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Safe sex attitudes

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 15:06 UK time, Friday, 18 August 2006

It's like picking your nose with a rubber glove on.

Radio One logoThat was one Radio 1 listener's description of having sex wearing a condom. We've been involved in carrying out the largest ever survey into the sex lives of young Britons - more than 30,000 people took part and the findings were widely reported in the newspapers, on TV as well as on Newsbeat and other BBC radio programmes.

People have expressed their shock to me at the findings on underage sex, one night stands, the relationship between drink and sex and of course the dramatic rates of STI infections and unwanted teenage pregnancies - on which Britain pretty much leads the western world.

The experts tell us that the sex safe message isn't getting through like it did at the start of the HIV/AIDS era in the 80s. The figures certainly bear that out - more than a third of those who took part in the survey said they didn't wear a condom with a new partner.

But it's the anecdotes from our audience that are the most eye catching as a snapshot of sexual attitudes today.

Many young men say they hate wearing them - "it spoils the feeling" was a common sentiment - that they prefer to risk making their partner pregnant or catching an STI rather than wearing a condom. Nathan told us "condoms are for scaredy cats".

Many young women told us they hate them, too - we heard how when men produce condoms, their lovers snatch them and throw them away - and this came from the girls by the way.

So those infection and pregnancy rates shouldn't surprise us - however much they might depress you or worry doctors.

We found politicians largely unwilling to get involved in this issue - the dangers of prying into people's sex lives and preaching show the political risks are as real for them as the sexual risks are for young lovers.

So what are the tips for those wanting to protect their health at the moment of truth in the bedroom?

Our audience came up with some sharp 'condom comebacks' to help those struggling with the dilemma of a partner reluctant to "strap up". Kate says, "if there's no rubber I ain't your lover" while Jess prefers, "it looks like I'm dealing with one baby, I don't want to have to deal with two". LouLou says simply, "no balloons, no party" but the favourite one is this simple, yet direct approach - "sorry, no glove, no love!"


  • 1.
  • At 04:12 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Chris Wilson wrote:

The condom comebacks are great for women dealing with reluctant partners. But does anyone know a tactful way a man can persuade a woman to let him use one if she doesn't want to?

While women are allowed to be blunt, as they're protecting themselves from getting pregnant, if a man wants to use a condom, he's basically implying she's diseased.

I dread being told by a new lover, as I have been before, "Don't worry, I'm on the pill!"

  • 2.
  • At 04:56 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Cameron McLarty wrote:

Speaking as a young person (20 years old) I think the "sex survey" makes pretty sad reading.

I think the problems that society is facing, more and more unplanned pregnancies, more and more abortions, and more and more STIs, can partly be explained by the type of sex education the young are given.

Surely our education should also be able values - like love, and respecting other people - not just about "if it feels good do it - as long as you use'protection'"

I think this survey should act as a wake up call to those who think that more and more contraception can help solve the problems I mentioned above.

We need to have values in our sex education about the dignity of the human person, and the nature of love and sex. An education that really values people and gives them respect.

May I also add that the safest way for people to "protect their health" is relatively simple - avoid sex until marriage and be faithful in marriage.

Thanks very much

As regards The rubber, this is a problem indeed.

Because it does spoil the feeling.

On the other hand, without The rubber people involved in risky sex are exposed to way more unpleasant things than "spoiled feeling".

I would suggest that while campaining for safe sex (it doesn't work anyway) much more attention should be paid to the fact that risky sex (or, I would rather say the rubbit-like one) is widely accepted, promoted and advertised (directly and othrwise) in media.

Today, in every issue of any female magazine you are 100% guaranteed to spot at least one "fascinating story" about a teen girl giving birth in the loo, or about another teen girl who got pregnant by accident after a brief e-mail exchange, or about a woman having three kids from three different men and being proud of her life... Leave aside "celebrities"...

The girls will continue to get pregnant as long as this sort of "fascinating" stories continue to litter glossing pages.

I became celibate in 2001 due to HIV

But that was because I contracted it and tested positive in 2001

The idea of passing on HIV to someone is just as horrific to me as having contracted it.

I grew up in the 80s and the ad campaigns then were more effective than now.

In San Francisco the added scourge of methamphetymine as a highly addictive party drug is currently sweeping the scene and rendering young people very vulnerable not only to a shattering addiction, but also to HIV.

There is also a peculiar phenonemon called 'bug catching'. Young people who are 'bug catchers' deliberately have unsafe sex because they want to get HIV.

Housing, benefits, free health care are available to HIV+ people in California and because the disease can be controlled some people see being HIV+ as 'beneficial'.

This is ridiculous because some of te antiretroviral drugs are toxic and very difficult to tolerate. I was very sick with the medications for four years until my GP found a regimen that had no side effects

  • 5.
  • At 08:15 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Stephen Glynn wrote:

Out of interest, what are the risks of a man contracting HIV/AIDS from unprotected vaginal sex with a partner who isn't an intravenous drug user and doesn't come from a country where the disease is endemic?

Dear Sir,

Condoms are freely available for use considering them as safety and precaution to avoid AIDS or HIV etc. infectious diseases and also undesired pregnancy.

In real sense most probably condoms were produced and made available mainly protect undesired pregnancy among the married women, which are now recommended for using for safe sexual mixing for protection against AIDS or HIV etc. dangerous diseases. But at what dependable percentage they are useful couldn't yet be confirmed.

The tragic fact behind condom use now that's spreading amongst youngsters more than the adults may be doing. As a result more number of unmarried mothers are now found in the society around the world than in the past when condoms weren't in existence.

So, is condom using freely and its availability freely should continue as usually or not that's another and of supreme importance question to the world?


  • 7.
  • At 09:22 PM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Having sex using a condom may seem like "picking your nose with a rubber glove" but having AIDS is like being slowly eaten alive by bacteria and viruses and having no way to fight back. I'll take the condoms over that any day.

  • 8.
  • At 11:25 PM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • Jon wrote:

When some oe tries to persuade you to take the risk without a condom. Try "Hey sweetheart I want to sleep with you not all the other guys you have slept with. So if you really want me we use a condom or else you simply aint worth it." After all who knows how many other guys have been conned into unprotected sex and are they all as "clean". May be the straight community needs to take a few lessons from the gay community. After all did you know HIV is now rising quicker in the straight community than the gay community!

  • 9.
  • At 11:00 PM on 20 Aug 2006,
  • John Airey wrote:

I think the article shows exactly what's wrong with the "safe sex" message, and why the "ABC" (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condoms) campaign is more successful. The media can harp on as much as it likes about using condoms, but there are several reasons why they won't work to stop AIDS and other STIs, some of which aren't listed here.

One only needs to compare the number of deaths from drugs (which we actively encourage people to say no to) to the the number of deaths from AIDS to see that abstinence first makes the most sense. Were we being faithful to one partner alone we'd wipe out all STIs in a generation.

  • 10.
  • At 11:03 PM on 20 Aug 2006,
  • Parry wrote:

Re. Condom use:
"If it's not on, it's not on"

  • 11.
  • At 12:37 PM on 21 Aug 2006,
  • Trevor Martin wrote:

I must say this Editor's blog must be the most boring thing on the internet.

For God's sake make it interesting, please.

You have so much potential here, but it is very, very bland.

Trevor - you are right, this page is boring. That's because the BBC edit out the messages that are controversial in a way they don't like.

They will only allow 'their kind' of controversy. They employ a lot of people to run the system!

This letter, for example, may well be 'edited out'.

So here is a question for you: is it the politicians who are the most scary? Or the journalists who edit what we may or may not read?

  • 13.
  • At 02:10 PM on 22 Aug 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

I found the radio 1/1xtra special on Sunday evening to be one of the most boring uninspired pieces didn't manage to change any attitudes significantly of the holidaymakers involved and was very much of the approach "lets see how much we can ram it down people's throats".

I think the condom companies could do more work with the reps and clubs etc. to promote safer sex - this seemed to be blindingly obvious common sense?!

I was suprised to hear girls loos don't have machines either - it is definately a joint responsibility, and is unfair that girls have more preganancy prevention options/responsibilities...but the options for preventing STD options are pretty balanced - condom or femidom seem to be about it.

I was shocked to hear one of the presenters implying that they drink and drive (the kebab discussion) - extremely irresponsible and inappropriate.

  • 14.
  • At 02:25 PM on 22 Aug 2006,
  • Suzi wrote:

Going slightly in the other direction, my sister, 8 years younger than me (I am 30 - work it out yourselves!) came to me worried she was pregnant by her Fiance'. They had used a condom but it split. she was at uni. She is still wth him and intends to get maried next year and have children asap so no question of lacking commitment, just inconvinence. I asked at the time why she wasn't on the pill or similar as it would save the hassle of 'splits' and the risk of pregnancy. She replied she couldn't afford the perscription charge! I had to explain the contraceptives are free, that there is no perscription charge. Now why do I and my peers know this (we knew this age 17 when I went on the pill to control monthly pain). I think the lack of effective use of contraceptives is more down to education than anything else. You can get (albeit extra safe 'thicker') condoms free from family planning and a whole lot of advice and other optins from them too. As a skint student, unable to afford condoms, that it where I went so why don't youngsters know about this now? I work with youg people so I know this is true! I used one despite being on the pill until I was sure my current man was the one and he was sure I was the one and I'm now on the depo jab. Please guys and gals, it's not insulting, it's safety for both of you! USE A CONDOM!

  • 15.
  • At 07:25 PM on 22 Aug 2006,
  • bob visser wrote:

There is a better expression: "Like washing your feet with your socks on"
A dear friend from Liverpool, long since departed, (in a Gauatmala brothel)came up with that gem when we travelled the Far East in the 70's
Rgds Bob Visser Johannesburg.

  • 16.
  • At 02:18 PM on 23 Aug 2006,
  • Andy wrote:

What if the young lady in question is allergic to latex? Have you seen the price (and lousy availability) of non-latex condoms?!?

My partner is one such individual who is unable to use latex condoms, and who is no longer on the pill or the depo injection due to the side effects.

For us the only practical form of contraception is the single variety of expensive non-latex condoms made by a single manufacturer and sold for significantly more than the latex variety.

Unfortunately it is the more responsible people who seem to end up paying a greater financial cost, while the less responsible run the risk of paying a greater physical cost.

As for the comments about non use of condoms resuting in more unmarried mothers - that's a dangerous and misleading statistic as many women these days are unmarried but in stable, long term relationships when they start a family. Numbers can't lie, but the people compiling and using them sure do...

  • 17.
  • At 05:33 PM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew Armitage wrote:

Your headline on this says 'Safe sex attitudes'. What is a sex attitude, and how can it be safe (or, for that matter, unsafe)? Tell you what, here are a few hyphens, since your subeditors seem to have lost theirs: - - - - - - - - -. Should keep you going for a while.

  • 18.
  • At 12:02 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Carly wrote:

Speaking as a younger person, I would say schools need more lessons on sex education.

I was 14 when sex education started. The girls all went into one room to speak about periods, the boys went in another to talk about other topics – all girls in the class apart from 2 has their periods by then.

I was 15 when an embarrassed teacher spoke about sex, by then two girls were already pregnant. What the teacher forgot to mention was about sexually transmitted infection ect.

I am lucky in one respect as my Nan told me all about the birds and bees from a young age so I was always prepared. Other people however, aren’t as lucky so I think a trained nurse should go to all schools and inform YOUNG people before it is too late.

  • 19.
  • At 05:13 PM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • Tom wrote:

Interesting opinions:
Of course it is crucial that everyone is given education about safe sex practises . Given that the age that youngsters start being sexually active is very varied it is all the more important to make sure the risks and responsibilities that being sexually active entails.

That said how many people can put their their hand on their heart that they have never slipped up despite best intentions? Preaching abstinence may be of use to a limited few - but lets be frank - most kids can't wait to get out and and see what it's all about! It is so crucial to make sure that advocating abstinence doesn't also leave our youths in ignorance.

My partner is HIV+ and we of course have proctected sex. It is just as important that we are educated about what HIV and other STI's actually do and how they affect your life. Whilst not something to wish on anyone it is not always the absolute end of the world.

  • 20.
  • At 10:21 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Kate wrote:

Well why don't you think of it this way? Surely if the girl you are about to sleep with is refusing to let you wear a condom - for which I praise you - then is she the type of girl that you want to be sleeping with in the first place? If your worried about implying she is diseased, well she may well be if she is happy to sleep with you for the first time without one as she has no idea if you have anything?? My advice would simply be think about who you are sleeping with and then you wont have the problem of not being able to say what you feel??
Hope this helps?

It seems to me from the research I have done that there is a lack of knowledge and obviously the young people having sex without protection are too young to know what is clinically safe for them.. Surely you want to protect yourself from diseases just like you do in the winter... woudl you sit next to a person on the bus when they are clearly ridden with the flu?? NO, so why would you want to risk catchin a disease that will effect your most intimate parts and could possibly cause you life long complications????? For me there is no logic behind this madness

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