her one night and so she left and went to
the flat she's in now with a [ASIAN] couple. Hasn't got a boyfriend at the moment although
says she's got her eye on one of her brother's friends. Wants to meet a 'decent man'.
Doesn't seem to have anyone much to talk to, can't talk to parents, doesn't have any close
women friends. Hadn't told anyone properly about her nasty experiences. Got engaged
briefly last summer to some very religious guy who she liked a lot, but there was no sex, and
he couldn't cope with her not believing in god, so they split up, She obviously still likes him.
Was willing to be re-interviewed and took away diary.