Interview with Lauren, 16-17, White British, lower middle class, no religion. Women, Risk and AIDS Project, London, 1989. Anonymised version including field notes. (Ref: LJH22)
Anonymised transcript of interview with Lauren, who is in college but would like to work in graphic design or photography. She has happily been with her boyfriend for eight and a half months, which she considers to be a mature and healthy relationship for her age. Her first sexual relationship was with a holiday romance, which she regrets but did find educational - she has learnt quite a lot about herself from various relationships over the years. Lauren and her partner had been using condoms, but she is now on the pill. Lauren talks a lot about her parent's divorce and the impact it has had on her and her family life. Sex education at her all girls' school was pretty average, but Lauren thinks it could have been worse - they had some great teachers, but it came much too late for some of her peers.
Reanimating Data Project
CC BY-NC 4.0
Q. ... Okay, well one of the main things that we're interested in talking about and finding
out about from young women is how they feel and what they think about their
relationships, and so can I ask you which - what is the most important thing about
relationships to you, and which is the most important relationship that you have at the
A. I think I have one special relationship really, because people I'm close to I'm close to
in lots of different ways. Like with my mum we have a really sort of unique relationship,
well how I see it, it's not - it's more sisterly than it is mother to daughter. And with LISA
we're very close, I'm also close to another friend and my boyfriend. I know it's not - it's
not who's more special or anything, it's just each relationship has its special value. And I
don't count one better than the other really, obviously you're closer to a certain group of
people or one person, but I don't think I feel that one person's particularly special to me
rather than the others, I just value them all independently in their own way.
A. 'Cos obviously they're not the same, each relationship you have.
Q. What about the relationship with your boyfriend, how long has that been going on?
A. Eight and a half months.
A. Well I met him here and I knew some of his friends before, you know, just from
parties and whatever, and - I don't know, I think in a way we're fairly young to be having
such a mature relationship, I mean eight and a half months we've been together, we're
going away together in the summer, but I know we're friends as well as boyfriend and
girlfriend because we were friends before we met, I mean before we went out together,
and I consider that relationship to be special because, like the other people I've been
out with I've just sort of thought, oh this is boring, I might as well go out with them, you
know, a sort of lack of enthusiasm, and they were pretty wet people anyway, or to me
they were, and - I don't know, with MARK it just sort of happened, it's really weird, and
it's really nice as well. Because we go to the same college and whatever, it's not like just
seeing someone just at the weekend where you get all dressed up and put a great
amount of emphasis on, you know, that one evening or whatever; 'cos I see him a lot,
we see each other in - with friends, without friends, in lots of varying moods, so you get
to know each other really well. And you take, you know, the bad with the good and
whatever. No - as boyfriends go, he's definitely the closest I've ever been to anyone, he
knows me very well, which I don't think any of my other boyfriends ever have, it's just
been sort of the usual flirting and... get dressed up and not very much really.
Q. This relationship includes a sexual relationship, does it?
Q. And is that the first one that has, or A. No, I mean I was - when I was, I think, fourteen, I was really really stupid because me and my friend went away on holiday with her family on a huge campsite, you know
really English away from home, and we met this group of boys who were about two
years older than us, and she was thirteen, I was fourteen; it was complete infatuation,
you know, like amazement these people like us or whatever, and I slept with this boy
then. I just didn't feel anything, I didn't think oh it's really... or whatever, I just sort of
thought, oh great, and I sort of felt - I wasn't very happy about it afterwards, I mean he
didn't force me or anything, you know, he said and I agreed, but afterwards I sort of felt
dirty, I think partly because I was so young and I was infatuated with this person and he
turned out to be just so ordinary, you know, you build up this image in your mind. I think
that was a really stupid thing to do, just to get so wrapped up in someone that you'll do
anything for them because it doesn't help either way, and I got home and I never spoke
to him or anything ever again, and I sort of... six months later... I thought oh, I was so
stupid. It wasn't thought out, it wasn't even a relationship with nothing valuable, you
know, if you really care about someone and you sleep with them and it doesn't work,
you don't feel worried about it, you can sort it out, because there was no closeness or
anything. It was really weird. But it was quite educational at the time really, you know,
you sort of learn from these silly things.
Q. Did you use any contraception?
A. No. What a stupid thing.
Q. You - you weren't worried about it or - you didn't think of it?
A. No, I did think of it. But - you've probably heard this so many times before, I felt too
embarrassed. I mean partly because I mean I was so young, for some reason at that
age you think oh, it won't happen to me. I mean, you know, of course it might, you know,
... in any way special kind of thing. No, but I wasn't particularly worried because it
happened straight after my period or straight before or something, and I thought, well if
something happens then I'm gonna have to sort it out, you know, it's my fault. But it
turned out to be okay.
Q. Mm. Was it just the one event or did you A. Oh, only once, yeah.
Q. What about the other relationships in between, since then?
A. Well they were just really sort of fringe relationships and it was - I don't know, with
them it was all so sort of open, do you know what I mean, there's nothing like hidden
away that's special just between you and your boyfriend or anything, it's all, you know
his friends know everything about you and your friends are going, ah, what d'you do at
the weekend and whatever, and there's - there's nothing private so you don't feel
particularly linked to that person or anything special for them. And because the people I
went out with were so sort of drippy, I mean they really were –
Q. Did you think that at the time or A. Not when I first started going out with them, I thought oh this is good for a novelty
and then a week later I'd be going (?yawn), why am I going out with this person, but in
the usual way you say, oh, I'll plod on, you know. That was also really educational 'cos it
- it taught me that, however complicated I am, it shouldn't mean that I should
compromise and go out with someone who's weak who I think will, like, accommodate
my needs and whatever, and I learned that - that isn't true at all, you have to be
attracted to someone because of their personality and - I don't know, all sort of little bits
and pieces, you have to be fairly fussy, and I learnt from that.
Q. Did you feel that you were the one who was in control in those relationships?
A. Oh, yeah. I mean at first like - some of the people used to say, oh you're so nice and
so gorgeous, you look so nice all the time, and at first I thought oh, my God, it's so
amazing, and then after a while it meant nothing. Like, yeah, you see this, but what am I
really like, you know, who cares, you don't care, and I was very much in control, it was
always me saying oh, goodbye, sort of thing. And I always sort of felt sort of slightly
idolised by some of these boys because they were - I never sort of - most of them went
to public school, and they were just looking for someone to hang off their arm and
something to talk about, do you know what I mean?
A. Well, that's the impression I got anyway.
A. And I just sort of got fed up with like the same relationship over and over again.
Q. ... too hot... Yeah. So where were you meeting them?
A. Hampstead... ultra trendy places, all full of exactly the same people... I don't know,
they - in Highgate, and just because I was close with LISA, and she lives in Highgate
boys' school, so she knew a lot of people anyway, and - at first she was introducing me
to them and then I'd sort of go off with them or get to know them better, and then I'd get
introduced through them, you know, sort of cycle really. But LISA knew a lot of people
and a lot of people who were really really shitty too, and that sort of gave me a bad
impression of them as well. 'Cos - her living in a [REDACTED] is pretty difficult anyway.
A. And I don't know, it was just sort of really annoying seeing that, having Q. Mm. You got it.
A. And so I got really protective over her and, you know, started fighting her fights for
her, which I think is a pretty bad idea, but she just - I think it gave her time to breathe
and sit back from it... And so generally it was like conquering in the end, like we'd go out
and we'd just laugh at all these people who really sort of always said, you know, I care
about you so much, but when it came down to it they really didn't give a shit, and
especially to LISA, a lot of people really weren't very nice, or they were all sort of really
sweet but only when it suited them, you know. But no - I don't know, it was real - we
learnt a lot, but Q. How did it affect your relationship with them, I mean that kind of experience?
A. I think it made me realise that you have to sort of give a lot to get a lot, do you see
what I mean? - that you can't just expect someone to turn up on your doorstep and say
well, I love you, whatever, you have to work at it, and also you have to find someone
who fits with your personality. I know I'm fairly complicated when it comes down to
relationships, and I've also learnt that, and I think - with MARK, because he's so
different from anyone else I've ever been out with, I sort of mentally gave him a chance,
whereas if he'd been - had any of the characteristics of the other people I went out with I
would have immediately have said in my mind, no, thanks. But because he's so different
to them we both sort of gave each other a chance and it's worked out really well, I'm
Q. And what about the sexual relationship, did that work out alright?
A. Yeah. Because I mean we - at first we were using condoms and then one split and...
and I was thinking about going on the pill anyway 'cos I wasn't really too happy about
using condoms, I don't know, they really don't appear to me as being particularly safe,
and he sort of plonked me on the pill, and he was so sweet about that, I was absolutely
amazed, I mean he was... so he put me on the morning after pill, wonderful, on
Christmas Eve, absolutely amazingly good, and he was really really lovely. I mean I was
actually quite surprised because some of my friends, not necessarily boyfriends but
male friends from Highgate, I've heard them say on numerous - various times that if
their girlfriend got pregnant they'd assume for her to have an abortion immediately. Me
and LISA sort of began to think about it, it's disgusting, you know,... that mentality, if
there's any way that was my sort of - that's how I thought that quite a lot of men felt,
about pregnancies or whatever - but I mean MARK was just so sweet, he was really
really lovely. And he was really supportive as well, he sort of said, right come on, off we
go, we're going, you know, I don't care what you say. We went and then it was just
really nice, the people there were really nice too. So it was alright but - it probably would
be - I probably would have felt a lot more different about it if it had been someone else
with less sort of common sense, you know. I think a lot of men would have come round
and said, oh, just forget it, you know, you're alright, they assume that just because he
says you're not gonna get pregnant you're not, or whatever. MARK was really really
sweet and it really took me aback at first, sort of thought, wow, it's amazing. And I think
that's why it's so good, because we're friends as well, we don't have to be wrapped
around each other all the time. And he's really - I don't know, he knows me well enough
now, like if I'm in a bad mood he knows what to do to get me out of it, and you know,
you sort of learn, it's really nice, you learn how to sort of complement each other and
help each other out, as a friend would, you know, someone who really cares about you
and you care about them... the same thing. Whereas I think with other boyfriends, I think
LISA found this as well, is that they like you when you're sweet and you're beautiful and,
you know, whatever, you've got a new outfit on or whatever, whatever reason, but as
soon as you feel depressed or down in the dumps or - I don't know, you've got a sudden
rush of acne or something, they just don't want to know. It's really, sort of, pick and
choose relationships, whereas with MARK I feel that he's really consistent - well, luckily,
not sort of boring. Because I went out with one boy for, what, five months, and in the
end he was just so boring, just so shallow, and MARK isn't, which is really nice.
Q. ... a more interesting sort of person.
A. Yeah. I think he's more mature as well. Because my parents split up a year ago, and
his about seven years ago, and he's got a sister who's only about two years - two years
younger than him, and his mum, so he's been brought up in a pretty female environment
anyway, so he's fairly sensitive to - knows sort of the sort of ins and outs and petty little
things, but it's really nice because he's quite knowledgeable, you don't feel like you have
to patronise him, to tell him things. You know, some people you sort of have to... but he
already knows everything, it's really sweet. And he's always prepared to listen as well,
which a lot of people aren't, sort of sit there, and I don't know, he will just talk about
really petty little things, you know, make you feel better or whatever, but a lot of people
Q. Well he sounds quite satisfactory as you describe him.
Q. But - but can I ask you again about the sexual relationship, I mean it's good in the
sense that he's understanding and supportive, is it good in the sense of giving pleasure,
satisfaction, those sort of things?
A. Yeah. Because I don't think either of us dominate the relationship generally, so if I get
into bed and think I'm going to sleep tonight, you know, goodnight sort of thing, then
alright he may be a bit sort of pissed off but - fine, and the other way, well, that's fine,
and I think we sort of - I don't know, he was fairly nervous at first, I think because he
was quite shocked about how close he was to me, and I just really enjoyed it so it didn't
bother me at all, and then like he was the first... slept with, he was so nervous, it took - it
took a little while for that to pass; no, I really enjoy having sex with him. I know it sort of supports how I feel about him for some reason. It - it's not even actually having sex with
him, it's like sometimes it's just being that close and not having to say anything or, you
know, just - I don't know, lots of physical contact which is really nice. 'Cos like some
boys are really sort of stand-offish about it, especially like... friends... absolutely love it
'cos it's like really exhibitionist, but - I don't know, I don't feel that, like, I have to be
standing next to him all the time, but like when we're on our own it's just - everything's
really spontaneous, nothing's planned, which I think going out with someone who's so
stereotyped, even how your evening goes, like kissing goodnight on the doorstep sort of
thing, once you've gone through that, if it's spontaneous I think it's really healthy.
Q. Mm. One of the things that's been going round in connection with the AIDS scare,
the idea of safe sex, what - what would you - what do you describe as safe sex?
A. Well if you don't - if you don't know someone, or you don't know their sexual
background, ... use a condom, and if you do know them, and say you're both virgins or
something, then using a reliable form of contraception. But condoms I think, with
anyone you've got the slightest doubt about, even then if you're still not sure, definitely
use a condom.
Q. Mm. When you were talking about the sort of physical closeness that you have with
MARK, I was wondering whether - I mean when you think of sex what do you think of,
what - what does sex mean to you?
A. I know - it means a number of things, I mean sometimes it's really sort of genital and
- I don't know, sort of emotional more than physical, and then sometimes it's like selfish
sex and you're just like lying in bed with this person just for your own satisfaction, which
is sort of fairly normal. It varies, you know, with love, just depending what mood you're
in and all sorts of things.
Q. I was wondering about sort of non-penetrative sex, I mean does sex always include
the idea of penetration for you?
A. No, not necessarily. It's just whatever happens. It's just, sort of, whatever happens,
you know. It's the only way I can put it.
A. It's really weird. I mean it's like foreplay and then sex and then goodnight sort of
thing, it doesn't have to be like that, it can only just be a kiss and a cuddle goodnight, or
it can be full sex, or whatever. And anything in between, I don't think it should be like set
things that you do.
A. And it's also so personal, that whatever you've done, you know, however many other
people that you've slept with, it's not gonna be the same I'm sure, because like
something as personal as that, just between two people - well I hope - no, you - you
can't predict it at all, so Q. Mm, it's something very specific to the two of you.
A. Yeah, and also learning what each other likes, and how you feel comfortable, and,
you know, if you don't like something you - you say or -I don't know - it's just, it's just
part of the learning process where you learn about each other and being close and
Q. Are there things that you don't like in terms of sexual activity?
A. It changes. It really does. Sometimes if I'm feeling really sort of vulnerable, just being
held is just nice, I don't want anything else, you know, I just feel like lying there and
enjoying being with him, but no, it's really sort of changeable, I don't know, generally it's
alright. It's really really - it's really closely connected with my mood... I mean say like we
have an argument, then we go to bed, we might each be fairly violent to each other, we
will be aggressive but not nasty but... and other times we like being gentle really. It
really - it's so close to moods, I mean it's really weird.
Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. I didn't notice it at first but...
Q. Do you envisage this relationship continuing?
A. In the immediate future, yes. And even if we did split up at the end of A-levels or
before, I can't really see us losing touch - well not within, like, the foreseeable future, if
you see what I mean, at university or whatever, and I think that's because we're too
close, once you've got over the bitter stage... admit your error... I think we've gone past
that, I think our relationship is too mature for petty things and if we broke up it would be
on our own terms. And neither of us are particularly spiteful - I mean, alright, in an
argument we'll say a load of things that we don't mean, but you always know you'll
come back and say oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean that and whatever. And we both know
that, so there'd be no reason to sort of start up unnecessary bitching or whatever. No, I
would really like it to continue, it's very mature, it's just that the circumstance, like
whether we take a year off after A-levels or whether we go to university or to art school
or whatever - anyway that's quite nice but then it's really intimidating to think about. You
just don't know what's gonna happen. Just as well.
Q. Mm, yeah. So would that - that's your plan, is it, to go on to art school do you think?
A. Well, I mean I've already got an art A-level and I'm doing English and art now, so I'll
sort of hopefully have two art A-levels. I either want to take a year off and travel,
especially in Europe, so I knew Europe fairly well, or just go straight into art school and
get a degree in graphic design or graphics generally. I don't know really.
Q. That sounds fairly clear. What sort of thing do you hope to do in work, be a graphic
A. Yeah, or something along - along those lines, I mean something like photography or
that side of art, not sort of sitting down and painting sort of bowls of fruit or anything but
the more sort of realistic side, advertising or interior design or something along those
lines. But I haven't decided specifically yet, I think it's far too early,... sort of looking
round at art colleges and see...
Q. You said that your parents split up - was it a couple of years ago?
A. No, a year ago. Yeah, just after I was sixteen.
Q. That must have been difficult.
A. I don't know, it was - it was really - when it happens to someone else you can picture
it all, you can say yes, she was upset... two months, whatever; when it comes to
yourself everything's just so jumbled up and you think why isn't my life as simple as
everyone else's. But I don't know, it was really weird, because things had never really
been right - I don't know, it was my - my dad's, like, a [DEATH CARE INDUSTRY], and
he'd come home and be in an absolutely foul mood, you know, I mean like [JOB
DETAILS REDACTED] and what have you and all this, very upsetting, but he used to
never mention it ever, and he'd really separate himself from it and he'd go - go to the
pub or go betting or something and mum would say, come and talk to me or whatever.
We always seemed to be broke, which really strained everything, and we'd move into
these big houses, do them up and then sell them sort of the next day, you know, the
only reason we'd finish the house off was 'cos we were selling it, which was pretty
depressing but - and then the Christmas before they split up mum just decided that she
couldn't take it anymore, I mean he - I'd been on so many holidays alone with mum, with
some friends or whatever, and although he was living with us it really didn't seem like he
was really there. So mum said, right, well, there's no point, you know, you're upsetting
me, I'm upsetting you, we don't seem to get anywhere, so they decided to split up. I've
got a younger sister who was seven then, or coming up to seven... oh yeah, and I went
away on a skiing trip, it was before my GCSEs, and I was at school and LISA went as
well, and I came back and mum or dad was supposed to meet me from the school, it
was just mum and SALLY, and he was like in the pub or something, typical, you know...
this happened. Like he'd always take me to like my riding lessons and pick me up late
'cos he'd been in the pub or betting or whatever, and mum just said I'm sorry, but your
father's moving out this weekend. So mum actually went away with LISA, I think just
'cos she couldn't take it, I mean, and I said I wanted to stay, because at the time I felt
very guilty about leaving dad on his own, God knows why now, when I look back at it I
was really stupid, but I don't know, just that week - I mean I grew up so quickly, really
really quickly, and he - he was - would always like go out for meals 'cos neither of us
could cook, and he'd just sit there crying in the restaurant. God, I mean what do you
say, it was really difficult, and I just sort of - LISA was brilliant then, I mean she was just
so sweet. We had a student living with us, 'cos we had like a fairly large house, and she
like came home one night and said, oh I'm sorry, your father's moved out... sometime
during the week, and I sort of went - and LISA took over and sorted it all out, which - I
mean she was absolutely marvelous,... and my other friend EMMA as well, 'cos her
parents split up. And my mum came back and we moved out of this beautiful big old
Edwardian house, absolutely beautiful... worth a fair amount of money, and like moved
into a purpose-built flat where we still live, absolutely tiny, and - the only problem at the
moment is lack of space because we're - we're all so used to having so much space
and now we're suddenly confined to like low ceilings and, like, real sort of cell rooms.
A. But I mean the only thing I really remember about my parents splitting was that like I
took a fairly adult role. I mean like dad moved out, he took a grotty sort of attic room in
this woman's house he used to play tennis with, 'cos she was a widow or something,
and I, like, used to see old men walking down the street and think, oh my God, my dad's
gonna be like that, so I - I, you know, see him as much as possible, it's not that I enjoy
seeing him... (interruption)
Q. ... one day last week...
A. Oh, yeah, I took over a really adult role which I didn't realise until afterwards, pushed
my dad along and made sure I'd see him, and took my sister along and sort of catered
to her and her friends, not that my mum never did any of it, but I took a lot more on than
I should of, and I was also really worried about mum 'cos she lost a lot of weight and
looked really pale and... and she was obviously really upset by it as it was, and dad sort
of coming round being really pathetic, you know, my darling children and, you know,
really rubbing salt into the wound, and I just couldn't stand there and watch it happen. I
just sort of - so pathetic, you're supposed to be two mature adults and here you are
bickering; I mean I once had an argument with my dad for a week about whether I had
time to drink a cup of tea... I mean every supper would be an argument, you know, over
anything, and ... oh great he's left. In the end I felt worse for a couple of months and
preoccupied myself with doing loads and loads of work and going out a lot, and being,
like, too social. And I never really realised this until about - I don't know, six months after
dad left - now he's gone and met this woman... get on with, and like they've bought this
chalet in EUROPEAN COUNTRY, they've bought this big old family house, and like
we're the ones - three of us living in a flat, a tiny flat, I mean it's not big, and him living in
a family house with this woman and her mother, and they've spent an absolutely huge
amount of money doing it up, and it's not far from us, but it's really stupid. I mean he
comes round and talks about really aimless things and spends all this money and then
turns round to mum and says, oh I'm sorry, I can't give you your maintenance because
I'm hard up. It's alright for him, he'd just got back from EUROPEAN COUNTRY, from
this place they bought, and, like, SALLY asked for some money yesterday, he said no.
And it's just really unreasonable, it's inhumane, that he's going on and on and on
playing the real martyr... children anymore and I'm on my own, but it's absolute rubbish
because he chooses not to see my sister, I mean he - I don't know, he really puts time,
time that you know... see her... time... comes round and plays the hard-done-by father
and then goes off and goes out for drinks and... you know, it's just so trivial and boring
and it really gets mum so angry Q. Mm.
A. - and then that makes me angry with her, 'cos - you're strong and you can do it,
you've done - got over the worst of it, come on, sort of, hounding her, and she says
leave me alone... SALLY sort of - he absolutely spoils her for about three hours and
then she comes back to us where we set down discipline, you know, you have to... a
child's gonna be upset for about half a year afterwards, I mean that's how it was with
SALLY, and alright, you get the "I hate you, I want to live with daddy", which of course
she didn't but - and she really picks on mum and it really gets to her; and then SALLY
comes back to us and wonders why she's told off for things that she's allowed to do at
dad's. And he just sees her when - it's not whether it's convenient for me or mum or
SALLY, it's all an occasion for him, it's so easy for him just to pick up the phone and "I
might as well see SALLY today". And my relationship with him - he thinks what a brilliant
relation... that's only because I sort of pretend that I'm all sweet and innocent and talk
about things he wants to talk about, because when I was younger I sort of tried to
revolutionise him and, you know, change and all this... forty-five, he's not gonna change
now, and it took me a long time to realise that so now I just - I don't know, every time I
see him I get a little bit more blunt and nearer to how I feel, but it will take time. I have
so many bad memories of him as well which sort of is still really vivid in my mind so I
can't just suddenly turn sweet and nice and... that's the way I feel because I don't feel
like that, I feel really angry towards him... I don't know, it's sort of really confusing.
Q. And still fairly recent as well... sorted out.
A. Yeah, I suppose so, it doesn't feel recent, I don't, like, feel bereaved or anything, you
know, though quite a few people do. I don't feel I've lost anything, which sounds really
sad 'cos I should be feeling, you know, oh, my God, my dad isn't here anymore. But I
think the reason for that is that mum told me absolutely everything that was going on
when they were splitting up, so I saw I had a role, you know, I thought I was part of it, I
was helping mum, and she was just so good, she really treated me like an adult and I
haven't - it was really good because before then I'd always been so shy and, well not
shy, but never really shown myself, and because mum needed me, I wouldn't say relied
on me, but needed me, it made me grow up. I - I can talk to her about absolutely
anything and I mean, she's a bit of a do very much as I do person, but I don't know, it's
really sort of sisterly. I really enjoy our relationship. And also the relationship with my
sister has improved because when my mum's not there, she's got a sort of boyfriend,
SALLY knows that she has to listen to me. Now if mum wasn't there, dad would have
been there, do you see what I mean, so she never had to listen to me before or do
anything I said. But sometimes SALLY goes... got three kids of his own anyway so it's
not as if he doesn't understand... whatever... But I think seeing her boyfriend makes
mum really happy, I mean I, you know, I sort of - she says can you look after SALLY
tonight or shall I phone... not doing anything, I'm perfectly happy doing it. I don't feel
begrudged, I don't think, you should be with dad. I mean, I think SALLY does 'cos she's
not old enough to really understand. But I'm not bitter towards her, I think 'cos she's
always been there, whereas dad hasn't, you know, it's always been her who I ran to if I
fell over or her who if I argued with someone I told her, or her who I screamed at when I
got annoyed, you know, it's the good and the bad all in one, sort of help each other
along. But it sounds as if things are - I mean they are improving... working. And 'course,
'cos we might be moving to a flat, slightly bigger, sort of a converted house, so we sort
of have some fireplaces and, you know, cornicing or whatever, and I think that'll help
because we're where we are now was never really permanent, it was just sort of waiting
ground, just wait for the dust to settle and then we'll move on. And we're all pleased
about that so it's not as though anyone's being dragged along. I think it'll improve even
more when we move... sorted out.
Q. Can I track onto a different track entirely now and ask you about - some of the
purpose of this study which is about AIDS and sex education and so forth, which is to
ask you what you think of the sex education that you've had at school - it wasn't here,
was it, you were A. No, I was at ... comprehensive. I think it was alright for people like me who had
parents who aren't embarrassed to say right, is there anything you want to know, or this,
this and this happens... but I think like a lot of the girls in my school were Muslim and
whatever and obviously they were really highly disciplined at home, and really knew
absolutely - had absolutely no social awareness at all, I mean that includes sex
education, everything. I think for them it was really difficult but because me and my
friends all sort of learnt together beforehand anyway, you know you sort of - I don't know
how we learnt, just sort of pick up bits of information along the way. I thought the sex
education was pretty average, I wouldn't say it was anything special. The only reason I
say that is because I think it would have been worse but we had a really really good
teacher, we had one really really good woman, she was really sweet and she was just
about to have a baby and everything and like she sort of - "I'm going to blush now but
I'm going to tell you this”, you know, she sort of - you know, like a human, not like
drawing all these diagrams on the board and being completely detached, you could like
associate. And we had this - this other bloke who - he had a really hard time, he was
like really young and it was a single sex girls' school, and he - in the end he just
announced to the class that he was gay, and it was - I don't know, it was just really
sweet, he was ever such a nice man, and - I don't know, those sort of personal
experiences sort of improve, I think - you sort of trust the teacher more, you have more
respect for them so whatever they say, you obviously pay more attention to it. I think the
sex education was pretty text-book, nothing, you know just how babies are made... you
know, I mean they'd do all the sort of regular things like periods and abortion and - it
was all sort of done in such a text-book way,... text-book and this is it. And also - what,
we must have been fourteen when they taught us, I mean at fourteen a lot of people are
already going out with boys and whatever, and for some people it might be too late. I
mean if you don't have any education out of school then how the hell are you supposed
to know? Luckily, we all did but other girls in the school obviously didn't.
Q. So you think it should be sooner and less technical.
A. Mm, I do. And then they hardly said a word, I mean I - I wouldn't say never because it
was a long time ago, but they didn't say anything about homosexuality - I think they
might have mentioned it because the teacher wanted to, not because it was set, so it
was the teacher who was... wouldn't have mentioned it at all. They never mentioned
anything about that, they didn't mention anything about AIDS 'cos there wasn't really
any awareness about it then... and, I don't know Q. Masturbation, did they mention masturbation, it's one of the things we put on the list A. I can't remember. I think they - yeah, I think they did, I'm not sure. But nothing was
really made a big point of, that's why I can't really remember, you know, nothing was
emphasised which - I don't know whether it's good or bad, I don't know whether I'd be
any different if I'd learned all my sex education at school and from nowhere else. That's
appalling if you do, but a lot of people are in that situation so there should be, you know,
people - people should be taught it at school and everything about sex. We weren't
taught very much about like venereal disease or anything. It was just sort of the nice
things, you know the nasty bits were left to like television programmes and family
planning clinics. And (?) rape and then it's sometimes too late.
Q. Yeah. Well the other thing I was gonna ask you about was when - when you first
heard about AIDS... didn't do anything about it at school. Can you remember?
A. It was brought up at school but not while they were actually doing set sex education
at school, it was brought up in a discussion and the whole class joined in, the teacher
and whatever. Probably just after... or during or definitely not before, it was on the
television and posters and leaflets - I think some people saw there was some leaflets,
but they were really only just touching the subject. Everything - everything was put so
nicely, I mean AIDS is appalling, why not say so, you know, and then suddenly there's
television programmes which bare everything, you think, my God. I don't know, with
AIDS, I don't think - I mean it was mentioned, I remember it being mentioned, but it
wasn't like syllabus, it wasn't that they were told to tell us, and also - I don't think I learnt
very much about AIDS from the television programmes either. They may tell you that
you must use a condom and this is how you use one, otherwise what you'll die - you
know, you'll catch AIDS and die in the not too distant future, I mean it doesn't really tell
you very much, and even now I don't think I'm particularly well educated about it.
Q. Mm. What do you - what do you know about it, I mean what do you think of it as
A. Well it's transmitted through the bloodstream, intravenous drug use, sex and you you can't get it from drinking from the same glass or something, it's - it's not that
infectious. And being promiscuous is terrible... you know, in terms of AIDS. And you
develop the virus I think, which - does it then turn into fullblown AIDS? - the virus
you get first, anti-deficient, anti-immune, whatever Q. Immune deficient virus, H - human immune deficiency virus.
Q. That can lie dormant for quite a number of years... the AIDS develops quite late.
A. Yeah, my friend was saying that she knew two people who have actually got the virus
but don't feel any different or anything, they've just been told, you know... sort of... a bit
upset 'cos I mean... injecting drugs... but apart from that, it's just a question of time.
Q. Yeah, yeah. What did you think about the original presentation of the ideas about it I mean the idea that it's a gay plague, did you - did you come across that or A. I thought at first it was, because I was so naive, you know, about it - at first I thought,
not that it was only gay people and drug users who caught AIDS but I thought it was
much more frequent in those sort of groups than in heterosexual couples or whatever.
But obviously if Q. ...
A. No, but if you think it's you that doesn't mean that you've got absolutely no risk,
which, that is the idea I got, sort of they've got it, I haven't, I'm safe... a bit thick perhaps.
But then I mean like there - there was some really good advertising, like that advert with
a grave or graves and rocks or something, I thought that was really... because it was
done really - in a really trendy sort of way that caught your eye and - I don't know, even
now I remember it, which shows it worked, you know. And like the AIDS adverts in
magazines, girls' magazines or teenage magazines or whatever, it was a really good
idea but I think someone somewhere needs to do a complete documentary on it and
make it like a subject of curiosity if you see what I mean. So that I mean - I quite enjoy
watching documentaries in the news and whatever, and I think anyone with enough
intelligence to care about what happens to them and the people they care about, you
know - I don't know, I think someone should just set out the facts 'cos I mean there were
so many programmes, and alright, they might have been saying the same things, but if
you're not enthusiastic about it you don't pay that much attention. I don't know Q. You think it's the facts that are missing really, I mean people need to know the facts
A. Well, there was like six months of continuous AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, all you ever
heard, so you immediately switch off to it, and now there's nothing, people are really
sort of, hey AIDS, I remember that, is it still around? People need to be, you know, keep
on reminding them, and themselves, and - I don't know, it just...
Q. Mm, I think you're probably right, they need another push on it really. They've got this
campaign at the moment, they have one where they have the very beautiful young
woman, saying she could have - this young woman has HIV, in five years' time she
could look like the picture over the page - turn over the page, she looks exactly the
same A. - the same Q. - sort of thing. And they have one with a young man as well.
A. Oh, right.
Q. But slightly different, then they're sort of pointing - here are the signs of HIV infection,
and he looks absolutely perfect –
Q. You wouldn't be able to tell at all. So there are, I mean they are trying to warn the
sort of heterosexual population.
A. Yeah, but do you think it's really enough. I mean, you know, as well it says... when it
all first comes out, oh, we care, you know, we're taking you into the nineties or
whatever... but as soon as it's quietened down you don't give a shit, or that's how it
appears to me, and I think there's quite a lot of other people as well, and as soon as
anyone starts talking again you make another expensive effort. Alright, it may do its job
but it's not enough on its own, it needs a support...
Q. Do you think that your friends are worried much about it, do you think that A. I don't think "worried" is the word, I think people are sort of aware and concerned, but
then again, it's lack of education or communication or whatever that has sort of brought
- I mean I don't think really a lot of people's attitudes have changed, a lot of people still...
whatever, but I mean people who are socially aware have made changes or have said,
right, this is what I can and can't do. No, I think a lot of my friends are aware of it but - I
think the girls are more concerned. Isn't it more easier during, in heterosexual sex for
women to get it rather than men?
Q. I think it A. - than a woman to give it to a man.
Q. Yeah, I think it's slightly - there is - there - some of the research indicates that it's
A. ... useful facts like that that make a difference, it's just the whole idea of it, whereas I
think men are more likely to be promiscuous anyway, because of like the image, I mean
a man who sleeps around is by some people called like a stud or, you know, a macho
person, and a girl who does it is a complete slut or a slag, so I think social rules like that
- I mean, mean that your activity - I don't know really. Yeah, I think - I think there's an
awareness about it but I don't think it's enough at all.
Q. Mm. Would you be worried about it, I mean I realise that you're in a steady
relationship at the moment, but would you be worried about it in the future?
A. Oh, yeah.
A. It would - it would cross my mind a lot and if I thought it necessary then I would do
something about it. And I would - if I met someone that I didn't know their sexual
background, or whether they'd been injecting or whatever, I mean you just don't know,
there might be other ways of catching it that no one knows.
Q. Yeah, they do seem to move the goal posts quite frequently, the new things they're
finding out about it.
A. Like breathing in twice in a second... I mean you know, it's really silly. No, but I - I
wouldn't like be over-concerned and make a big thing of it, I mean 'cos that's being
over-protective, I mean you might as well say why am I born 'cos I'll die, you know, it's it can get sort of like a phobia sort of thing, why do I get up in the morning when I've got
to go to bed, I mean – silly, but - no, I think I would - I'd be concerned about it, I don't
know, do some research or whatever, or just talk about it, and if I thought... then I'd do
whatever it takes but - I think a lot of people are going a little overboard about it. I think
that's just because no one really knows exactly what - what are the implications or Q. What's at stake really, yeah. Thinking about risky - risky types of behaviour, do you
think that you engage in any risky behaviour, not necessarily in terms of your sexual life
but in other areas of your life? Smoking A. Definitely. Especially while being on the pill. But I know that it's stupid and, you know,
I've made plans - I know when I'm gonna give up as well, and I've set myself a date and
MARK's giving up as well and it's, you know, all planned and whatever. I'm not saying
that's an excuse... stupid. My mum also smokes, I'm trying to get her to give up. I don't
drink a lot. So - I don't know, the idea of getting absolutely legless doesn't really appeal
to me unless I'm in a particularly mad mood, but I mean, you know, it's all - it's not like
every weekend. I don't drink much anyway. Apart from that, no, really.
Q. Drugs - what about friends, do any of your friends take drugs?
A. Well, I mean, like, we all occasionally smoke dope, I mean, but it's not as harmful as
smoking cigarettes really unless you get so stoned out of your head that you go and fall
off a bridge, but, you know, I mean that can happen if you're drunk. But I don't think any
of the people who I go around with ever consider injecting, or snorting cocaine, or
whatever. I mean dope's nice because - it's like getting drunk, you don't have a
hangover and it - it's like smoking but it's nicer and whatever. Well, no, apart from that, I
don't think so. I think at our age people are beginning to learn to have fun but - not be
sensible and sit there sort of doing nothing, you know, being really sort of conservative
about it all but - learning to have fun but still caring about actually what you're doing to
yourself and other people. It's something I've noticed, I mean I've been to the pub with
people who've just been like on the floor absolutely legless and driven their cars up
trees, you know, whereas now people are beginning to think, drink and drive, no, all
these sort of slogans are going around, and you - it does, if someone points it out or, I
don't know, if some advert appears, it does make you think, and hopefully feel better.
Q. One of the things I was thinking was that sometimes I get the impression from young
people that there's a slight - there's a slight thrill attached in doing things that are
forbidden or, you know A. Oh, yeah, I think so, I think that's why, you know, smoking dope is an attraction. But I
think if you're that sort of rebell- - well not rebellious but you're attracted to it that much,
then I think it's particularly - not mature but I don't - it... - if you do it that often and to a
great extent, like you, I don't know, you go... school buildings... your school and you
think it's great, then I think there's obviously something missing. But I - no, I can
understand it getting... lessons, or telling my mum to shut up, and I'm not coming home
tonight, and, you know - it makes you think that you're more adult and you've got more
power, which is I mean - it's just you want your independence now, not in four years or
whatever. I think everyone gets a thrill out of doing things they're not supposed to do but
only to a little extent, not going overboard about it.
Q. Not excessive. Yeah.
A. Yeah. You've got to be sort of -
A. - within limits and whatever. I think people should enjoy themselves but not, you
know, sort of hurt themselves or anyone else, and just sort of keep it to an extent that
they know that they can control. 'Cos otherwise once it goes out of your control...
Q. And do you think that the sort of friends that you have, the friends that you have, go
along with your views about it or do you think any of them are risk-takers?
A. I think if someone has like a - one of my friends started taking poppers... nitrate,
something like that, and she took it just 'cos she thought you breathed it in and it made
you laugh for a couple of minutes and that's it, but 'course if you drink when you're
taking them, they can give you kidney failure there and then... kills an enormous amount
of brain cells every time or whatever, and it's bad and - and me and MARK both said,
you're really thick... I mean, what can happen, we told her, and she stopped. I think the
reason people do do these stupid things when they appear to be incredibly intelligent is
just through naivety and not knowing, innocently as well, whereas a lot of people think
oh, she's just on the (?) sly, you know, the quiet ones you never know, or whatever. I
think usually it's really innocent. No, I don't think anyone really takes unnecessary risks,
I think some people are a bit stupid sometimes, but who isn't, you know, I mean you you don't know, it's like your own sort of limits or anything and... mistakes... you learn a
lot. Sort of part of growing up really...
Q. Yeah. What about - let me ask you a question that some people have found is a bit
difficult - what's your image of yourself?
A. What's my image of myself? Oh my God. In what - what - how I think Q. What do you think - well, I was gonna ask you as well what you think other people's
image of you is, and if there's any difference between your own image of yourself A. Well, when I look at myself, I mean sort of..., I think I'm very complicated. I think I just
put loads and loads of reasons, I mean you know it's... understand... I don't know. I think
- I think I'm fairly attractive to a lot of people because I'm right in most situations, I never
have such set rules, I mean also knowing LISA, I mean she like really opened up my
eyes or whatever, just like sort of silly... boys or what - you know, all those sort of little
experiences, I think I've learnt to adapt myself to whatever environment or situation I'm
in. I think I can be sort of fairly bubbly and laughing and, you know, which is obviously
attractive in someone, or I can just be in a terrible mood and no one wants to know me,
I mean - very changeable really. I think I might be a bit of a curiosity to some people, I
mean MARK said that when he first met me, first he thought I was a real bitch, 'cos like
me and LISA were, I don't know, we were talking about this person, he thought oh my
God, what a bitch or whatever, and then he thought I was really quiet and it sort of
spurred him on to find out what I was really like. And I think anyone who's changeable,
other people find them a curiosity, because if you see someone in more than a couple
of moods, you think, what are they really like? I mean it's just natural. You want to find
out. I think I'm quite caring, I mean I'm really really - I'm really protective over people I
care about 'cos... worry about me... And if I'm close to someone I'm very close to them
and if I think they're alright, then they're just alright, there's no in the middle, do you see
what I mean, they're sort of fringe friends that are out there and... circle here... mean
anything to me. I don't know, I think I must be about as nice and as horrible as
everybody else, you know, sort of normal really. But I mean, I don't know. I think it's sort
of a really difficult question to answer because you have to think about it for long -
Q. Yeah. Yeah, I do throw it at people. Some people haven't thought about it at all, you
Q. No idea.
A. I think you sort of naturally think about it because you're always trying to figure
yourself out and know yourself as much as other people.
Q. I know, it's complicated, it's like trying to compare it with what others' images are A. Yeah.
Q. A difficult question to get - to get to. Well I think I've come to the end of my questions.
I've found it extremely interesting talking to you and thank you very much for doing so.
Q. Is there anything that you want to ask?
A. No, not really.
Q. One of the things I have been saying to people, I mean to find out more about AIDS
and stuff, as you said... get it from leaflets and stuff like that, the libraries always have a
lot, the local library...
Q. Well you yourself feel that you're not at risk at the moment in the context A. Well I don't really have any reason actually to go into an in-depth research about it Q. Yes.
A. - so - but if I was in that situation, then I would. As simple as that really. Yeah, I think
it's just... if you feel that concerned, then you will.
Q. Mm. The other thing I was gonna ask you as I mentioned before... we were asking
people if they'd be interested in being interviewed again next year A. Yeah.
Q. - and whether they would keep a diary for us...
A. Yeah, okay. Well, what sort of a diary?
Q. Well it's really about your feelings about your relationships, and what you're actually
doing, I mean some detail about what you're doing in your sexual relationships A. Every day?
Q. Every day for about two months. What do you think about that?
A. ... going away...
Q. Oh, right. Good. Well. Where are you gonna go?
Q. Oh, nice.
A. Me and LISA and.... Should be interesting.
A. No, I - no, it's just sort of 'cos we're gonna be so vulnerable out there for a start, I
mean I've travelled enough to know that English men compared to some of the people
out abroad are actually fairly tame and quiet, but you see, JANINE's never been away
on her own so she's gonna dive in at the deep end and get a bit of a shock I think. It's
only 'cos I'm quite worried about... worried about myself, I've travelled a fair amount on
my own... It should be a laugh, yeah.
Q. Whereabouts in EUROPEAN COUNTRY 2 are you going?
A. I don't really know actually, it's a really Englishy beach, a sort of (?)sandy beach...
Q. Oh, yeah, I think I know where you mean. I went there A. - (?) very foreign.
Q. - a couple of years ago when there was that incredible heatwave.
A. Oh, yeah, and people were dying.
Q. Yeah. It was so hot. We thought it was pretty hot, 'cos we were staying in this villa
and the kitchen was quite enclosed and cool, there was this little temperature thing, it
was at thirty- three, about ninety-odd, when we got up in the morning.
A. Oh, my God.
Q. We just used to crawl down the beach and kind of lay on the water to try and stay
cool. Seemed ridiculous. Okay, well what I will do is I'm gonna try to send out some
diaries to people in a couple of – well, maybe next week.
A. Okay. Well, to my address Q. I've got it here.
Q. Keep it for a couple of months. But I mean we're just gonna send little exercise books
so if there's not enough pages just write more.
A. Yeah, sure.
Q. So thank you very much...
17,2; lives with ma and sis; Ma – [LOCAL COMMUNITY ROLE]; Pa – [DEATH CARE
INDUSTRY]. LJH22 works 5 hours a week in [ENTERTAINMENT STORE] (Sunday);
ESW, no religion, doing A level in Eng Lit and Art; 8 GCSEs, O and A level Art (she is
taking another Art A level). Hetero, one sexual experience when 14, which she later
regretted; now having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old boy she met at school.
Very attractive, blond short hair, big blue eyes etc. Had a brace on her teeth. Our
conversations started up around relationships as usual, and this took us a long way. She
talked at length about her current relationship, which sounds rather pleasant and
successful. She does not know re it lasting bcs they are both young, and he may go off
to university, her to art school. She has had a series of other boyfriends, mainly public
school types, she thought they were shallow, and that the relationships meant nothing,
(met them through her friend LJH19, who lives in the school these boys attend) they just
wanted a good looking girl hanging on their arm, did not want to know who or what she
really was. Did not sleep with any of them. She felt that her friend LJH19 at suffered at
some of their hands (these boys) who treated her badly, but LJH22 took her in hand, and
the two of them developed a more self protective style, whilst still going out with these
types of boys.
She did sleep with a boy 2 years older when she was on holiday when 14. At the time
she thought it was great that this older boy wanted her, but did not think much of the sex.
It was a one-off, no protection. All of that she regretted later. The sex with the current
boyfriend is good, and very varied depending on each of their moods, and each of them
decides. Sex for her may not include penetration, again, depending on what either or
both of them want. They used to use condoms but one burst so she went to Brook
Advisory (with his support and encouragement) (a) to get morning after pill; (b) the pill.
She thought he behaved particularly admirably then, was concerned about her concern,
and encouraged her to make sure by getting the morning after pill. She is not worried
about AIDS herself, in a monogamous relationship with someone whose sexual history
she knows and whom she trusts. Feels young people do not know enough of the facts
and the risks involved re AIDS. She smokes, does not drink much, and smokes dope,
like all her friends. Neither her nor her friends try or would try the hard drugs.
We spent quite a time talking about the split-up of her parents, a year ago. She feels that
she is a complicated person, and has complicated relationships. She feels the parental
break up helped her to mature, and she learned a lot - her ma told her about everything
that was happening, treated her as an adult. Also gave her some responsibility, and
control over sister (7 years old at the time). Ma and she have very good relationship,
more like sisters. Ma now has boyfriend and is much happier. Financial situation does
not seem too good. Pa now lives in a big house with new girlfriend (she was not the
cause of the breakup, ma just could not stand it any more and asked him to leave) and
does not pay maintenance regularly; they live in a small purpose built flat, which is a
strain after the 'large Edwardian family house' which they lived in before. Tho money
was always a problem and I think pa drank and gambled. They were always moving into
houses, doing them up, and then selling them and moving.
She values her friendships, a small core of friends who mean everything to her. She
thinks she will go to Art School, and would like to be a graphic designer, or something
which uses that skill, something 'practical, not painting bowls of fruit'.
She regards all her experiences as potential learning experiences, and does seem to
think about them. She liked talking to me and thought quite a lot of young women might,
gives them an opportunity to think and talk about things which they might not normally
do. Wished us luck with the research and offered to do reinterview and diary. I'll have to
try to keep track of her, she said they might move to a larger flat, since the small one
was an interim solution 'whilst the dust settled'.