Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1020-1039)



  1020. What would you like to see being done about that?
  (Ms Stuart) You cannot really stop teenagers from drinking, can you? There is nothing you can do. I stand there for ages and someone will eventually get it for me. There is nothing you can do about the alcohol bit. I think there is more pressure on boys sometimes, because boys, even if they are friends, they sit there and make fund of them, but girls obviously,—with Anna I would not start saying, "Oh, go on, go on", and force her into it if I am her real friend, but boys do even if they are friends, do they not? Yes, from your friends there is pressure.
  (Ms Eagle) I think it is more like a competition with alcohol. It is like, all your mates are drinking, you have to drink with them, otherwise you feel like a loser or something or you feel left out or something like that.

  1021. Do you think in terms of alcohol everybody seems to be agreed is really difficult to tackle?
  (Ms Eagle) Yes.

  1022. With the peer pressure some talk about having education, having young people coming to talk to young people, maybe giving them different views. Do you think that would help?
  (Ms Eagle) I reckon that would not be a bad idea, having young people do it and people you do not normally see in school because you would not get so embarrassed to talk about it.
  (Ms Stuart) And maybe if they speak to them on their own as well because they can ask their own questions, or in small groups. If you are in a class and you have got a question, and everyone is acting like they know what they are talking about and you are the only one saying, "What is that?"—I think you should do it. If you are going to have a teacher I think you should do it one on one because if they have got something to ask they can ask it and they are not going to feel embarrassed. You might feel a bit embarrassed with a teacher, but I do not know.

  1023. Natalie, you were saying earlier that one of the things in class is that people are giggling and not taking it seriously. Do you think it would be better to have peer education but single sex—young women separate from young men?
  (Ms Stuart) I think it would be better.

  1024. You think it would be better?
  (Ms Eagle) Because if you have women teaching women or girls, you are going to talk to them more. If it is a man doing it, you would be, "I am not going to talk to him about it".
  (Ms Stuart) I know, because I can remember things like, we will be sat in there and the teacher would explain about a certain thing and then a boy would shout out, "Oh, yeah, you know all about that", or something like that, and you are all blocked off then. You do not want to know any more. You do not want to say anything. You feel embarrassed. I have seen the look when people do that to other people. I have seen how people get shamed really quick, so it is the end.

  1025. What about from Wigan, would you share the view that alcohol and peer pressure were the top two?
  (Ms Ward) Yes.

  1026. Have you got any suggestions about what else we could do about that?
  (Mr Williams) It is image as well. For men image is a very big thing. If you are part of a group of males and they have all done it,, then obviously they are going to really intimidate you and really put you out and try their hardest to make you an outcast, so therefore you think, "They have done it. I have got to do it or else therefore I am not part of the gang". It is male image. You have got to be the man as such.

  1027. Do you think the media should take more responsibility or change the way they portray some of these issues?
  (Mr Williams) Yes, sometimes. I think they should be more supportive of young people.
  (Ms Minty) I think sometimes, especially in the newspapers, they stretch too far with celebrity kiss-and-tell and things like that. That is really giving a bad reputation to the whole idea of sex and stuff like that.

John Austin

  1028. Can I follow up what Scott was saying about the macho image? David in the earlier session referred to that when I was asking about men and access to both sex education and sexual health services, and that often they are excluded. What do you think can be done to improve both access to education and to sexual health services for young men, and how do you get them turned on to it?
  (Mr Williams) We need to overcome the image first, do we not, and make it acceptable? I do not know how you are going to do this. Do not ask me how. We need to get over the image of young men have to do it. Young men have to go out and have sex. That is how it is seen. If you are 15 or 16 at school and you have not had sex—after you leave school the pressure is off because when you go to college people do not know you. You are in a whole different ball game. At school people know you and if you have not had sex it is like you are a divide: men that have had not had sex are geeks and men that have had sex are popular. We need to get over this image. I think the sexual education would be better for this because it would probably destroy the image totally if young men found out that them having sex, like the young lady said before about her 17-year old mate who had had it 50 times—if he had found out what he could have caught or what he could be carrying, or cervical cancer or whatever he can get when he is older, I do not think he would have had sex with 50 ladies because obviously he would have known the consequences. I think sex education would be better for breaking down the image. I have got a bit here, if you do not mind me moving on to contraception, with young men. Where do young men get contraception? We get it from public toilets or from pub toilets. We go in quick, put our two pounds in, push the button, and if anybody comes in you stand in front of the condom machine, "Hello. All right, mate?", and when he goes out you take your condoms and you run. Another thing about the pub toilets. It is a very big thing, if you pull the girl, you go into the pub toilets, you get some, you might get lucky. But they are poor quality condoms. They are really poor quality condoms and they should be quality condoms because they are supposed to stop or help prevent pregnancy, with also other means of contraception. And they are overpriced. Condoms are so expensive it is unbelievable. It is like paying for sex. They are unbelievable, extortionate prices.
  (Ms Minty) Some people have actually turned to stealing condoms from the shops because they cannot travel to Brooke because it might not be open at the time when they need them. They are too embarrassed to go in the pub, so they go in the chemist's and grab a couple of boxes, put them in their pocket and run out again. It is disgraceful that the prices are so high and people cannot afford to buy them.
  (Mr Williams) And that brings in unsafe sex then, which is probably why we have got such a rise in STIs. The price of condoms could reflect on the rise in STIs because if you are not having safe sex there are going to be some issues in that. I have got some ways in which we get condoms. We steal them. We get older people to get them for us. If you are young, chemists are very moralistic and they might look down on you and think, "Are you old enough to have sex? I cannot sell you condoms because you are not old enough."

Dr Naysmith

  1029. Is that true? Does that happen?
  (Ms Minty) Yes.
  (Mr Williams) Yes, it does happen.

  1030. People refuse to sell you condoms?
  (Mr Williams) If you are under age you are not supposed to be having sex and chemists might feel restricted because of the law. That is why we result to stealing them, or you might dare your male to go in and get them. Males are dead embarrassed about walking in and asking,—"Top shelf", you know. "I dare you to go and get a pack of condoms. Go on—I dare you." And I think, "Yeah, I'm a big man". It is a dare. You cannot back down to a dare, so you go in and buy them. "Oh, you bought them", so I wink and I have got a packet of condoms. Chemists are not very confidential, and neither is your doctor. You walk into your doctor's or your chemist and one of your Mum's mates is in there. "I saw your kid in the chemist's the other day".

Andy Burnham

  1031. It is quite reassuring that there is still that taboo around.
  (Mr Williams) It will not change.

John Austin

  1032. Let me pursue something else about attitudes of men. It is said that a lot of men believe that the taking of precautions and contraception is the woman's responsibility.
  (Mr Williams) I think that is very stereotypical in a way because a lot of men that I talk to and lads that I talk to at college are very conscious about when they are having sex and the precautions because we now k now about pregnancy. When you are at college and you are trying to make a life for yourself you do not want a baby, do you? In some circumstances—I do not know; you will be better at this—does it stop you from doing things? Does it shorten your life?
  (Ms Eagle) Yes. It stops you doing stuff you want to do because you have to walk around with a child.

  1033. Let us move away from the pregnancy. Suppose someone was on the pill. To what degree is there an awareness among young men of the need still to take precautions?
  (Mr Williams) If a girl was to say, "I am on the pill", I would probably step back and say, "Yes, fair enough. You are on the pill. There is not a big chance of you getting pregnant, so let's go for it." But thinking about the STIs, that should come in again and say, "Well, I should use it just in case I catch something". It is all relating to sex education again and how poor it is really in some circumstances. It all needs to link to each other, that if you have sex, fair enough, she might be on the pill, but you might catch something sleeping with her unsafely.

Andy Burnham

  1034. I asked the last group about these mixed messages that society throws at you, that you have images of sex chucked at you from all quarters, films, music, media, internet, and pressure to become sexually active at a young age and then the other side of the coin is very poor services, very poor sex education in schools, the British "we do not talk about that kind of thing". Do you feel that is confusing for young people, that mixture?
  (Ms Minty) Yes, because you read through magazines and you see all these people who are really pretty and they are all dressed up in their really sexy, slinky clothes, and you think that is acceptable. But then again you have your Mum or someone else going, "Oh, no, you can't go out wearing that. You look like a trollop", and stuff like that. It is so confusing because you do not which category to fall into.
  (Mr Williams) The media is contrary to what your Mum is saying and you do not want to go with. You want to be in with the group and wearing the nice clothes but you do not want to go against your family.

  1035. Who is wrong though? Is the media wrong for forcing it down your throat a bit too much?
  (Mr Williams) Yes, actually, I think it is wrong, because they always put the nice-looking girls or the nice-looking men in the nice suits and on the adverts they put the girls round them, like "the Lynx effect". They do that with a lot of adverts, do they not?

  1036. But a lot of young people like them. It sells magazines, does it not?
  (Mr Williams) Oh, yes, it sells magazines, but it should be—

  1037. Less in your face?
  (Mr Williams) Yes, and less provocative.

  1038. Do you feel the same?
  (Ms Eagle) Yes, we do.

  1039. That there is this mixture. It is like society cannot make up its mind about sex. On the one hand it would rather not talk about it and on the other it is everywhere.
  (Ms Eagle) You look somewhere and see one thing, and you look somewhere else and see another thing.

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