Interview with Anita, 16-17, South Asian, working class, Muslim. Women, Risk and AIDS Project, London, 1989. Anonymised version including field notes. (Ref: LSFS21)
Anonymised transcript of an interview with Anita. She is from a Muslim family, and though her parents are fairly liberal and westernised, they've been much stricter with her than with her older sister. Anita is allowed to date at the moment, but her partner would also have to be Muslim - she isn't too concerned about relationships right now. She has mixed feelings around having an arranged marriage in the future and wouldn't to do it for the sake of it. Anita is worried about sexual experiences before marriage, as there are particular customs in Muslim culture around virginity that she would need to adhere to. She has some interesting thoughts on the ways that pleasure, marriage and religion intersect, and the expectations that are placed on Muslim wives. Sex education at her secondary school wasn't taken too seriously by Anita, as she could never imagine being old enough to need that sort of information. She would have liked to have been taught about the emotional aspects of relationships too. Anita isn't sure what she would like to do in the future, but doesn't want marriage or children until much later on.
Reanimating Data Project
CC BY-NC 4.0
Q: If we can just start with a bit more about your family - just that you live with your mum
and dad and older brother and older sister. So you're the youngest?
A: Yeah. I've got -I've got another three brothers but one of them - two of them are in
SOUTH ASIA and one of them is like in this country but he's married... My sister's still
living at home she's twenty-four...
Q: ... which is really - only got as far really as explaining that your sister was twenty-four
and she might be going back to SOUTH ASIA.
A: Yeah, when she goes over there she might - she might get married, but we're not
going there - we're going there for a holiday really, but - 'cos we're only going there for a
few weeks, but if we find anybody she likes, you know, we'll try to arrange - it's up to her,
though, we're not gonna push her into anything. My parents - they are... so they can be
quite strict but they're not - they're not so, you know, like quite as strict as some parents
are. They're a bit more liberal. They still worry about me and my sister because like
we're the only girls and like they have to look out for me because like they think I might
be influenced by what my sister does, and so they're a bit harder on me than they are on
A: More liberal with her, yeah.
Q: That's interesting 'cos sometimes you'd expect it to be the other way round, that A: Yeah.
Q: - they'd be harder on the first one and take it easier on the second.
A: I just think they don't want me to turn out like my sister because for a while she was
just, you know, going out a lot, to nightclubs and stuff, and they - my mum got very
worried, and my - my parents - my dad, he doesn't want that to happen to me. I saw
what happened to her, I don't think I probably agree with anything my sister did.
Q: What did she do?
A: She used to stay out really late and there used to be arguments at home quite a bit
about her going out all the time, but she used to want to go out at eleven o'clock and used to really worry about it, my mum. She's okay now but... my sister doesn't go out
alone anymore. She gets very worried.
Q: So does she go out with a group or has she got a A: She had a Q: - boyfriend.
A: - boyfriend and my parents - they weren't too - not worried about the boyfriend, it was
more what time she'd be back and - like she's single...
Q: Yeah. So she doesn't go out alone.
A: No... It's quite strange, my sister was gonna get married to this AMERICAN or
something, and my parents agreed to it, and like he was Catholic and they didn't mind
that he stayed Catholic, and my parents were willing to (?) tell people that he was
Muslim... respected... in the community. But well that sort of fell through because he
realised that she didn't want to travel to like America, Iran and all these places...
Q: So did he break it off?
A: Yeah, he went to America in April and he wrote her a letter, saying I think it's best
that, you know, it ends this way because I don't think you're ready to come to, you know,
America or something with me. 'Cos she's very - like although she's a rebel, she still
cares about the family, like she sort of holds us together like through all these crises, like
if we're in financial difficulties she always pays... She's quite good.
Q: What does she do?
A: She works in... the city, ... I don't know much about it, she's working her way up.
Q: But she's doing very well.
A: Yeah, yeah.
Q: And so how did she meet the American...
A: [REDACTED], and like at first she didn't really want a relationship but ... got closer,
then at Christmas time something happened, which was she got attacked - at Christmas
time she got attacked outside the flats Q: Really?
A: - yeah, and about - she came home, and he would have walked her home but he
thought that my parents might... so he didn't, and he felt really guilty about it, and my
parents agreed to let her marry him because that way she'd go out with him and we'd
know where she is and, you know,... really worried...
Q: Because - did she get attacked on her own or A: She was on her own. She was coming into the flats and - it's not the first time it's
happened to anybody in our flats 'cos downstairs has got like an intercom system, and
that wasn't working, there was a man sort of hanging around. Nothing actually happened
but like he hit her and she - she managed to get away, you know. She was really shook
up about that.
Q: Yeah, I'm not surprised. So do you get on well with her?
A: Sometimes. Well - well, she can be - she can be very bossy... We do get on, even
though like she's seven years older than me, you know, I can talk to her. I feel
embarrassed talking about personal things because like I feel like she doesn't
understand, but she's been through it so she knows. She says, like, snap out of it.
Q: Not always so easy to snap out of it.
A: No. But she's - she knows, she can - when she was younger, she was about my age,
she had a nervous breakdown and that's why my parents are less strict, they don't want
to make her have another one. And like whenever I get like moody or depressed or
something she says, you know, I can see the same thing happening to you, you know,
cheer up. She does make me feel better...
Q: Do you go out with her at all?
A: Sometimes, but like it's just sort of, like, pictures and stuff. She's got friends who are
her own age, she goes out with them, and I go out with my friends, you know, it's not that
often because my dad - it was okay up ‘til a while ago - I think it was after what
happened to my sister, 'cos that happened at Christmas, that attack, and since then
they've been like hard on me and they don't want me to go out without, you know,
knowing what time I'll be back and if somebody'll give me a lift. I mean I can understand
it, but it sort of gets me annoyed sometimes.
Q: Well, it must make you feel quite restricted.
A: But I mean I expect it because, you know, I am actually Muslim so I should agree.
Q: And was ...
A: Yeah, I think so, because, yeah, they are - like weddings and things, the women are
like kept in one room and the men in another. Like Hindu weddings they have, like, it's
like a party, you know, everyone sort of talks and things, but Muslims it's totally different,
it's just the ones that come from Bangladesh and India. India aren't as bad as the
Muslims in Bangladesh because... we just haven't got any, like, real community links
apart from like the mosque, but we don't go to that anyway, just my father, he prays at
home, so he doesn't go to the mosque.
Q: And does he keep sort of strict (?) rules about drinking and A: Well, yeah, he used to - before he used to drink, he used to be an alcoholic, he used
to drink every day, he used to get drunk all the time, and there was - a doctor said that
he would have to stop drinking because like he'd got really high blood sugar, and he
nearly had diabetes or something similar... and he had to stop drinking, otherwise he
would like die, so he managed to stop and he's been quite religious since. It's totally
changed him, he's so calm now, he does shout, but he's a lot calmer than he was, you
know, when I was little, 'cos I can still remember he used to get drunk and everything.
It's quite strange. I can't believe that he's changed so much. But like when my brother
came home drunk once not long ago, he said, you know, he said it doesn't matter, let
him learn, he has to learn from his mistakes, so he wasn't encouraging him to drink but
he was saying, you know, I could understand 'cos everybody's tempted and it's best to
see what it's like, otherwise you're just gonna be tempted all the time. My mum couldn't
really understand that... like religious... you know.
A: Yeah. He's quite - everybody respects my father, his brothers, 'cos they're younger
than him, and they all respect - they come to him like when they're in - when they've got
problems and stuff and he sort of like sorts it out, like a judge, you know, like he'll judge
something, he'll sort of stand, unbiased and he doesn't give his opinions but he sort of
says well, you know, at the end after hearing everything out, he decides what's best.
They all respect him. I think that's why he's more strict with me than my sister, 'cos
everybody knows about my sister going out with... and he thinks that if I start doing the
same they'll lose respect from my brother and they don't really want that to happen. So Q: And how about your mum?
A: My mum? She's very worried at times. Like if I go out she -she'd like me to be back
very early, and if I'm like about ten minutes late, you know, she starts looking out the
window and if I'm half an hour late she'll start to phone my friends, and that. And she
bought - she goes and asks my dad, oh where is she, and that really annoys him, so
when I come in I not only get like told off by my mum but my dad also says, you know,
you shouldn't worry your mum like that. I think like it's only ten - ten minutes or whatever,
it's not my fault, like the train was delayed or something. But I can understand it. My
parents are quite a bit older anyway, so I think that's got something to do with it, and plus
I'm the youngest Q: Right.
A: 'Cos my mum's fifty-something and my dad is like sixty, so they are getting on a bit. I
mean I worry about them, I keep telling them not to worry about me 'cos I can look after
myself, 'cos I wouldn't come home at such a late time to get into any sort of trouble.
They don't really understand.
Q: Do you go out with your friends or do you have a boyfriend?
A: I go out with my friends. My mum, you know - I don't think I'd - I'd really get a chance
to see, if I was going out with somebody I wouldn't get a chance to see him all that often
so it wouldn't really work out. I'd rather wait ‘til I get older.
Q: Have you ever had a boyfriend?
A: No. I just - recently I was asked out with somebody who I was gonna go out with but they sort of said - oh, you know, they made up some excuse. And I was - well I was quite
angry about it but, you know, I've accepted it, I don't really mind.
Q: What, they asked you out but then they A: I don't know what happened. It was really strange. And I talked to them the following,
like the following week, and I said I -'cos they said they'd cut their hand and they couldn't
come 'cos they were getting a tetanus..., I thought that was a feeble excuse. They did
actually cut their hand because he cut his hand in a chemistry lesson I think, but that
really annoyed me. He's very popular, he's got, you know, a lot of friends in the sixth
form at school, and - well, oh, I can't be bothered.
Q: Right, yeah.
A: His friend, I'm quite good friends with him, asked me out before roundabout
Christmastime, before that, and I would have gone out with him but I - I preferred like,
you know, this other person, so I thought, well I'll wait and see what happens, and when
he finally did he sort of let me down.
Q: Yeah. Disappointing.
A: Like it was all arranged - like we were gonna go out that night, and - I don't know, I
was really angry.
A: I think he was too scared to go out, because like all his friends - he didn't tell them, he
just told his best friend, like all the others like if they found out, you know, they'd probably
- probably, you know, I can't be bothered, I can't take all the hassle. 'Cos everybody ...
A: Well maybe not, I think they were just teasing a bit and then, you know, they'd be
okay, but I don't think he wanted them to know at all... found out... a bit. It's really
Q: Yeah,... should have a bit more guts... Was he Asian?
A: Yeah, he's more - he's not like some Asians, you know, the ones who my parents...
He's more like - he's more westernised, like me and my family and that, so I got on with
him quite well, but I don't know, I just got really fed up, just depressed a few weeks ago.
Q: Did it just happen a few weeks ago?
A: Yeah, it happened before half term, and - it was just really annoying. All my friends
said, oh that's really good, you know, he did actually ask you, and I just - when he called
it off I said oh well, you know, he's a bit of a creep. You know, but they sort of say oh
he'll probably ask you again, but he hasn't got round to it in like two weeks and it was
half term as well,... I still see him around. He's got exams. He comes in every day and he
doesn't revise at all. And I just think, well, he's stupid, he's wasted a year...
Q: So he won't pass them anyway?
A: Exactly. My sister... it's stupid anyway because I'm doing A-levels and I say no, that's
nothing to do with it. I say he's just, he's just very lazy, he doesn't wanna work. I am
quite lazy, but I always do what I have to do and I sit down and revise. He comes in and
sits in the cafe all day long. I don't go there all that often.
Q: Did you used to?
A: Yeah. Not all day, just for a bit. But if I see him in there I sort of like avoid - avoid him.
I - I liked him for so long, you know, it was such a let-down.
Q: Ah, it must be awful.
A: Yeah it was. All my friends, you know, they're really nice about it, they say oh, you
know, he'll come round, he's probably just a bit shy and all this, but he doesn't seem shy
because he's got so many friends - he's got loads of friends who are girls as well, like he
doesn't seem the shy type. He sounded really different - when he phoned me up he
sounded so different I couldn't, you know - it seemed like I'd known him for ages, and
then I saw him the next day at school, he wanted to go still in the morning, but I don't
know, he just sort of changed his mind by the afternoon, it was really weird.
Q: Had he had other girlfriends or does he just have A: Well Q: - friends who are girls?
A: - he was going out with somebody, I know that, and he used to like some girl who
used to like come to ... school... last year and he still sees her but they're friends, and he
sort of told me that, that he still likes her still, you know, likes her as a friend, you know...
But he did have a girlfriend, but I don't know if he was just saying that 'cos I - he just
seemed such a, you know, ... to actually turn up, a date so, you know.
Q: Is there anyone else that you've got your eye on?
A: No. Just... I don't - I mean I don't like him as much as I used to because I know what
he's like now, it's really put me off butQ: Would your parents mind you going out with him?
A: Oh, I - I wouldn't tell them at first, but like if we really got on well then I'd tell them,
because I think he was a Muslim as well. My parents don't mind if I go out with
somebody who's Muslim, even if they're not... I think... Asian still. They wouldn't... person
was actually Muslim, because they said if I met anybody, as long as they're Muslim, you
know, they're not worried, even if they were like Turkish or whatever, it'd be okay, so.
Q: So do they actually say what they expect from you and what -whether you'll have a
kind of arrangement (?) for the future?
A: Well... (?) hinting like when we go over... and saying well, you know, if you find
somebody for you then, you know, you can get married if you like, if you like, you know,
so it's up to me. They haven't hinted but I mean I'm too young, I'm only seventeen, like -I
mean they know I am... I've told them I'm not gonna get married ‘til I'm like in my
twenties, like my sister because like, it just wouldn't work. I don't think it - like especially
if I had an arranged marriage, 'cos I'd be really bitter, you know, turn out like my
mother... my father. She doesn't hate him or anything but you know she has all these like
bad memories, you know, like she hasn't been - had any happy experiences, you know,
everything has gone wrong since she got married, or so she says. You know, I'd
probably end up like her... I mean it's not - I mean I do love my mum, but I don't like to
end up like her 'cos she worries too much, you know.
Q: Yes, 'cos you hear a lot of people saying about arranged marriages, that in the end
they all work out and people grow to love one another, and things like that, but there
must be some that aren't quite as sort of simple and happy as that.
A: It all looks, you know, happy, and I'm sure it is for a while, you know, like the first few
years maybe, like because you do get attached to the person, but I think after a while it
turns sour on you, you don't really care for them, like if you fell in love with somebody it
would be different 'cos you - you know, you'd just think, well, it was my fault, you know,
and you'd think... and you'd be able to get out of it if you wanted to. An arranged one,
they'd keep you together, like the families would do everything they could to keep you
together and you know, like if you're unhappy, it's not really fair on you. So, you know, I
don't - I would agree to an arranged marriage but - as long as I was really sure about it, I
wouldn't just say yes because it was, you know, the last chance, you know, that I was
getting really old, you know, I thought this was gonna be my only good offer, you know. I
wouldn't - I wouldn't get married just for the sake of it, I'd get married because I thought,
you know, it could actually work. That's how my sister sees it, you know, I suppose it's
because of her that I... Ever since I've been little I've been saying that I don't want an
arranged marriage, you know,... married.
A: Yeah, since I was about five, six.
Q: Did your parents ever talk to you about sort of more personal aspects, like the sort of
facts of life and stuff, relationships?
A: No, because my mum she'd - she wouldn't come out with something like that, she'd
just sort of insinuate, like when I was feeling really depressed because of what
A: - and I was - you know like I was really moody, I... properly, and it wasn't because - I
just, I don't know, I don't think it was because of him, I think I was just not feeling very
well, and my mum sort of said, have you had your period this month? And I thought,
well, you know, I'm not pregnant if that's what you're thinking, I got really angry about it
because - you know, she should come out with it instead of insinuating. 'Cos I knew what
she was getting at, but she just wouldn't come out with it. That annoyed me. Something
like that happened when I was about thirteen, fourteen, and I had -I had a ... like I lost
my period for about a year and she got really worried, she took me to the doctor's and
like even he started to believe that I could be pregnant, he said oh you know, have a
test, and I was thinking, look I'm not pregnant you know, and he was saying, I think you
should have a test. And I knew what kind of test he meant, he wouldn't come out with
like a pregnancy test, but I knew, and that really annoyed me because I mean I should
know, you know Q: Well, yes, what you've been doing.
A: Exactly... My mum wouldn't give me a chance to anyway, you know. She should trust
me a bit more, she - it's obvious, like she says she trusts me, but I don't think she does.
Like I would - if I was gonna have a relationship I would tell her if it was getting really
serious. I wouldn't tell her, you know, like the first few weeks when it's not all that
serious, but if it was getting really serious like after a while, then I would tell her.
Because they do have a right to know.
Q: Would they mind?
A: Yeah, they would, but I think they'd get used to it. I couldn't have like a sexual
relationship with anybody anyway because like if I - if I did end up having an arranged
marriage they sort of check, you know, they sort of you know like on the night if you're a
virgin, it's really strange.
Q: How do they check?
A: Well, they don't really check but well, they expect you to, you know, bleed when you
first have sex. But I don't know. It's really strange. It's like in Italy they put up the
bedsheets or something. They don't do anything like that here, but the night you get
married, that's the night they expect you to sort of, you know, have sex, and I don't know
what - I don't know what goes on particularly, I know that's what they expect. But I don't
really want an arranged marriage. It's like everybody sort of wants to know, you know. It
could be bad for the girl like if she, you know, she's had a relationship before.
Q: A sexual relationship?
A: Yeah. And like it could give her a bad name, like the man could say, well she's not a
virgin, I don't - I don't want her anymore, you know. I don't think that that would happen
but Q: 'Cos it makes it sound a bit like buying and selling A: Yeah.
Q: - doesn't it, a bit like - you feel like... goods.
A: Exactly. You don't really...
A: Especially like, because I'm only like seventeen, my parents could easily - they could
easily push me into something which I wouldn't be sure about, because at the moment
my mind isn't, you know, it's not - not really aware, you know, of what's going on... and I I could quite easily agree to something which I would regret and like if they're gonna sort
of push, force me into something that they say they won't, but they could in ways sort of
twist - you know, saying oh you know, this is a good man and so on, you know, I might
start to believe them, they might sort of brainwash me and I don't - sort of get worried.
I've set my mind, you know, I won't get married ‘til I'm really sure about somebody.
Q: But do you think you can stick to that?
A: Yeah, I think I could. Maybe - maybe like, you know, two or three years I might
change my mind, but then, you know, I'll be like twenty like by then, it won't be so bad
anyway, 'cos you know, I think I'll be more ready to accept somebody.
Q: And do you feel that you might want to have a sexual relationship before...
A: No, I think I'm more sort of old-fashioned in a way because I'd prefer to, you know,
wait until after I'm married. I don't know why, I just - you know, just like - you know, like
pregnancies, it worries me, I know there's like contraceptives and stuff, but I don't think I
could have a sexual relationship until I am actually married. But I know it's better
sometimes to have had, you know, find out before, but I don't think I could. Because I
would feel really guilty, like if I went out with somebody I would feel really bad about it
anyway, I mean if I was, you know, having a sexual relationship as well with this person
it would make me feel much worse. I don't think I could cope with it.
Q: What, with the guilt?
A: Yeah. Because like my parents, they wouldn't know. Even like if they found out that I
was actually seeing somebody they would automatically think that, you know, I was
actually having a sexual relationship. But, you know, I would want to prove them wrong...
I'm not Q: Yeah.
A: - even though they wouldn't believe me. It's still in your mind, how you feel about
yourself. I would feel really guilty.
Q: Girls sort of have different expectations of what they think sex might be like or what
they would expect from it. Do you have any idea...?
A: No. I don't - I don't really think about it. I think girls are more romantic, they think more
about love rather than actual sex, whilst boys - I don't know, I think that they expect girls
to actually have sex with them before they're married. I don't think I could bring myself to
- if somebody expected me to and was pushing me I'd just sort of call it off, I'd say well,
you know, if that's what - if that's all you're thinking of, then forget it. 'Cos, you know, it's
up to me. I mean I might change my mind in a few years, I don't know, if I actually
started going out with somebody I might actually change my mind about it, but I don't
think I would.
Q: And do you think you'd see kind of the sexual aspect more as a duty or would you
expect, you know, that it would A: No, I think it would come from, you know like love or whatever, you know, you want to
express how much you love somebody, but I - I wouldn't think of it as a duty like - like
another thing you have to do if you want to have children and stuff, you know, I would do
it because, you know, I felt like having sex...
Q: What, you would expect some sort of - sort of pleasure?
A: Yeah. I think I would, because otherwise it's, you know... -I don't know, I wouldn't
really see the point of sex. I don't know, like my mum, my parents, I know that they don't,
you know, sleep together anymore because like my father, his bed is in a different room
and like I've heard my mum going to bed and she was saying, oh no, don't, you know...
they haven't sort of slept together. She doesn't say it but, you know, I know that she's
talking about, you know. It seems... it's more like, more like a duty, like when she was a
wife, when she was younger, you know, she had to because, you know, she was the
wife and it was expected of her. 'Cos I don't - I don't - that's why I think I'd like - I'd prefer
to get married out of love, because, you know, then I wouldn't think of it as a duty Q: Right.
A: - and I'd sort of enjoy it more.
Q: It seems strange that, you know, your mother hinting at you getting pregnant and yet
sort of it sounds as though she never actually taught you about sex or anything like that,
so she doesn't know how much you know, or if you know, or presumes that you do
Q: - kind of how to have babies or whatever.
A: It's true actually, she's never actually told me anything about, like, you know
pregnancy and stuff. When I was little I used to, you know, I used to say, where did I
come from, she'd say oh from my stomach, she didn't actually say, you know, you know,
how... how I was born and everything. I just sort of found out about it from like friends
and like school and they teach you about it in sex education. I don't know how she
expects me to know about things if she doesn't tell me.
Q: Mm. Does she assume school tells you?
A: Well I don't - I don't know, I don't think she's, you know, like seen what the curriculum
is, so I don't think she even knows that they do teach us about sex education in school.
Like she might be shocked if she found out. I don't - I don't think - I don't know if they
talked about it in SOUTH ASIA actually, I don't think they are, so ... finds out, somebody
must have told her, but... I mean I do know, but it's - it would be better if it came from
Q: 'Cos how have you learned... has it been A: Yeah, it's been sort of like school, like in the first year there was... talks and
information and stuff. But I've never actually told my parents about, that they taught us ...
about it, you know, but I think they know,... they do know.
Q: Were they biology lessons or other sorts of A: Biology. And also PSE, which is like personal social education, like they talked about
like contraceptives and stuff and it was - it was quite useful and stuff but it was only like
in the third year... attention. 'Cos we sort of like, friends, you know, they sort of say oh,
you know... a period or a condom or whatever, and like at that age you sort of think of it
as a joke. You don't really take it seriously because you don't think you're ever gonna be
like old enough to actually, you know, have sex or whatever. Now, because you're sort of
over the legal age or whatever, you know, you think about it more but Q: Presumably do you have lessons on it now?
A: No, because, well I suppose teachers sort of... know about it... before...
Q: Would it be useful in a way to have things about it now rather than... or as well as?
A: Well, I think everybody thinks, you know, I know everything about it, but I'm sure
there's like a lot more to it than finding out about contraceptives and whatever there is.
And everybody sort of thinks, well, you know, I learnt about it in the second year, you
know, I know - I know what goes on, but I suppose it could be useful, it might make
somebody a bit more sure before... 'cos like some people don't, they sort of think, oh
they're gonna have - it's gonna be really good or whatever, they expect, expect so much
and, you know, they can sometimes be let down, you know. I think there should be more aware of like all the consequences as well. 'Cos they think, oh the first time, you
know, you can't get pregnant. But some people say you can. And like they say during
your periods you can't get pregnant as well but, well, you can, can't you?
Q: People have done. It's less usual but it's not impossible.
A: ... People just think, oh, you've got your period, you can't get pregnant, you know,
they don't realise that, you know, that if you - ... statistics... 'cos we do sort of know the
basic facts now, it's more like what to expect and, you know.
Q: Did they talk about feelings at all, or how you negotiate relationships?
A: We were never taught about - we were taught about sex education and we weren't
taught about like falling in love and how to handle your emotions and stuff. I - I think that
that would be a good thing to have actually, 'cos I - we haven't actually been taught
about, you know, what it's like to - if you think you're in love, is it love or is it obsession,
or whatever. 'Cos you don't know, and like if you've never fallen in love before, you
know, you don't - you don't know if it's the real thing. And I think, you know I suppose
nobody can tell you, you should know yourself, but sometimes like when you're really
young you feel really sort of confused about things.
A: We've never - I don't think anybody - nobody really talks about things like that
actually. Like friends, like my best friend, will sometimes talk about being in love and
how, you know, wouldn't it be good if you go out and all this, but we don't really, you
know, let out our real feelings. We sort of bottle it up inside. I suppose that's why a diary
is a good thing with letting out, you know, your emotions, 'cos like if you can't talk about
it, it's good to actually write it down and look back on it, you know, think, oh I was feeling
really depressed, or I was feeling happy, whatever. I think it's a good way of letting out,
you know, your emotions instead of just bottling it up inside.
Q: Do you keep a diary?
A: Yeah. Well I haven't sort of wrote in it for about three weeks, but I used to - I used to
keep it all the time up until like recently, 'cos I mean I think, you know, I've got my exams
coming up and everything, so I haven't really had time. I - I usually do... Like if something
interesting happens I usually write it in, but I just haven't, 'cos it's a new diary, the old
ones sort of build up. I like... 'cos like all the people you used to like and, you know, how
it changes, it's quite interesting.
Q: Yeah. In terms of what they taught you at school, did they teach you about AIDS?
A: Just - no, not very much. We just - like - all we were taught was that it's a virus and,
you know, whatever it is, HIV, whatever, you know, it's not full blown AIDS until like
seven years or whatever, and that's it, we weren't really taught much about it in school.
'Cos I don't think they'd expect any of us - I don't know.
Q: 'Cos how much do you feel you know about it yourself?
A: Well, I - I think I - because I've been reading like newspapers and whatever, I sort of
know more about it than I was taught at school, it's not just what they taught us. You
know, I don't know that much about it but I sort of know, you know, that it can affect all
groups not just homosexuals, sort of - you know, it can affect all sorts of people...
through blood or whatever, like if you have sex you can get it through that as well. I
mean I do know the basic points about it. I mean I don't think, you know - they don't
really tell us properly what AIDS is, it's just you know... We've been getting leaflets and
things through the door... My dad, you know, my mum and dad, didn't really know what
AIDS was and I was trying to explain it to them, but it just, you know, it didn't sink in.
Q: What, they didn't really understand?
A: No. Maybe it just ... pretend... I don't know...
Q: And do you feel that you might be at risk from AIDS at all?
Q: I don't mean particularly now A: No, no, but in the future. Well I wouldn't use drugs at the moment, so - I would drink,
'cos I do drink sometimes, but I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't use drugs because I just
don't see the point of it, and, as I said, I wouldn't have like a sexual relationship until I
was totally sure about it or I was married, you know, so I don't - I don't think I'm really at
risk. I hope I'm not.
Q: I suppose it partly depends on your - the person you marry.
A: ... what sort of life they lived before. Yeah, that's true. I'd make sure I find out about
previous girlfriends and stuff. I wouldn't sort of marry somebody without knowing what
kind of relationships they'd had, and I'd expect them to be totally honest with me... I don't
know. I don't think I'm at risk. It's really worrying, though, when you think about it. You
know, you think the person you're gonna marry, you wouldn't think that they would - that
they could have AIDS, and you think, oh if they're gonna be married they're gonna be
married sort of...
Q: Yeah. I mean is it something that you and your friends think of as a risk at all?
A: No, because my - my friends, they're - you know, they wouldn't use drugs or they
wouldn't - I don't think - I don't know about them having sexual relationships themselves
but I don't think they... I don't think - we don't really discuss AIDS very much, because
we don't think we're at risk. If we were really worried about it then I suppose we would...
using drugs... and stuff. But we don't. It's still worrying, though, because you hear about
all these nurses who catch it from patients like, and from injections when it sort of
pierces... hand and everything. It would sort of put you off like, if you wanted to be a
nurse it could put you off, or a doctor.
Q: Do you know anyone who's been put off in that way?
A: Well, I know my - my friend - I don't - I don't think - I don't know if she wanted to be a
nurse, but her mother is a sister, and - I don't know - she wanted to be a nurse, I think - I
don't know.... I mean I'm sure it has put a lot of people off, you know, they can be so
worried about it and they don't know... protected, whatever.
Q: Are any of your friends, do you know, having a sexual relationship?
A: I don't think so. Because my best friend, like both of them, they're not going out with
anybody at the moment either and I - I don't think - I don't know if they would in the
future. I can't really tell, can't ask them. I - we have discussed it... I remember sort of
asking her and she - my friend... she was saying, I said, would you sort of have sex
before you're married, and she said, well if I loved somebody I would, you know, if I
wanted to... I mean I don't think I could even if I really wanted to because like I - I although I'm not really into it, I don't know, I just - it would make me feel really guilty.
Q: It sounds like something that's inside you.
A: Mm. I know my sister has because I remember when she went away on holiday, she
went away with one of her boyfriends... I don't think my mum knows about that, she
told... and stuff, 'cos like I've met... and when she came back she thought she could be
pregnant. And my mum was really supportive, like she went to the doctor with her and
everything. So my mum knows that my sister, you know,...
Q: But will that affect her arranged marriage?
A: Yeah, I suppose it would but, you know, she could just say she, you know, lost it
horse riding or something, I don't know. She could just make up some excuse. I know
some girls like... lost their virginity, they sometimes get married sort of like - sort of like in
their period, so it looks like they're bleeding... virginity, but it's their period. You see, so
Q: How do you spend most of your time sort of socially?
A: Oh, if I'm not at home watching TV, whatever, my friend, we just, you know, we sort of
talk and we go to the cafe, you know, if we're in school, and if we go out we usually go to
watch a film or, you know - we don't, we don't, we don't just sort of sit around and gossip
and that sort of thing... all day, and if we've got a free lesson and we've both got free
lessons... go and sit somewhere and talk or whatever. If there's like, just me I'll probably
go to the library and do some studying...
Q: And you're in the same sort of social group with...
A: Yeah. We weren't up until like the sixth form, she used to be my friend... I never would
have got so... just before Christmas, about October maybe, 'cos there was like a party at
school and I remember we all got sort of drunk together and sort of - we still laugh about
it, because I was the worst - I mean it was like the first time I had... and I remember...
being really nice to me about it, and she really helped me, like we've become quite good
friends since, like you know, we're always together like. Before it was just me and my
best friend LESLEY, and before that it was this girl called PAIGE who used to be... she's
left, but we still see her from time to time. So if I go out with my friends it's usually just
PAIGE and LESLEY, because we - we don't know...properly although, you know, we are
quite good friends now. But we could all rely on each other, you know, if we said that
we'd go somewhere we'd all turn up. We are proper friends now.
Q: So - go on.
A: No - it's just that it's really weird 'cos we didn't think we could ever make friends with
her, because we didn't like them. Well I mean we didn't hate them, just... or whatever.
We sort of changed our minds about them, you know, they're good friends to have 'cos
they're very reliable.
Q: So is it important that your friends are reliable?
A: Yeah, I think - without friends I'd really hate this place, 'cos like studying and that just
really gets... it's nice to be able to relax, you know... Yeah, I think my friends definitely
are more important than like a relationship... you know like boys, my friends always they
will be really important to me, especially like my best friends 'cos I've known them like...
first year and, like, we've always been really close and especially in the sixth form. In the
fourth year we were quite close, the fifth and sixth form we've become really close
because like you're sort of growing up and you discover... you start sharing secrets and
things... I think my friends are really important to me. My parents can't really see it, they they say, you know, why do you need friends, and I say well, you know, they're my
friends, you know. It's just like a brother or sister, you know, like somebody really close, I
mean I can't talk to my sister because she's - you know, she's so much older, I just feel
really embarrassed to talk about, you know like - maybe I could talk to her about like
liking somebody or, you know, going out with somebody, but if I wanted like a sexual
relationship I couldn't tell her. I mean I could tell my friends because, you know, they're
the same age and they're probably going through the same thing Q: Right
Q: And do you think you're a person who takes risks at all?
A: What sort of risks?
Q: Well I mean, I would have said things like pregnancy, but obviously that's not
relevant, but things like smoking, drinking A: Yeah
Q: ... sorts of A: I do smoke and well, I drink but not that - like my sister... but it's not - the first time it
was really bad but, you know, I don't drink so - I don't drink often, and it's only like... it's
not like, you know, I get totally drunk. I'd only get sort of tipsy... like but I wouldn't, you
know... I'm too young at the moment...
Q: What about smoking, how much do you smoke?
A: I started to smoke - I started smoking about - it's not... but I don't smoke at home, so if
I smoked at home it'd be much more.
Q: So do you smoke here?
A: Yeah, we are allowed to smoke in the common room... I do smoke here... outside. But
none of my friends smoke, which is quite strange. But I - I think I'm a very stressed
person 'cos I did - I did one of them tests,... machine, and mine came up the highest, I
was really... I don't know why, I just seem to be really stressed. Like I can't - at home if I
sit down my mum says kind of, you look pretty worried, you know, why don't you tell us.
But I don't really know what I worry about, but I'm sure I'm quite stressed.
Q: Do you feel you worry a lot?
A: I mean I can - I don't know what I worry about, sometimes like it's, you know, I think
oh, I'm worrying too much and I think will I go grey, you know.
A: 'Cos my mum's got grey hair. My mum, you know, she - I don't know, she worries a lot
and I can see myself turning out like her, I don't - I really don't like it. 'Cos like she's a
very tolerant person, you know like she'll take so much and then she'll hit back, and you
know, she - she won't say anything to upset anybody unless like she's really upset
herself, and I think I'm like that, I wouldn't - I wouldn't really deliberately try to hurt
someone unless like I was really angry with them. What was the question? - I don't
wanna turn out like my mum. She worries too much.
Q: Just getting back for a minute to things about sex education in school A: Yeah Q: - did they teach you about things that were kind of much more personal, sort of
intimate to - to girls, well girls and boys, but things like masturbation and actually
knowing your own body and A: No, I don't think they did. I - I can't remember them, you know, ever sort of teaching
us about - I - I didn't know about masturbation until my friend sort of said one day, you
know, she said something, I can't remember what she said, I said, what's that? - you
know, I didn't know - and, you know, she sort of told me. I was quite, you know, shocked.
Well I wasn't really shocked, I was quite surprised, you know.
Q: Was that about sort of women masturbating?
A: Well it was about women and men, I remember she told me about boys masturbating
and about how - this isn't about masturbation - I remember she know she told me about
boys and ninety - I don't know, about ninety per cent or something, had sexual fantasies
of, you know, being homosexual or whatever, and I thought, God, you know, that really
shocked me, 'cos you know - I remember she read it somewhere, you know, she told me
about it... I don't think school has ever told us anything intimate, they used to tell you the
basic facts, you know, it's just like biology, you know like... sex and flowers, how they like, you know, it's just like part of the course.
Q: Nothing that really connects to you.
A: ... You don't really think of it 'cos like when you see childbirth on TV, you know, you
don't think of, you know, oh, that could be me in like ten years' time or whatever. They
didn't sort of make us think like that either, you just thought oh... you know... I don't want
a kid, it's gonna hurt, sort of thing.
Q: They don't actually encourage you to sort of explore your own bodies and find out
what gives you pleasure or A: No, I don't think, no...
Q: Do your - do your friends ever talk about it?
A: No... It's not really - it doesn't really interest us. I don't think I...
Q: But do you think any... No, there's lots of things that are sort of taboo subjects A: Yeah.
Q: I suppose things like, you know, sexually transmitted diseases and things like that are they not talked about?
A: Well some, yeah, we usually just... jokes about... because we don't take it all that
seriously, you know, it's not really like... I can't really talk about it seriously because like if
we start worrying about things like that now, I don't know - you know, we're sort of like at
risk,... worse. We sort of try not to think about things like that.
Q: So in the future, what do you think you'll do?
A: Well I don't know.
Q: Work or career?
A: Well, at the moment I'm doing two A-levels and I wanna do another one next year. I
started doing three, but I had to drop one 'cos it was getting too much. But I think I might
take a year off and get a job, after my A-levels are finished, and then maybe like apply to
polytechnic or something. I don't know. 'Cos like if I do one A-level next year then I get - I
only do one A-level in the school for a year, so I could get a job most of the time, but I I'm really not sure. I haven't really thought about it.... I used to want to be a lawyer and a
doctor and all this, but I can't take it seriously now, 'cos I don't work hard enough Q: So you don't really know what you're A: No. Probably... in a ... shop or something. I don't know.
Q: And do you think you'll have children?
A: ... preferably when I'm sort of thirty, late twenties... more than... I'd like about two, I
think, but I wouldn't want any more than three, that would be the maximum. (interruption)
Q: And - I've forgotten what I was gonna ask you - yes, 'cos you said you wouldn't get
married ‘til mid-twenties A: Yeah
Q: - 'cos A: I wouldn't really want children ‘til like after a few years, I don't think - I mean I do like
children but I don't think I want any ‘til, like, I'm sort of a bit older. I think I'd like a job for a
Q: And would that be alright, sort of if you had an arranged marriage, would the person
you marry A: I'd make sure it was - 'cos my parents know - they wouldn't, you know, they'd - they'd
ask. My dad was saying the other day, you know, say if your husband doesn't want you
to work, and I say, well I won't marry him, you know, it's up - like it's my life as well, it's
not just his, I can't just live for him, it's up to me as well.
A: That's how I see it. He'd have to accept it, you know, or find somebody else.
Q: What does your dad do?
A: He's unemployed, but he's sixty so he can't really get a job now anyway.
Q: What did he used to do?
A: He used to work for PUBLIC TRANSPORT. That's it really.
Q: Did your mum ever work?
A: She used to work TEXTILES - but it was a long, you know,...
Q: Was that at home or A: Yeah, it was at home. And that was it.
Q: So it'll be a bit different for you.
A: Mm, 'cos I want - like my sister's working and I think my brother... older than me, my
brother'll end up working like my sister, 'cos all my other brothers, they probably work in
like restaurants and things, but he'd like a proper career and like, you know, restaurants
are like a dead end job. You can either be a waiter or a cook or... but that's all.
Q: Well, perhaps we should stop -
9.6.89 [NAME OF SCHOOL]
From [SOUTH ASIA], family are Muslims although not devout in sense that don't go to
mosque, father (reformed alcoholic with religious conversion!) prays at home. She is quite
glamourous in appearance, wearing dark eyeliner and bright red lipstick and large gold
coloured ear-rings. Long black hair in curly style below her shoulders. Wearing black trouser
suit and a large jacket on top of this. Clearly not school uniform. She has an older sister and
various older brothers, she is the youngest and a girl. Feels her parents are less liberal with
her than they have been with her sister. They are going for a holiday to [SOUTH ASIA] this
summer and if her sister, or indeed herself, sees anyone that they would like to marry, than
that's okay. She says arranged marriage is okay because they are allowed to say no, so
they don't have to marry anyone they don't want to. But she'd prefer to marry for love so as
not to end up like her mum, who complains that life has never been as good since she got
married, and her parents sleep separately.
She does not want to have sex before marriage, would prefer it after, and also for sake of
parents and reputation etc. Talks a bit about how they check you are a virgin on your
wedding night by seeing if there is blood when you have sex. Some girls cleverly choose to
get married near their period so that this will cover for them! She hasn't ever had a boyfriend,
although she fancied this boy and he asked her out just before half-term (a couple of weeks
ago), but at the last moment he let her down and she doesn't really know why. She was very
upset about it for quite a while afterwards, and still is.
Does not feel AIDS is of much relevance to her situation, not using drugs or having sex, and
says would hope to find out all about prospective partner's previous relationships to see that
this all right. She goes round in the same group of girls as LSFS20 and therefore also says
that she does not talk to anybody about intimate aspects of sex or relationships.
She is willing to be re-interviewed in follow-up, and possibly would keep a diary - she writes
a diary anyway.