Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Remembering the feelings

I went to to the beach closest to my childhood home in Cornwall last weekend.  I spent a fair amount of time wondering whether to say hello to people in my class, my year and my school, and having no choice but to say hello and enjoy conversation with others.

What really struck me was the level and intensity of feelings associated with my youth that seeing one person, talking about another, or being reminded of a situation with friends in that area.  For me being young was a good time - a time of freedom and choice, rights and responsibilities, romantic (or not) adventures, lots and lots of laughing and comedy, cool at the time, clothing in an effort to express myself.  I often talk of remembering what it feels like to be young and last week I had no choice, the feelings all came gushing back.  For me it was a good time.  As the recession hits us, all of us, parents, uncles, friends and workers have to do everything we can to ensure that being 15, 16 and 17 is a good time for as many young people as possible.  One young person wisely told me a few years ago - I don't want to be treated like a kid, but don't expect me to behave like an adult either.

Being young and all that can come with it - adventures, mistakes, first love, first relationships, education, new experiences - should be a privilege and a pleasure, and adults play an important part in making it so.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Angus, thongs and perfect snogging - good SRE material

I have just watched this film.  Perfect fodder for stimulating great discussion with young people about growing up, sexual feelings, fancying people, love, rejection, divorce, integrity and trust.  

It was a great antidote to cleaning my flat after the team bbq yesterday, followed by a rather tumultuous 5 hour experience at a car boot sale helping one of my best friends fend off people behaving badly in search of a bargain.  

Monday, 13 July 2009

Getting the balance right - the good bits and the bad

Over the last few days I have had some remarkably interesting conversations with journalists about sexual pleasure in response to a booklet for professionals called 'pleasure' published by NHS Sheffield.    All of the journalists have had different perceptions about the booklet, often depending on whether they had read it, or on their view about young people and sex.  

Whatever their view what has interested me is that people are able to take this out of context and be surprised that we should talk about pleasure as part of the mix with young people.   Yes of course we should be talking to them about the risks of having unprotected sex, yes we must talk to them about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, yes we must talk to them about exploitation and about coercion.  

But as one young person said, 'if sex is only about getting an infection or about getting pregnant when you don't want to, why do people do it.  It must be fun as well'.  And when I was in Holland two years ago when I spoke to young people, young men and young women, it was clear that they did expect sex to be fun, to be a positive experience.  They did expect, and were expected to have sex with people they trust.  

And as Kristen Luker, a eminent researcher in the USA says, you get what you expect from young people - if we expect them to enjoy and take responsibility for the sex they have, they will.  If we expect them to make bad decisions they will.

So, for me the remarkable bit about the conversations I have had, is the accusation that this is liberal lefty nonsense and the sense that we can promote sexual responsibility by frightening young people about pregnancy and STI's.   As young adults if someone had told me and many of my peers that sex should be emotionally satisfying it would have been incredibly helpful!  

As parents, family members and professionals we must ensure young people know sex should be rewarding and satisfying, emotionally and physically, and if it isn't they should be asking do they want to do it at all.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

It's Not Fair

Lily Allen's "it's not fair" is a great song to stimulate discussion about relationships, gender and sexual pleasure. It is important to recognise the importance of this type of honesty and confidence about her sexual and emotional life. You can watch the video for this song at

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Interesting articles in the Observer today

There are some interesting articles in the Observer Woman Magazine today.  

An interview with Tori Amos deals with power - 'What I know about men' talks about power 'real power is about exchange, not subordination.  For some people a powerful man is a bully.  He's powerful because he scares people.  And I would say that is not a powerful man - that's an intimidating man, a man who uses intimidation tactics.  A powerful man is a man that knows e is and doesn't want to intimidate people to get what he wants.   

There is also an interesting interview with Monica Seles, the tennis player, who was violently attacked on a tennis court in the early nineties.  The article talks about her eating disorder, the process of taking back control and coming to terms with the death of her father.   Her new book Getting to Grips, sounds like a potentially interesting read.

Beth Ditto, the lead singer of Gossip is interviewed.  She is a lesbian from Arkansas, described by many as weird.  Her grounded sense of self really shines through.  On being described as normal she says 'when I go home I am normal.  This is what all my friends are doing.   There are tons of fat people who are gay and make music and love clothes.....everything that you think is weird is normal to me.'

Finally there is an article about the potential of male circumcision to impact positively on rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.  It is an important article that highlights the challenge of getting public health messages right - making sure they are understood by the public.  It also poses the challenge of trusting people to use information well and take responsibility for their sexual health - something we can find incredibly difficult and leads to a paternalistic approach to health promotion.  

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The event

I have just been training ahead of the British 10k next week (you can sponsor me and support Brook at

It was hot and I was pleased to finish running for the day. Around the edge of the park there is one of those now common place signs that tell you about traffic problems, or events in the West End. Normally it is quite specific. For example, sticking to the theme of running, not long ago it told you to avoid central London because of the marathon. Today it just said avoid the West End as there is an 'event'. I may be being cynical or suspicious, maybe the letters P-R-I-D-E really were not working today. Except of course there are two e's in event which blow that theory. So is it because PRIDE is a gay event that the detail was not provided? Who knows.

I mentioned it to a friend, who was obviously in a more generous mood, who said maybe it is in case the sign would encourage protesters. I leave you to decide.

On a different note, I have just finished reading 'the other hand' by Chris Cleave. A really remarkable book which I recommend completely. I would tell you a bit about it, but on the back of the book it says ' we don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.'

Friday, 3 July 2009

New TPIAG briefing on young people's contraceptive and sexul health services

The Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG) has published a useful briefing for strategic leaders of local children and young people's partnerships on young people's contraceptive and sexual health services. The link to the document is

Young people’s sexual health is a key policy concern and the briefing includes information on why local areas should invest in contraception and sexual health services for young people to reduce teenage conception rates, as well as information on the funds from central government. It also includes the key factors, levers and frameworks which will help in commissioning effective services for young people.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Conservative policy review on sexual health

David Bull has been appointed to lead a policy review on sexual health for the Conservative Party - it is important that it is being given a focus. Having had some mixed signals over the past year from different shadow Ministers and Conservative MPs, I am looking forward to the report to get a clear idea of what Conservative policy on sexual health and teenage pregnancy really is.