Interview with Gemma, 18 - 19, White British, working class, Roman Catholic. Women, Risk and Aids Project, Manchester, 1989. Anonymised version (Ref: NMC01).
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This interview is part of the Women, Risk and Aids Project (1989-90) archive which was created as part of the Reanimating Data Project (2018-20).
Anonymised transcript of an interview with Gemma, who is completing a certificate in social care and working part-time in a clinical office in a health centre. She lives at home with her parents, her father who is retired and her mother who has always been a housewife. She received poor Sex Education in her Catholic high school, one cartoon video showing conception and childbirth, which was shared with a mixed-sex group of young people in assembly. There was no opportunity to ask questions and teachers had a nervous and embarrassed attitude towards discussing Sex Education. There was no mention of contraception, but Gemma's mother had taking her to a family planning clinic so that she could go on the pill (she was not engaging in sexual activity at this point, but it was a precautionary measure as she had considered it). She talks about how the pill carried some stigma around casual sex and promiscuity. She started her periods at age eleven, and felt a lot of (religiously connotated) shame or guilt around this. Her first sex was with an abusive older boyfriend when she was 15. This partner refused to use contraception and pressured her into unwanted sex, subsequently resulting in pregnancy and miscarriage. This sex felt very one-sided, in that the aim was her partner's sexual pleasure, rather than her own. In her current relationship with Adam, she feels this is much more balanced. Gemma does not feel at risk of AIDS, as she has had a limited number of sexual partners. She considers those who are promiscuous and engage in casual sex as at risk, and feels foreplay is less risky than intercourse. She is on the pills but makes sure to use barrier protection, condoms, if needed. She feels much more assertive in her current relationship of 18 months, but feels that Sex Education should cover healthy/unhealthy relationships and sexual violence.