Channel 4 reports a study of sexual attitudes amongst 14-16 years. Key findings are that:
boys thought it was acceptable to pressure girls into sex and to use alcohol to get them into bed.
boys often used aggressive language about relationships
the boys suggested that a girlfriend who slept around would probably pay a physical price
In one of the boys’ focus groups there was even a suggestion that it was OK for a boy to force his girlfriend to have sex and the group started trying to differentiate between ‘just a bit of pressure’ and ‘proper rape’.
According to the researchers “The girls’ responses were more empathic and complex because they face more complex social pressures when it comes to having sex.”. Stuff empathy – why isn’t this being seen in terms of the fact that currently girls are vulnerable to the aggressive normative behaviour of the boys here!
The participants were presented with a series of scenarios to discuss – a girl and a boy both reluctant to have sex, a girl who had had a number of partners and a girl who felt pressured to have sex because her friends had paired off with two boys leaving her with a third. ‘The objective of this study was to explore the broad gender-based attitudes and opinions towards all of the case studies, not just to explore any differences between attitudes towards any one particular case study’ said Dr Hayter, who carried out the research with Christina Harrison, a sexual health specialist nurse from Doncaster Primary Care Trust. The team conceded that the focus group situation could have encouraged the boys and girls to conform to stereotypical behaviour but pointed out how, in the real world, teenagers’ behaviour is shaped by the sort of peer pressure displayed during the sessions.
(The Methods bit: Ten focus groups were held with 35 teenagers who had accessed nurse-led sexual health outreach clinics for contraception. These clinics are often held in conjunction with youth clubs in areas where teenage pregnancy rates are high.
Ten focus groups (five male and five female) involving sexual health clinic attendees aged between 14-16 years were conducted. Focus groups were asked to comment on four sexual relationship `case studies’. Group discussions were recorded and transcribed. Data were subject to thematic analysis. Three themes emerged from the data analysis. `Empathy’ reflected how young women were more likely to try to see their partner’s point of view. `Complexity’ also reflected that young women were more aware of the complex nature of relationships than were the male participants. `Language’ related to how young males used aggressive language in the context of relationships – a feature absent from female participants’ discourse. From abstract for article in Journal of Clinical Nursing)