Interview with Kirsty, 20-21, British, lower middle class, no religion. Women, Risk and AIDS Project, London, 1989. Anonymised version including field notes. (Ref: LJH34)
Anonymised transcript of an interview with Kirsty, who works in finance and is training to be a company administrator. She has been in a turbulent on-and-off again relationship for a few years, which had some domestic violence involved. This was a sexual relationship, and though they had been using condoms Kirsty was not allowed to get the pill at the time without her mother's permission and fell pregnant, resulting in a quite harrowing miscarriage. She had already decided to have an abortion as she didn't think they would be able to support themselves, but still feels a lot of shame around this. Kirsty has had several sexual relationships since, and feels incredibly lonely and depressed when she doesn't have anyone around. Sex education at her school was very limited, and most of her knowledge has been gained through reading books. AIDS education has come from TV programmes and her cousin who is gay.
Reanimating Data Project
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Q: ... send them away to be transcribed, the tapes, by people who, you know, would
never come into contact with you at all. Well, thank you very much for agreeing to come
and talk to me. It's very nice to meet you. What we're trying to do with this piece of
research that we're doing is to find out how young women feel, and what they think,
about their relationships. So can I ask you what's the most important relationship which
you have or have had, any kind of relationship, not necessarily with men or whatever.
A: I think the most - well the most complicated relationship that I can think of is the one
between me and my mother.
Q: You're living with your mother at the moment?
A: Yeah, at the moment, yeah.
Q: Yeah. How's that, what can you tell me about it?
A: It's not - we get on very well now, but we had a very difficult time when I was a
teenager, it was a very difficult time, I'm surprised she didn't throw me out, but we get
on fine now, but I'm trying to move out again at the moment, we're still a bit close.
Q: Have you moved out before or A: Yes, I have done, yeah. I moved out once when I was sixteen to go and live with my
boyfriend and then very recently I was out for a couple of weeks when I broke up with a
Q: On the questionnaire it looked as if you'd had quite a few relationships which were
quite steady longish relationships A: Yeah.
Q: Yeah. Can you tell me about some of those - I mean - let me - let me take you back
into your past - tell me about that first relationship that you moved out, was that the first
one A: That was the first major relationship, yeah. He's someone I still see actually, he's a
friend. We were still going out with each other last year, we seem to go back to each
other every now and then, but first of all it was when I was fifteen, and we fell madly in
love, and I actually went to live with him for a while, and he was the same age as me,
when I was sixteen I went to live with him for a while. And then we kept breaking up and
getting back together again. And then we didn't see each other for about - that was for
about three years, and then we didn't see each other for about three years, he went to
COUNTRY, and then we got back in touch with each other last year and saw each other
again. But again it didn't work out so we're just friends now.
Q: Yeah. What do you think - I mean it must be different each time, the reason why it
didn't work out A: Yeah. I don't know, when I see him now we're both much more grown up than we
were before, much more mature, and I think it could possibly work; but the first reason
why it didn't work out when we were younger was because he used to get quite violent.
He'd been beaten up as a child and he couldn't express himself in any other way, so
he'd get violent when we were having arguments; and the last time we got back
together again, I'm not sure of the reason really, I think I'd just fallen out of love with
him, and I was hanging onto him but I didn't really love him. So I realised that and then
we broke up.
Q: Yeah. Was he violent the second time around?
A: No. He wasn't actually violent, I was always frightened that he would be, the
anticipation was worse really, but then he never actually was, but I was always
frightened, so that might have had something to do with it.
Q: That first time when you first started the relationship, was it the first sexual
relationship that you'd had?
Q: And how - how did it come about, I mean what made you decide to make it into a
sexual relationship? Did you decide or A: Well, we both actually decided it, it was his birthday, and we just decided that we
loved each other and we actually got engaged at this time, this was when I was fifteen,
and we decided we wanted to be together so we decided to have a sexual relationship.
Q: Did you use contraception the first time?
A: Yes, we did, we used condoms, yeah.
Q: Have you always done that or A: Used contraception? I actually got pregnant after that, we did use condoms when we
first started out but I went to the doctor to ask to go on the pill, and the doctor wouldn't
do it without my mum's permission, and I felt there was no way I could face my mum she didn't talk about things like that, so we carried on, and we used condoms
sometimes, and other times we didn't, and I got pregnant. But then I had a miscarriage Q: Yeah.
A: - so that solved itself really.
Q: Was that very upsetting or was it...
A: It was pretty awful because, apparently the nurses told my mum that I almost died,
and I said to her I was having pains, and she thought it was appendicitis, and then I told
her that I was pregnant. I lost a lot of blood and the doctor came, I went to the hospital,
and it seems that I lost a couple of days, I think I was unconscious for a couple of days
while they operated, and when I woke up she was very good but it must have been
awful for her. I felt that I'd really gone against her, I'd really upset her, but I mean I'm still
upset now, when I see babies and things, I get very broody. It was pretty awful.
Q: Do you think you - that you plan to have children at some point anyway?
A: What, then Q: No.
A: Oh, will I, oh yeah, I hope so, yeah.
Q: Yeah, yeah. At the time that you had that it must have been quite early in the
A: It was, it was probably about six months on that I actually got pregnant. Yeah. And Q: ... trauma, it didn't - I mean you kept together A: Yeah, I think it brought us actually closer together although it caused complications
'cos my mum - 'cos I was under sixteen when I actually got pregnant, and he was just
over. She was obviously very upset about it and said that she was gonna take him to
court, but she never did, but it caused complications because whenever he came round
there was - there was trouble obviously Q: Yeah. That must have been very difficult at that point for you.
A: It was a very difficult time. I think - a few years later I actually had a bit of a nervous
breakdown, I think it had probably got a lot to do with that, because I blanked the whole
thing out, and for a time I couldn't even remember having a miscarriage or anything, and
then suddenly it all came back, so that was a lot to do with it.
Q: You must have been at school at the time as well?
A: Yes, I was at school. I think also the worst thing about it was that it was all hushed
up. So even my father doesn't know, my brother - and I felt that I couldn't even talk
about it to anyone. Even my mum, she was very understanding but I couldn't - it's only
recently I've been able to say how I feel about having lost a baby, I wasn't really
encouraged to talk about it, I felt that I couldn't really mourn it.
Q: Mm, yeah. Do you feel you're working through that now a bit?
A: Yeah, I've - I've actually - I've got a lot better relationship now with my mum and we
can talk about things like that now, I don't feel so ashamed. I felt dirty at the time.
Q: Yeah. Well it was good, I mean that the - I mean she stood by you as it turned out
sort of thing, even though you were expecting that she wouldn't A: Yeah. No, she was - she was very good. I thought I knew - I knew she would be like
that, whatever I'd done she would stand by me.
Q: Mm, yeah. So, when you think about it now, I mean can you talk a little bit about it, I
mean how you felt about A: About actually Q: About losing the baby.
A: About losing the baby. I felt very confused because obviously when I found I was
pregnant I didn't think that I could have the child because I was still at school and I didn't
feel I could give it the right - I mean I didn't have my own place or anything, and SCOTT
had a job but it was nothing that could really support us, and also... didn't wanna tell
them, so I thought it wouldn't be an ideal time to bring a baby into the world, so I had
gone to ask about an abortion. The doctors were giving me a hard time because the two
doctors in the actual practice... and none of them seemed to sort of act very fast. I know
that there's a waiting list and everything, so I was told that they - they'd do what they
could and put me in for an abortion, but it wouldn't be very quickly. And so - I had the
miscarriage and I woke up, and I was actually in a ward with all pregnant women, which
made me cry non-stop for a couple of days.
A: And I think I - the worst thing was I felt really dirty because the nurses didn't seem
very friendly, everyone seemed to be against me, I was the only one in the ward that
wasn't - wasn't pregnant, I just felt ashamed really of it, but also I mean I did really want
the baby although I couldn't practically Q: - have it, yeah.
A: I just - I felt very confused because I felt I might have killed it myself in wanting to
have an abortion.
Q: That was where the guilt was coming from A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: - I was wondering about that, it wasn't so much about the sex, it was about the fact
that the baby had gone.
A: Yeah, I felt that I'd killed it, it wasn't what I wanted.
Q: Yeah. But - you wanted it as well as not wanting it A: That's right.
Q: - both of the things were in there.
A: Yeah. And I didn't know which way to turn.
Q: Yeah. So after that did things - I mean things got a bit better with your mum after after a while A: It took an awful long time with me and my mum to actually - like I say, I think we've
only actually ever talked about it maybe this year, and that was about seven years ago.
A: So it took an awful long time, we just used to skate over the subject every time it
A: But I've always felt really bad about it.
Q: Yeah. What about the - what about SCOTT, did things - how were they with him after
A: We were a bit closer for a while. Those - when I actually came out of hospital and
mum let him come round and see me - she wouldn't let him come to the hospital - and
when I was at home and I made a special effort to - to dress up and look quite happy,
and he was actually quite angry with me for not being iller, he thought that I was too
Q: It'd been too easy for you.
A: Yeah, that's right, he thought I wasn't upset at all and I was just trying to put on a
brave face really.
Q: Mm, yeah.
A: But that didn't come out for a while, he didn't tell me that straight away, but that's
what he told me afterwards.
Q: Mm. About the violence. What was your reaction, I mean had you known that he was
violent before or A: No. I knew about his background, when he was - actually when he was a few months
old he was found apparently on the floorboards in his parents' house, he'd been beaten
up and bruised and he was taken straight into care, and then apparently when he was
younger in care he experienced quite a bit of violence. So I knew that he hadn't had a
very good life and I think I made a lot of allowances for that. So when he - I don't think I think he probably - he actually hit me the day that I had a miscarriage, he hit me in the
stomach and I was wondering Q: Was that before... A: Yeah, that was about an hour before Q: Yeah.
A: - so maybe that could have been it, but the doctor just told me that it was just like
nature's way of saying that you aren't ready to have a baby. I didn't tell anyone about
that, I couldn't, if I'd told my mum she'd have never let him near me again. But he - he
only just started getting violent then, but every time he was violent then afterwards I'd
get an awful lot of sympathy from him, he'd feel very sorry and he'd be very nice to me,
so I think sometimes I thought it was a means to an end, it was - I got a lot more
attention from him than I would have got normally. I never got - except for that incident I
never got very badly hurt, I mean it would just be a - sometimes a slap round the face or
a punch or something like that, just... capable of... A lot of the time when I was staying
round his house I'd run away, I'd run away in the middle of the night because I'd be
frightened, and he'd come after me, and then I knew that I didn't - if I kept running and I
didn't stop when he called me then I think he would have done something worse. But as
I say, it was only - it was the slaps and punches mostly.
Q: Mm. But obviously - I mean as you said this was one of the reasons why you broke
up, I mean it built up A: Yeah, it built up. I mean I was very very immature at fifteen emotionally, I think, and I
think that's when I actually grew up and realised that I didn't have to take that, that I
didn't need to have that, and I think I always thought that it was just part of loving
someone, that it got very volatile, I didn't think that you could be so emotionally involved
with someone and not be volatile. So I just - I think I literally grew up and realised I didn't
Q: Yeah. So after you split up, what did you - what happened then, you went back to
live at home?
A: Yeah, I went back to live at home. I wasn't actually living with him for very long.
A: I went back to live at home and not a lot happened really, I mean I went out with lots
of people, but I always felt that I really loved him. And I knew that he'd feel the same as
well and he did. So he'd phone up say once every year or something Q: Yeah.
A: - out of the blue and that would give me a jolt and then I'd realise that the person I
was with I didn't really love as much as that.
Q: Yeah. That must have been a bit difficult A: Yeah. I think I just kept looking for that - that first thing when you first fall in love, I
kept looking for that all the time, I just didn't find it.
Q: These other people, they were some long, some short relationships?
A: Yeah. There was one soon - quite soon after I'd finished with SCOTT, I went out with
JONATHAN, and that lasted I think two or three years. And that was mostly - I couldn't I found it very difficult to have a physical relationship for a while, I - it started off as a
physical relationship and then for two years I was actually celibate, I wouldn't sleep with
JONATHAN, but he was very understanding, and it was mainly like a spiritual
relationship really. We got on very well, we were almost like friends, and then after after two years of not having a physical relationship, I just thought there must be
something wrong here, and I split up with him. I thought we were really just friends and I
was really leading him on, because he was thinking of marriage and - and like living
together for always, and I knew there was something wrong. I didn't want him physically
so Q: Do you think it was just him or do you think it was that you didn't want anybody?
A: I didn't actually want anyone, I don't think, but I still didn't - I wasn't actually attracted
to him in that way. I could still look at people and think that they were attractive, but I
didn't - I didn't want to sleep with anyone at that time.
Q: Why do you think that was?
A: That was around the time when I had like the nervous breakdown so I think that
probably had an awful lot to do with it, I just cut myself off from most people, I never saw
any of my friends, I just - I stayed with JONATHAN all the time, I mean we were just
together every day and he was the only person I could really sort of tell how I felt all the
time. And he was so good at listening, so I just avoided everyone sort of thing.
Q: So I mean he was supportive in another way somehow A: Yeah.
Q: - I mean he's - like - almost like therapy A: That's right, yeah. He was very good.
Q: And it was at the point where you decided that maybe you were - were you thinking
that you could have a physical relationship with somebody?
A: Yeah. I started feeling restless, I suppose, in a way, I just - I felt - I knew that there
was more, I just wanted some - some passion out of life I think it was. I just - it was
actually just one day I decided, a Sunday, I just woke up and decided, this is it, I've
definitely got to finish it. Just went round and told him. I don't think he actually believed
me at the time but - and of course we said we'd try and remain friends but - we see
each other occasionally but we're not really friends. We've lost everything we ever had.
Q: Yes. Well, rather a complicated relationship. What happened after that one?
A: After that one then I - I seemed to go through quite a few people. I think I was quite
merciless at that time. I seemed to have lots of relationships with people, I went a bit
wild. But then I think I needed that for some reason, it didn't harm me at all, that actual
period, 'cos I just seemed - I got through quite a few people. Mostly that were friends as
well, and I slept with them, and the main... it was all very uncomplicated, which after the
last two was what I needed.
Q: Yeah, yeah. And what about - I mean when you said you'd been celibate, you hadn't
really felt like having a physical relationship, I mean were you enjoying these physical were they actually satisfying? Or some may have been and some not.
A: I don't think I've ever found anything completely sexually satisfying, I think my main
reason for actually having physical relationships is the cuddling and the affection and
everything, I don't really get a great deal out of the sex, because I think I cut myself off a
lot of the time. I don't seem capable of actually closing my mind and I always, sometime
- well, most of the time I start thinking this is really dirty, I think probably from what I was
brought up with as a child, I just think - it just always seems wrong to me, although I'm
probably sort of very liberal and I don't feel anything like that is wrong, it just seems to
come into my mind all the time, it makes me feel guilty so - it's mostly for the
affectionate side of it...
Q: I was gonna ask you about that from a different sort of direction really, asking what what you think of as sex, what is sex for you?
A: Ah, a difficult one. I don't know, it's very difficult. Because I think - I mean even
touching can be sex, I don't necessarily mean the intercourse, but any sort of intimacy. I
don't know, I just seem to remember, when I was younger any sort of intimacy on TV or
anything like that, I used to get very embarrassed about if my mum was there. It might
be because my parents both got married very young so I've never actually seen her kiss
or cuddle a man or anything like that, and I've just - I just feel it should be like behind
closed doors sort of thing. Although that isn't really what I think, I mean Q: Yeah, it's complicated, isn't it?
Q: You say your parents broke up when you were young?
A: Yeah, my father left when I was three. And she did marry again but that was a very
strange relationship. He was - my stepfather was quite violent, and he was a bit - a bit
schizo I think. He used to do - he was another one that - he found some diaries of mine
when I was about fourteen, I think, when I had a boyfriend and we were just like petting
and stuff like that, and I wrote it in my diaries, and he told my mum and he phoned my
dad up and made him come round, and they all sort of confronted me and said that - I
remember my stepmother saying to me, why is sex so important to you? I couldn't
understand it 'cos it didn't seem - I wasn't saying it was that important, I just wrote down
my experiences, but it was a bit dangerous to have done that.
Q: Well it's not surprising that you've got this feeling that, you know - because I mean
it's a bit heavy for them all to come down upon you like that.
A: Yeah. They thought there was something wrong with me. I - I just - I mean I always
avoid the subject of sex with my dad because I know that there are still things that...
Q: You still see him then?
A: I still see my dad, yeah, occasionally.
Q: And your stepfather is still with your A: No, no. Things came to a head when he did that, my mum just couldn't believe that
he'd read my diaries and done that, and so she - I went to stay with my boyfriend's
family at that time, and that's when she... pay him off, to get him out of the house.
Q: Yeah. But he had been hitting her anyway A: No, he hit me.
Q: He hit you?
A: He hit me. And he was just - he was quite sick, he used to do things like loosen the
tyre, the wheel on the car, and it came off once when we were in the car. Just with my
mum. And he was just a bit strange. But I mean she knew what was going on, she'd
been trying to get rid of him for ages, but it was part his house so that was difficult.
Q: Yeah. But at that point she didn't sort of - she A: Yeah...
Q: Yeah. So she's not been with anybody since then A: No... that worries me quite a bit.
Q: Mm. Does that mean it's very worrying that - the other thing I was gonna ask you
about was about your - you didn't say you were religious on the questionnaire A: No.
Q: So this feeling about sex and everything wasn't from any sort of religious conviction
that it might be wrong or something, it was coming from something that was in the
family A: Yeah, I think it must. I went to church an awful lot when I was young but the vicar that
we had was quite liberal, I never remember him saying anything about that, but no,...
that respect at all...
Q: Yeah. Well I mean I think that experience with, you know, your diaries and
everything, is pretty dramatic A: Yeah, yeah. Very upsetting.
Q: And then again with the miscarriage, I mean, it's enough to make you feel badly
A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: But what about - let's - let's... question a little bit away from what you were saying, it's
more about the idea of safe sex. When you say that it's - it's not so much the sex that's
important to you, it's the cuddling and the other sorts of things, and that sex for you isn't
just intercourse A: Yeah
Q: - what do you think of as safe sex?
A: Safe sex. Well the first thing that comes into my mind with safe sex is using
A: I know that safe sex can be just touching each other and anything else except for
intercourse, but it always seems to me ultimately all - sex always leads up to
intercourse, so I always just think of safe sex as just using condoms.
Q: Yeah. So that intercourse would be a part of it A: Yeah.
Q: - the ultimate aim. Because I was thinking about before - I mean that relationship that
you were having with the guy when you wrote your diaries, I mean you might well have
been doing things which were on the way towards sex.
A: Oh, they definitely were.
Q: Yeah, yeah. Which is probably why they got so uptight.
A: Yeah. We were so - both of us were so naive, we never probably would have got
Q: Yeah. But it was - it's interesting really, I mean I've been talking to young women, to
find out that those aspects of the sex which they enjoy quite often aren't - I mean it's not
the penetration at all, it's the other aspects, but that they feel that that's the point of the
whole exercise ... when you get to that point.
A: That's right, that's what it seems like.
Q: Yeah. Well I don't think it necessarily has to be like that.
A: No. I don't know, it just seems that's what's expected, I think.
Q: Yeah. Thinking about expectations, I mean when you were at school and you were
having this relationship with - with SCOTT, did you - were - were other people your age
having that kind of relationship? - or, not necessarily that kind, but you know, having A: No, no one that I knew was. One of my friends was actually quite disgusted with me
'cos she thought it was - it was just - she was very prim and proper and she said she
would never have sex until she was married and she thought it was wrong. But I was
the only person I knew that was having a sexual relationship.
Q: Had you had any sex education at school at that point?
A: No. I'd only ever been taught at school about periods, I'd never been taught about
sex. I didn't really do biology, so I didn't hear in that way.
Q: Yeah. So it was a bit limited.
A: I - I read an awful lot anyway, I've always read a lot, so I'd picked up most things.
Q: Yeah. And you had a bit of difficulty discussing it with your mother as well.
Q: You didn't get much from home really.
A: No. I mean she was - she's not religious but she still - she still was then with the idea
that you don't do it ‘til you're married, she never had done so she thought that was the
way - but she's changed an incredible amount in the last few years. I think the freedom
from men has actually changed her and she's very, very, liberal now. And she doesn't
think there's any problem with living together or anything.
Q: Mm. Sometimes it's a bit disconcerting when your parents change, when they A: Yeah.
Q: - when they've influenced you so much at a certain point in your life and you
suddenly realise that their views have changed and you're still carrying around their old
A: Yeah. Yeah, well the way she says it to people is that she's actually been educated
by me now... which is quite good.
Q: Yeah. What about AIDS, I mean to get to one of the other issues that we were talking
about in this research, when did you first hear about AIDS? Or can you remember when
you first heard about it?
A: I think it must have been - I can't think when it was, how long ago it was, but it was
definitely off something on TV. I think when it was all - when it was hitting America it
wasn't so much about over here, but it was something about San Francisco, and it was it said it was - I'm not sure, at the time it was really just gays, they were saying it was
just gays and there was no problem with heterosexuals Q: Yeah.
A: - I'm sure that's - that's how it came across to me anyway, that they said at the start
that everyone thought of it as a gay plague and that's how it...
Q: That was quite a lot of the message. So you reacted to it like that, you felt that A: Yeah.
Q: - it wasn't a problem.
A: Well I thought it - it was awful, but I didn't think it affected me. But I was still worried
Q: Have you found out more about it over time?
A: Yeah, yeah, I've found out quite a bit about it. Because my cousin's gay so he's told
me quite a bit about it anyway, 'cos he's - he's worried about it.
Q: So you feel as if you've got enough information to be going on with - I mean what do
you think - what is it, what is AIDS?
A: It's - I don't know what the actual words stand for, but it's when the immune system
breaks down, as far as I know, and even things like a common cold can be serious 'cos
you've got no means to Q: And what about - how do you get it, how do you A: You get it in substances like secretions. You get it in saliva - I'm not so sure about
saliva, there's a bit of controversy about that I think, but... secretions or anything like
that, blood Q: Yeah.
A: That sort of thing.
Q: So through needles and A: Yeah.
Q: Yeah. What about the difference between HIV and AIDS?
A: I think HIV is when you have the virus but you're not necessarily going to be affected
by it, you're a carrier but not necessarily going to die from AIDS.
Q: Yeah. So you can give it to others if that A: Yeah, you can carry it...
Q: Yeah, I mean there are sort of - there are various estimates of how many people who
have the virus will actually develop AIDS, I mean it changes because the time span...
probably about 75% or something, I think, will probably develop, but it is variable. The
saliva one is quite strange really because I mean at one point, they said it could be
passed in saliva, but you'd need to consume a pint and a half or something. (Laughter)
The imagination boggles. But I think that one... it's not too certain, I mean it's obviously
not a very efficient way of transmitting it.
Q: So what do you think of the - have you seen any of the campaigns, like the ads in the
newspapers or on television about A: Yeah.
Q: What do you think of them?
A: Well they seem quite effective to me but sort of looking at friends and colleagues,
they still don't seem to be getting the message across because people are still thinking
that there's something that just affects gays or needle users, and they just don't seem to
be getting the message. Or a lot of people that I've spoken to, they're saying, well what
the hell, you have to die of something, they seem to be so careless, they just don't... So
I think - I think it was a big mistake in the first place for the media to make - to make out
that it was just gay people, 'cos it really - that's the message that's hit home and nothing
Q: Mm. People just don't think it's relevant to them.
Q: Yeah, I think that's true of quite a lot of the people that I've spoken to. Do you think are you - you're frightened of it yourself are you, or A: I think - I don't feel so bad about - I would feel awful with my family and everything, if I
caught it and that was the way that I died, but I don't - I'm not particularly worried about
dying, but then I always feel if I'd carried it onto someone else then I would feel very,
very, bad. That's what worries me more, is actually passing it onto someone else.
Q: Yeah. What about catching it yourself, I mean do you worry about doing things that
might cause you to catch it?
A: Oh, yeah, I mean when I have sex now I use condoms, although that isn't - I know
that isn't completely foolproof, and also, as far as possible, I don't go with people that
are overly promiscuous, but it doesn't really make an awful lot of difference, does it?
Q: It's hard to tell really.
A: Yeah, that's right.
Q: Yeah. So basically, you go for condoms as a way of dealing with it A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Well I mean it's - it is certainly better than nothing, isn't it.
Q: Have you - during that period when you were promiscuous, were you using
contraception then or A: I was on the pill then.
Q: Right, so A: I was on the pill for - ever since I had a miscarriage...
Q: So sometimes you've been using both.
Q: Yeah. You mentioned that on the - in fact, I've found that with quite a few young
women that I've spoken to that they - it's like the pill - they wanna be absolutely certain
that they're not gonna get pregnant.
A: 'Cos it's not only AIDS that worries me, also things like, you know, the other sexually
transmitted diseases Q: Yeah.
A: I actually contracted.... and it was only by luck that I actually got an infection in my
eye which is the same thing and they actually found it in my womb, but it could have
made me infertile, and that worries me, the sort of diseases you can catch where you
don't have any symptoms, and then all of a sudden you're infertile. So that's sort of part
of the reason as well, I use condoms.
Q: ... I mean, very wise. But what do you think about relationships in the future? On the
questionnaire you said you - that you - I asked you to project yourself a bit into the
future A: Yeah.
Q: - and you were saying that you hoped you'd be in a steady relationship.
A: I hope so. I can't really see it happening Q: Yeah.
A: - but all the ... - as soon as I do get into a steady relationship and it goes on for a
couple of years, then if I'm not getting the attention that I'm looking for, then I seem to
break the relationship up. I tend to want what we had at the beginning all the time, I
want it to carry on all the time. But that's what I would like, to have a steady relationship,
to have children.
Q: You've not got anybody in mind particularly at the moment.
A: No, no. I've just broken up with someone recently so Q: How was that relationship, had it been long A: It was six months, but it was a very important relationship actually, we were very
much in love but, again, as soon as I got bored, I just split it up.
A: I don't know. I think I just want so much attention all the time. I'm a very attentionseeking person, which is pretty horrible, I don't really like - ... space for myself but I don't
really like it.
Q: What about - thinking why it is you want the attention.
A: I don't know, I think I might have missed out a bit not having my father there. You
know, even when I see him, I don't think he's ever cuddled me, he kisses me on the
cheek, but he's never actually given me a hug or anything. Whereas my mum is very
demonstrative, she does that sort of thing. Maybe it's that, I think maybe I'm used to
having some attention there 'cos he doesn't pay much attention to me.
Q: But then they do pay you attention at the beginning, but it's when they start - when
they start getting used to you that you A: Yeah, that's right, when they sort of start taking me a little bit for granted Q: Yeah.
A: - I don't know,... more attention.
Q: Yeah. So it's you who normally ends the relationships.
Q: Even though... latest one as well.
A: Yeah... Although I don't - I don't know, I always end it because even though I'm not
the one that actually says it, I do something which I know is gonna make them break the
Q: What kind of thing do you do?
A: Get off with someone else and tell him...(laughter)
Q: I was wondering that, I didn't want to assume it straight away.
A: ... I think ending it is very, very, difficult. It was very difficult with JONATHAN because
he was such a good person, it was incredibly difficult, and I always think ending it is
more difficult than actually having someone do it to you. But no one agrees with me.
Q: ... Some people can't handle it at all and stay in relationships forever because they
don't know how to get out, or something like that. So do you feel in fact that - that you that you're in control in relationships?
A: Yeah, I do.
Q: That you decide how it's going or A: I think I always make sure I'm in control. The person that I was going out with, I went
out with my last boyfriend's best friend before I went out with my boyfriend, and he said
to me that I was totally in control and that I had all the power in the world really. I do
believe that in general women have more power in relationships than men do.
Q: You do?
A: Yeah, I believe they've got more power to manipulate.
Q: Mm. How?
A: I just think that women in general are more cunning than men, I think we can - I don't
know - it's just we can use - it sounds awful, feminine wiles to make people do things.
Or I think - I think that's what I've done in a way. I think a lot of the time I use sex in that
Q: Yeah. And you haven't felt that they've put pressure on you to do things that you
don't want to do in the relationship?
A: That has happened, yeah, I mean this last relationship's dragged out longer than I
would have wanted it to. It's been quite painful for me which doesn't - I don't normally
get so affected... but maybe I didn't have quite as much control as what I would have
liked. This person was a lot more independent of me than I would have liked, that's why
I got very frustrated in the end. So - he didn't seem to need me, that was clear, he didn't
seem to need me as much as I'd been needed before.
Q: So that's the way that you like your relationships to be structured in a way, that
you're the one who's needed and they're... on you?
A: Yeah, that's right.
Q: Quite interesting, 'cos quite often it's exactly the reverse, isn't it, there's much more
dependence on the man.
Q: So what do you think about - I mean, thinking about another relationship, do you
think you'll do probably the same pattern again or - do you think there's movement?
A: Yeah, I think there's movement. Before I always thought I'd always... be able to have
a relationship (?) there's always people there, I always had people in the background,
people I'd gone out with before that wanted to carry on going back out with me, and if I
finished with someone I could go back to them all the time, which I've done a couple of
times. I do that with SCOTT, we go back to each other after a relationship, but - I don't
know, I think I am starting to get more mature now and more - I think this last
relationship's taught me quite a lot. I wanna concentrate on a career now and not be so
- not get so involved with people. 'Cos usually if I go out with someone I see them every
day and it's very, very, intense,... which isn't really the right way to carry on.
Q: I suppose that might explain why, when you get to the point where - I mean if it's so
intense, you're sure to get bored with it at some point in a way, aren't you?
A: That's right, yeah.
Q: ... other things. What about the other things, what have you been doing, as a career?
A: I've been working in finance at the moment, but this has made me decide to take
exams 'cos my last boyfriend WORKED IN FINANCE, he was - he had a degree and he
was quite sort of brilliant in his field, and it made me very frustrated that he had these
qualifications and I was really just a clerk working in finance, whereas I know I could do
- I could do more but I never actually got around to doing it, probably 'cos I've been
involved in so many relationships and given them everything.
A: So I decided to study, and I'm studying for a professional qualification now.
Q: As an accountant?
A: Well, not quite, as a - it's finance-orientated but it's as a - to be a company
administrator. It sounds quite good.
Q: Are you doing it full-time or in the evenings or A: No, I'm doing it in the evenings.
Q: Well, that was one thing to come out of that relationship... Yeah. So where are you
working at the moment?
A: I'm working at NAME OF COMPANY at the moment.
Q: So do you think you might stay there or once you get this qualification - I mean you
could move up through the (?) firm or move out A: I could do, yeah. I mean it's a bit difficult there at the moment but - my last
relationship, FRANK, he was actually working there when we met, and there had been a
bit of trouble at work. He had a fight with his best friend outside my house because of
me, and also some other people had to... It's a bit difficult. Two people who actually...
because they had a fight. And I don't think I actually engineered that at all, it just came
about, so things are still a bit shaky there at the moment.
Q: Yeah. What, you've been having relationships with people there?
A: Yeah. It sounds a lot worse than it is but FRANK's friend that I was going out with
before FRANK, we were very very good friends, we were very close as friends, and
FRANK always thought differently, he always thought something was going on, so he
eventually had a fight with this other SCOTT, a different SCOTT. And then when I
finished with FRANK I just went out for a drink with someone, an auditor, and then it
seemed that SCOTT was actually in love with me, and hit this auditor for going out for a
drink with me, which I'd never realised, I (?) obviously hadn't. And that came about and
they both got dismissed for having a fight over it.
Q: Complicated! How did you feel about that, I mean didn't you feel - they're getting
dismissed, what about you getting dismissed?
A: Yeah, well I got - I had to have a disciplinary, I had to say whether I'd actually done
anything to cause it, but they - they said that it came out that I hadn't. But - for one of
the first times in my life I think I was genuinely surprised by someone's reaction to things
that I did.
A: I don't think - I - SCOTT was very close to me at the time, he was a very - he was my
closest friend and the time, and it was just a bit of a shock. Which upset me again
because the male friends that I have I always seem to think that they're not just friends
with me, they always seem to want something more, which - which I resent quite a bit,
because, you know, I want people to be friends with me, to be friends with me, not just
because they want sex or something.
Q: Mm, yeah.
A: So it was a very bad time. Also, I felt terrible because two people had been
Q: Yeah. When you say - I mean, you want male friends without the sex, but it sounds
as if you've had it on both ends so to speak, you've had friends who've become sexual
partners A: Yeah.
Q: - and sexual partners who've become friends A: Yeah, that's right.
Q: - so I mean... passed through...
A: Sometimes it just frustrates me that I can't seem to have -I mean I got off with a very
close male friend who's been a friend of mine for about six years, but I still know that if I
said to him one night, let's have sex, that he would do it. I know that he's attracted to me
in that way, which I resent because it seems that he's not just friends with me just to be
friends, but he's maybe always thinking something else is gonna happen.
Q: Yeah. Are you thinking that? I mean, do you have that lying in your mind at times as
well, I mean when you say you want them just as friends do you like the idea that
possibly they might want sex as well, or you might want it at some stage but you don't
particularly want it now, or A: The people that I've actually have just always been friends with I wouldn't be
attracted to in any way. I probably like the idea that they're attracted to me, obviously,
'cos it's flattering.
A: But obviously the people that I've had relationships with before, before that now I'm
friends with, I wouldn't - there probably are times when I would turn round to them if I
was feeling lonely or something and say that - well, not say that, but just engineer it in
my way, where the people that I've always just been friends with I wouldn't want a
Q: In a way that sounds a bit - I mean when you say you've usually got these people in
the background who you can ring for when required, as if you're almost keeping kind of
the potential of sexual activity with some of them, maybe called on (?) to a stage A: Yeah, I think that's what I do, I think I'm very afraid of being lonely and if I don't have
a boyfriend I get a very low self-image and I - my ego goes down quite a bit and I need need people to make me feel wanted again. That's probably what it is.
Q: Yeah. Well you seem to be quite successful at it. Yes, it's interesting that you're
seeing it - you know, you can see that that's what's happening, but now there's
something else which is giving you self-esteem which is the work, I mean –
A: Yeah, yeah. I think I can analyse myself reasonably well, I know exactly what I am, I
don't like it very much but I can't - I try to stop it and I just can't seem to.
Q: Well, sometimes it's incredibly difficult to do it by yourself however much insight
you've got into it because it's got a hold on you somehow.
Q: ... speaking generally... sort of thing. I mean maybe sometimes it's helpful to have
some outside help with it, you know, you could go and talk to somebody who could give
you some advice or counselling, something like that. Have you ever thought of doing
something like that?
A: Well at the moment I'm actually under the doctor because I have a problem with
depression as well, which normally happens when I haven't got a boyfriend, but I don't
think it's just - there never seems to be an actual reason for it, I just get very low and I
sometimes get suicidal as well. So, I'm on tablets at the moment, anti-depressants from
the doctor, and I've got to go back to her this week, she's gonna see if someone can
speak to me. 'Cos I've got an eating problem as well.
Q: Yeah. What's that?
A: I just get very - I'm just very hungry, I feel at the moment that I've lost quite a bit of
weight, and I find it difficult to eat in front of people at the moment. I mean I've been...
Q: Yeah. Well I'm sure it would be a good idea to see somebody about all those things
really. Well one of the things I was gonna ask you about was - it's really to do with this, I
mean (tape change)... in a way you've taken some risks in your sexual life, I mean at
the very beginning when you got pregnant; and then a bit in that period when you were
describing yourself as promiscuous, I mean you weren't taking risks with pregnancy
because you were on the pill but it was quite risky in other respects A: Yeah.
Q: - do you think you take risks in other areas of your life?
A: I'm not sure, 'cos I lead - I lead quite a steady sort of life except for relationships and
things like that. I live at home, I always - I have a steady job. I think I play it quite safe.
Q: Mm, it's all sort of channeled into that particular area.
Q: But I was thinking about the eating thing because that's taking risks with your body in
a way, isn't it.
A: Yeah. But I think - yeah, 'cos at one point I went down to seven stone and I think I
was just trying to see how much weight I could lose, and I think that's another attentionseeking thing as well, because I was trying to see how much weight I could lose beforeQ: - anybody would notice.
A: Yeah. When people didn't notice, and to see just how far I could go. 'Cos I - as I said
before, I feel - a lot of the time I get suicidal but even when I'm not suicidal I still don't
really care an awful lot about living and so it doesn't really worry me to go that far.
Q: Yeah. So that's really - I mean that's really - it's all taking risks with yourself, isn't it?
A: Mm, that's right.
Q: So it's a more sort of general - general approach.
Q: When you feel suicidal you - you don't know why you feel suicidal, it's just something
A: Yeah, I usually go into - I mean the doctor says at the moment I'm in acute
depression, I usually - I just get very, very, down, and then after a couple of days I just I just can't see any point. And - it's a bit worse now 'cos I started driving, I just passed
my driving test, so - last time I felt suicidal I was on the motorway. Sort of taking... risks
there. It's just very selfish, really.
Q: It is a bit, yeah. I think it's important for you, I mean since you're seeing the doctor,
maybe to try and get to talk to somebody because I think it may - it may help to be able
to talk through the things, to look at them.
Q: I mean you've got a lot of insight into - into it yourself, but you just need that - that
little sort of extra push of something from the outside doing it with you, really.
A: Yeah. Some sort of direction, I think.
Q: Yeah. Because I think it's incredibly difficult to do it by yourself, you're just - when
you've got so much that's been constraining to operate in certain ways, to try to get out,
however much you know about what you're doing, is just too tough. So I think you must
- you must pursue that, try to find somebody.
A: I - the doctors I've spoken to before have always thought my problems weren't that
serious but there's - this is a different doctor and she's taken it quite seriously, 'cos I told
her I actually, you know, tried to commit suicide, and I really was - I was playing it quite
dangerous on the motorway, I was on tranquilisers there so - she's taking it very
seriously, she's quite nice.
Q: Mm, yeah. Well, of course it could be another round of your attention-seeking A: Yeah, could be.
Q: - but on the other hand I mean that's - what did you do before, there's something
behind that A: Yeah, a problem there, isn't there Q: Yeah, and that's what - that's what you want to get out, because I mean you might be
successful, you might try to seek attention in such a big way that you actually
successfully kill yourself, mightn't you.
Q: So I think it's something to be wary of. Is it... thinking about the relationships again, I
mean is there something about to come forward from the background now or...?
A: Well, I've seen SCOTT recently Q: Yeah...
A: - and ... we're good friends at the moment but he seems to - he seems ready to come
Q: Yeah. But you're not so ready?
A: I seem to - I think I'm going through my celibate phase again, I just don't seem to
want anyone in that way. I want to be cuddled and I want to be - have someone be fond
of me, but not - not to be physical. Which I know he wouldn't understand.
Q: Yeah. If I were to ask you a question, it might be a little bit difficult - what - what
would you say is your image of yourself? How would you describe yourself to somebody
A: I'd... very bad... It's all the things I don't like in people. If I had to describe my
personality, I think I'm socially quite awkward. A lot of the time I just don't want to talk to
people. I avoid even going on buses, just worry if someone's gonna try and make a
conversation with me or something. And then sometimes if I'm with people I know I can
be very loud and very boisterous, but then I am always, I think, attention-seeking and
especially in male company. I think I'm definitely very different in female company than
Q: Mm. That - it sort of - it just keeps running through everything you say - it sounds as
if somebody's put that label on you very early on and that you're carrying it with you
somehow. Do you think that's... think that?
A: No, I do think Q: It may not even be true. I - I've accepted it because you say it to me, but it may not
really be true.
A: Yeah, I was - I know at school that I was always labelled as - I always had a few
names attached to me, but - probably because I was the first person that I know to have
a sexual relationship - and Q: Did that upset you or did it please you, I mean A: It didn't upset - I don't think it upset me, it made me want to - the people that were
saying it weren't the sort of people that I wanted to be friends with anyway, so it didn't well, it just made me wanna fight them even more, just, you know, be against them even
more. My stepfather always used to say that as well, he used to call me names. He
used to often do it to my mother just to upset her, and he used - when my dad came
round that time, he told my dad lies and said that I used to come downstairs and have
no underwear on, things like that, just trying to entice him, it was just - I definitely had no
idea of anything like that, he just made that up completely. But it still embarrassed me to
think that my dad thinks - he believes that, he definitely believed it at the time. Yeah, I Q: Do you think there was anything going the other way, I mean, from your stepdad, I
mean that it might have been putting onto you something that was coming from him?
A: Yeah, I think possibly there could have been. But I just found him quite
revolting, ...probably because I hated him anyway, but it's just, when he did that that
was the last straw, I just felt totally humiliated when he said that, in a roomful of people.
My brother was there as well, my brother had also heard things about me and had a
real go at me about it, things that I hadn't done. It just seemed that people always were
putting labels on me in some way for things that I hadn't even done, so I probably
thought, well, they think I'm doing it, I might as well go out and do it.
Q: Yeah, yeah, I can see that. Is your brother older or younger?
A: He's older, seven years older.
Q: Do you still see much of him now?
A: Quite a bit, he's - he annoys me a lot of the time because I think if my dad's not there,
he tries to be a father figure. He's actually married and moved away, I mean he's always
- he was never there anyway, he was at boarding school and so I never actually knew
him as a brother, but he does try and do a big brother act and I just try and avoid that.
Q: Mm, yeah. It's a complicated family relationship as well.
A: It is, yeah. In different ways.
Q: Do you think that other people's image of you coincides with yours? I mean almost it
sounded as if you were giving other people's image of you rather than what you think
you are yourself.
A: Well people either really like me a lot or they hate me, people don't just seem to think
of me as someone that's just there. I don't really know... image, I think I'm - I don't know,
I think a lot of girls think I'm quite vulgar. Out - out of my friends we are often - like we
usually see a group of men, you know, we tell rude jokes and that sort of thing. No, all
the girls that I get on well with are tomboys, and if I make friends it's usually male
friends rather than female friends, I usually find them too insipid a lot of the time.
Q: Mm. Do you think that's something to do with - I mean, what's expected of women.
Do you think that you do things which aren't exactly A: Yeah, I fight against that.
A: Yeah. I'm quite extreme about that, quite an extreme feminist, and I spend a lot of
time doing walks and collecting for various charities and things, and anything that is - I
just - I think I've always just tried to stick out a little bit. And then when I got to my
teenage years I was trying to conform, and I couldn't do it. And that used to upset me, I
just wanted to be normal, and I just couldn't get there.
Q: Yeah. Couldn't figure out what it was. No, somebody's written a book called Typical
Girls, question-mark, 'cos she's trying to go out and find some typical girls and they're all
A: There's no such thing really, is there?
Q: ... typical girl. I suppose one has in one's head, you know, what is an expected
behaviour, whoever it's coming from. And it sounds like you had a bit of pressure from
your friends as well, I mean you said about this friend who disapproved of you A: Yeah. In fact, she worked out quite well, though, because she - she's quite
promiscuous at the moment so... (laughter)
Q: Are you still friends with her?
A: Yeah, there's three of us and we were close friends at school, l and we've remained
good friends ever since. It's quite good, even through the various boyfriend troubles and
times when we didn't see each other at all, we're still very close.
Q: Mm. That's good.
Q: Yeah. To have relationships like that.
A: Although I think I put a bit of an act on with them. If I have any real serious problems,
when I'm really depressed, I go to my male friends. I'm sort of not very keen on letting
my female friends see that I'm depressed or anything, I like them to see me when I'm
A: They come to me when they've got problems but I never let them see that I've got
Q: Yeah. So you feel more comfortable talking to men about that kind of thing.
A: Yeah. I think it's because I'm always saying to my friends, you must never let yourself
get upset over men, you must do this, and I wouldn't like them to let me - for them to
see me making the same mistakes.
Q: Yeah. So you go and talk to men. But do you get - I mean, do you get the comfort
that you need? I mean you did from that guy, the one who you spent the two years with
being celibate with A: Yeah, JONATHAN, yeah.
Q: JONATHAN, yeah.
A: Well, STEPHEN, the friend - the one that's been friends with me for quite a few
years, he's - he knows how to deal with me, he's very good in that sort of situation, but
the closest friend I had was this - this other SCOTT, the one that was FRANK's friend,
and - I don't know why... in that situation I actually stole FRANK's friend 'cos I felt
threatened by him being so close with FRANK, but he really - we were really close, I
could tell him anything, and now, because of this problem, he's been dismissed from
work, he's not talking to me anymore, which I - it's quite a loss. I was closer to him, you
know, for a long time.
Q: Mm. It's interesting the two types of talk you were talking about, though, you can talk
to men about the problems that you have and can't talk to women, but to women you
can talk - like say, talking dirty about men or something like that.
A: I don't like to be seen as weak by women, you know, I don't like to - it's just - I'm
always telling them, I'm always telling my friends how to react to problems that - and
when they're upset I mean, I comfort them, I think I'm - I'm quite good at listening, but
I'm always saying to them, you mustn't let men get on top of you Q: Yeah.
A: - so I want them to always think that I'm on top of men all the time.
A: Which obviously isn't true.
Q: Yeah. Yeah, although you also - I mean you said to me too that you feel... more of a
power position in a relationship.
A: Yeah. But this last relationship has evened it out a bit, which makes me feel quite
angry. I'm actually - I'm actually missing the relationship.
Q: Quite a lot to think about. I mean, I've got quite a lot to think about from what you've
been saying. Interesting the way - the different ways that you can react to men. Do you
feel a bit... of your women friends when you say, you know, that you're not - you're
trying to keep from them any weakness that you have A: Yeah, I do, I feel like I'm putting on an act.
Q: An act, you said that, yeah. Don't you feel that you might be missing out on getting
something back from them? You give them comfort and support when they need you that you might be able to get some from them?
A: I think I'm always frightened that if I did break down or anything in front of them, that
they might not wanna be friends with me anymore, which is a bit - I mean I've been
friends with them for a long, long time, but I always feel that if I'm not happy and
boisterous and everything I normally am, that they're gonna think, oh, she's no fun. You
know, I can't - whereas with my male friends they don't seem to be looking for that all
Q: Or you don't feel that you're gonna give it to them.
A: Yeah. As I say, I don't feel that I have to keep it up.
Q: Yeah. When you tell these guys how you feel about things, do you trust them?
A: Yeah. I trust - I think I trust most people, I'm not - I'm not very secretive, I'll tell most
people anything. Yeah, STEPHEN, the one that's been a friend of mine for a long time, I
do trust him a lot.
Q: What about double standards between the expected behaviour of men and women, I
mean do you think –
A: It's still definitely there. I think I'm quite - I've got double standards in the same way
because, when people are saying things like someone's a (?) dyke or whatever other
terms they use, a lot of the time I'll say there's no such thing, you mustn't say that, but
then there have been times when I've actually thought it and ended up angry with
myself for thinking it. Because I don't think - that isn't the way it should be, but that is the
way we're sort of programmed to think. And it still worries me a bit.
Q: And that guys don't - you know, it's okay for them but it's not okay for us.
A: Yeah. It's like with them the more the better, with us the fewer the better, it's - we've
got to save ourselves and - I still -I still talk to men that say they'd like to have a
relationship with a virgin or something, it just - I don't know why they think that. Or it
might be perfectly true, but it just worries me the way people think, it worries me, I feel
very guilty for actually thinking it sometimes...
Q: Yeah. But you get guilt on both sides of it, don't you, because you feel guilty about
what you've done yourself.
Q: I mean, would you say that you regretted some of those relationships that you had?
A: I don't think so. I don't think the actual relationships were at fault.
A: Even when I was promiscuous, I think it's what I needed at the time and I wasn't - as
long as I wasn't hurting anyone it didn't matter. I don't think I hurt anyone.
Q: And you don't - I mean you felt good about that anyway A: Yeah.
Q: - I mean you were saying that was what you wanted.
A: Yeah. I think it's just - I just had this incredible guilt all the time about lots of things.
Q: Yeah, yeah. Only I was thinking about, you know, being able to talk to guys, but the
idea about the double standard, that - I mean maybe in a way it's easier to talk to them
because they're - they're more like - if you're talking about the problems that you have
with guys or with your sexual relationships or whatever - is that what you talk to them
A: Yeah, a lot of the time, yeah.
Q: Yeah. That they're - they'll be more sympathetic because that's more the kind of
thing that they would be doing or something like that A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: - that it would normally be a man in the manipulative role or something, what do you
A: Yeah, I think so.
Q: Or am I jumping A: No, it's probably right, I've never actually thought about it. Yeah, I don't think Q: I mean you've got good reasons for, like, not talking to your women friends because
there's some way that you want to be with them, and you want them to think of you A: Yeah.
Q: - but then there has to be some reason for why you feel okay talking to the guys as
A: Yeah. I really don't know. Yeah, I just - I just feel I have to be a role model to the
women friends and the male friends are different, they're just - most of the time they
seem to want me for what I am, although sometimes they want a bit more, but they don't
seem to sort of - I just open up more to them. I always have. If I was in a whole crowd of
men I would probably react quite well, whereas if there was a few women there that I
didn't know then I would probably go very, very, quiet.
Q: So - the relationship with your mum again, you feel that that's improving and
beginning to A: Mm, we get on very well at the moment, there's hardly any arguments.
Q: Are you able to talk to her about your problems with depression and the A: I try not to too much because she would just worry. I haven't told her that I - that I feel
suicidal or anything because she would - it would worry her. I think a lot of the time
when I actually want to take overdoses and things like that, what's stopped me is I know
it would completely destroy her if like me or my brother were to do anything like that. I
think even an accident would be terrible, but we're all she has now really, she doesn't
have anything to focus on except me and my brother, and for actually one of us to
commit suicide, and she would feel - it would destroy her. So that's probably - I always
feel very guilty about wanting to kill myself because it would damage her so much.
Q: Well it's probably good you feel guilty about wanting to kill yourself, it stopped you
from doing it... worried about... I hope you're gonna go and, you know, pursue this idea
of talking to somebody.
A: Yeah, I've got an appointment at the doctor's tomorrow.
Q: I think that was most of the things that I wanted to ask you about. Do you think I may
have left out something crucial - but I asked you about AIDS, didn't I? (laugh). Is there
anything that you'd like to ask me about?
A: Well I know this is because - this is for the AIDS project for women at risk but what
exactly is gonna happen?
Q: What is it, what are we doing? Yeah. Well, I mean we're interviewing quite a large
number of - well, about a hundred in London, a hundred in Manchester, all between the
ages of usually sixteen and twenty-one, and a little bit at the upper end of that age
range, and the idea is to find out, as I was saying to you at the beginning, to find out
how they feel about their relationships, what they actually do in their relationships, and
what they, you know, think and feel about them; really because there isn't that much
information about what young women, you know, to what extent they feel they're having
control in relationships or what they're actually doing etcetera, and the idea is to feed it
into - totally anonymously, of course, there's no question of... - into sex education and
health education for young women, so to try to get together programmes of education
which will actually mean something to them rather than just, you know, telling them what
to do, or - or leaving them like you with your sex education at school, with no
information whatsoever. And hopefully to have some input into the health education
authority, education on AIDS... I mean, they have been doing a little bit more in that
direction recently, but at the beginning, as you say, it was very much not - it wasn't
considered to be a heterosexual problem. I think they may have gone over the top...
now they've kind of left young men out; but I think they found that young men weren't
listening to them, and young women might listen. (Laugh). The other thing that we've
been asking young women to do, but I don't know if you'd be interested in doing it, is
keeping a diary for us for a short while, just, you know, for maybe a period of a couple of
months or something like that. Would you be interested?
A: Yeah, that's fine. What sort of thing?
Q: Well, really, it's about your sexual activities and how you think and feel about them,
and your relationships, more or less the sort of things that I've been asking you. But
being as it specifically has about what you actually do as well. I haven't... shall I post
one to you, it's just A: Yeah.
Q: - if you could just keep it for maybe... now, middle of September - well maybe you
could keep it till the end of October and see how it goes, and if you want to continue you
can continue, but if you just send it back to me then and we'll re-negotiate at that point.
A: Yeah, that's fine.
Q: Ah good, that's really nice.
End of interview.
23,5; esw; French and English GCE, but now taking professional qual for administration;
lives with ma but wants to move out; Ma is [SECRETERIAL ROLE], pa is [SKILLED
TRADE] but parents separated when she was 3 (bro is 7 years older, married); she is
[ACCOUNTANCY ROLE]; not religious, is heterosexual, not active at the moment but
very active at times in the past.
Small, thin, dark, attractive, hair slightly frizzed out, casually dressed in track suit bottom,
dark green t shirt and jacket (made out of same sort of material as the t shirt). She had
been keen to come to talk to me, and one of the themes which emerged from our
conversation was that she saw herself as 'attention seeking'. I suggested at one point
that this might be something she had been labelled as early on and accepted it as a
description, but it might not even be true. She felt it had happened fairly early on. She is
a depressive (in her view and terms and the doc has given her pills and is trying to
arrange for her to talk to someone) and has contemplated suicide. What stops her is
upsetting her ma, with whom she has had a difficult, but now has a relatively satisfactory
Parents broke up when she was 3, ma remarried, stepfather used to hit her (LJH34)
when she was older I think and there was a traumatic and dramatic scene when she was
c 14 at which point ma got rid of step pa, which she had wanted to do for years
according to LJH34. Stepfather had found some diaries of hers in which she described
what she was doing with a boyfriend at the time (petting and such, but not intercourse
"we were so innocent we would never have got to it"). He made an enormous scene, told
her ma, called her pa and stepmother around, and it seems the whole crowd accosted
and accused her. Called her all sorts of names. Step pa said that she was provocative to
him, walking about without underclothes on. It particularly shocked her that he should
have said this in front of her pa, and she had no intention of trying to attract him, she
hated him. I asked if he might not have been projecting (not in those words). She
thought there might have been some of that in there.
She has had a number of sexual relationships, but also periods of celibacy (whilst in a
relationship which started out physical) and promiscuity (in her words). The first sexual
relationship was with someone she periodically returns to, and he has reappeared on the
scene recently, although she feels that she has matured and does not want to be with
Things emerged in this interview as time went on, like the bits re step pa, it was not all
out on the table from the start, but I'm neatening it up here. They decided to have sex in
the first relationship bcs they were madly in love and it was his birthday, she was 15.
She left home to live with him for a very short while, but returned to live with ma,
although it seems the relationship continued for 3 years this first time. She became
pregnant (whilst under 16, he was just 16) and felt that although she wanted the baby,
but it was impossible and she would have to have an abortion, which she seemed to try
to secure, with some hold-ups from the medical end. The boyfriend was violent, and
punched her in the stomach, after which she had a miscarriage. This was what emerged
later, that he had punched her immediately before the miscarriage. Initially she
described the miscarriage, her feelings, how awful it was to wake up in a maternity ward,
her feelings of guilt, which persist to this day re the child, she wanted to get rid of it so it
died, and guilt re letting her mother down. Mother, who she was afraid to tell, seemed to
come up supportive at the time of the miscarriage, tho it made their relationship very
difficult and strained, and they have only actually been able to talk about it very recently.
She said the first relationship broke up bcs of his violence, that was all she knew re love,
thought that was the way it was, but grew up and realised you did not have to be
punched about. But also felt that he might well be the love of her life, or at least, always
trying to recapture the magic of being in love that first time. (He had been abused
(beaten) as a child, and gone into care where he was also at a certain point the victim of
violence. She understood him, had a lot of sympathy for him, and so put up with a lot.)
Second major relationship started out sexual, but then she became celibate within it for
two years, they were very good friends "more of a spiritual relationship', she could talk to
him, but she felt that she had a sort of nervous breakdown during this period. She woke
up one day and decided she had to leave. Then she had a period of promiscuity, which
she thought she needed at the time, did not feel guilt about, didn't hurt anyone, and they
were friends anyway. She always seems to have some potential boyfriends (male
friends, ex-boyfriends) lurking in the wings to be brought on when needed. We
discussed this, she hates to be alone, not to have a boyfriend. Although when she talked
re actual sex she said she thinks it is 'dirty' and this comes from the way she was
brought up. I asked her whether she enjoyed the sex during this relatively guilt-free
period of promiscuity, and she said that it was the hugging and kissing, the affection and
attention that she wanted. She could not help feeling when she was actually having
intercourse that it was 'dirty'.
Had almost no sex ed at school, nor at home, but she reads a lot, so learned from that.
She knew quite a bit re AIDS and is scared and only has sex with a condom now
(sometimes she has been using pill and condom). Was on the pill from time of the
miscarriage until quite recently. She thinks young people do not pay enough attention to
the risk of AIDS, think it has nothing to do with them. Some of her friends do risky things.
She was scared of the risks of other STDs, had one in the past and afraid that she might
become infertile. She wants children at some stage. Feels she has a pattern of leaving
relationships when she feels she is not getting enough attention. Goes for total
immersion at the beginning, seeing them every day, everything else drops away. Last bf
made her a little more mature in her view, bcs she did not feel as if she was in control in
the relationship, as she usually does.
Safe sex meant condom use, but she also valued other forms of sexual activity,
intercourse was not essential for her, but she felt it was expected. That was what sex
was supposed to be about.
Feels she can talk to men more easily than women, confides in the male friends re her
Very late in the conversation, when my impression was totally other, she said that she
was a feminist. She has a couple of fairly close (or at least long term) women friends.
But she feels she must put on an act with them, she is always telling them to be strong,
not to let men get to them, so she does not want to reveal when she has problems with
men to them. So she talks to men, about her problems, not women. She also feels there
is a double standard, but feels that sometimes she feels that way too, if someone is
called a 'bike' or whatever, she agrees with it. Then feels ashamed of thinking that, bcs
she sees herself as 'liberal'. She made a few statements like that, what she felt she
wanted to think and what she thought being different and making her feel guilty.
She is also having problems with her eating at the moment, went down to 7 stone she
said, and does not like eating in front of others. Then binges by herself. Risks, she
related the urge to commit suicide to having recently passed her driving test, and doing
risky things when driving on the motorway, pushing it into danger. I suggested that she
takes risks with herself, in the way she goes into these relationships, in the car, with her
health with the eating problems.
There were a lot of contradictions in here, and maybe some fantasy. My impression
when talking to her was that what she was describing was true, she seemed as if she
was talking about real things that had happened to her. She felt she had some insight
into why she did things, but could not seem to change the pattern of her behaviour. But
when I look at the whole picture, I am not too sure. The way it emerged, in bits, not a
neatly tied package of a story makes it seem more convincing, but maybe she was
stringing together a whole series of fantasy packages. I don't know why I am expressing
these doubts, because she was totally convincing to talk to, seemed sincere. The
contradictions in her story (not so much story, as presentation) are those we have come
to expect, not attempts to mislead. Young women live these contradictions daily (don't
we all). Maybe I am just putting it on record. In fact I was a bit worried about her at the
end, urged to make sure she returned to the doc (appointment tomorrow) and tried to
see someone to talk to about these things. She said this doc seemed to take her
seriously, others had not in the past (more of her 'attention seeking' behaviour). See
what you think when you read the script.