NHS Leicester uses shock tactics

// 18 May 2009

NHS Leicester posted a PSA on teen pregnancy to YouTube, which was banned under the site’s community guidelines.

You can still see the video on the NHS’ oh-so-slightly patronising site. It shows a group of teenagers crowded around, shouting, and at first it looks like there’s a fight going on. Except it turns out to be a girl giving birth in the middle of the playground.

It’s certainly on the graphic side, and it seems primarily aimed at scaring, shaming and shocking girls. As Renee says:

Heaven forbid they hand out free condoms to kids which have the ability to fight both disease and reduce the chance of pregnancy. We simply cannot make young males responsible for putting on a rubber and understanding that they are active participants in the act of sex and are therefore responsible for its outcome. Clearly the NHS has decided to fall back on punishment as a form of “avoidance therapy” for young women.

Possibly the wider campaign will involve… err… actual information, not just scare-tactics. But this video in itself doesn’t even include a link or anything.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 18 May 2009 at 3:23 pm

Totally agree with Renee’s criticism of this blatant misogynistic NHS advertisement. Since when does reproduction only involve one biological sex?

But then patriarchy since time immemorial has consistently blamed women and girls whilst male sexuality always escapes scrutiny and criticism.

The reasons why some young women become pregnant are complex and can include a male raping them or forcing them to submit to unwanted penetrative sexual activity. Stigmatising and scapegoating young women effectively exonerates and excuses male sexual predatory behaviour. Furthermore, many young women actively wish to have a child and have shown they are capable of raising their child. But there – patriarchy is all about policing female sexual expression and proclaiming the myth women and girls are either ‘good or bad’ wherein the only sexual expression is one of reproductive activity which must be undertaken within a relationship which is deemed heterosexual and the woman/girl is owned by her husband.

Marriage is a problematic issue but here I am pointing out how patriarchy interprets the meaning of marriage – not the realities of how and why marriage occurs.

Do we still need feminism? Yes because blaming and attempting to shame young women neatly excuses and justifies predatory male sexual behaviour.

Anna // Posted 18 May 2009 at 4:26 pm

‘can include a male raping them or forcing them to submit to unwanted penetrative sexual activity’

Forgive me for being nitpicky, but aren’t they one and the same?…

anyway, yeah. abysmal advert.

Sharon // Posted 18 May 2009 at 5:38 pm

I just went to the “babe” site, it’s very bad. The video is shocking in its level of girl blaming. I might just be naive to have expected more from an NHS resource.

My daughter is almost 11 and I wonder if anyone here knows of any good sex education books we could read together. I’d be grateful for all recommendations.

crossroadsvirgil // Posted 18 May 2009 at 6:22 pm

“Heaven forbid they hand out free condoms to kids which have the ability to fight both disease and reduce the chance of pregnancy.”

I thought the NHS did give free condoms to kids?

Victoria Dutchman-Smith // Posted 18 May 2009 at 9:46 pm

Funny how pregnancy and childbirth’s always such a massive deal when you’re trying to police female sexuality, but suddenly only a minor inconvenience when you’re trying to liberalise abortion law… I’m 38 weeks pregnant with my second child and find this advert unbeliavable. Giving birth is an incredible thing to do, and that’s why everyone should be doing much more to ensure women and girls get to choose whether they go through with it at all. To suggest that actually, it’s a social embarassment and really disgusting and that’s a reason not to have sex in the first place is just abominable, and shows contempt not just for women, but for so many things – sex, parenthood, the freedom to make decisions without facing cruel judgements – that are a part of what makes human life joyful in the first place.

Laura // Posted 18 May 2009 at 10:13 pm

Hi Sharon,

The Scarleteen book could be good, though it is aimed at teenagers:

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/thfwo-21/detail/1600940102

It’s based on the website, so you could check that out first to see if it’s suitable:

http://www.scarleteen.com/

v // Posted 19 May 2009 at 12:17 am

yeh the NHS does provide contraception to under 16s.

i dont like the ad, its yet another video designed to scare women from unmedicalised birthing.

and aside from that, its another wannabe ‘cool’ cameraphone ad, which is skin crawlingly bad in itself.

but yeh, kids under 16 can get free contraception from the NHS. an ad aimed at informing them of that, a sort of, “we’re here if you need us, its all confidential” ad, would maybe have been more effective.

JenniferRuth // Posted 19 May 2009 at 10:09 am

@ crossroadsvirgil

“I thought the NHS did give free condoms to kids?”

Yeah, but not in places that are easily accessible to teenagers. Usually there is only about one Brook Advisory Clinic in each town (if that) and there might be reasons that a teenager doesn’t want to go to their local GP (might be seen by friends of the family, etc.)

Having said that, it has been a while since I was in school, so maybe there are more options now?

I used to go to the Brook in Liverpool, oh those many years ago, but I remember feeling *very* conspicuous going in there.

As for the video – there isn’t much to add to what Renee said. Boys are absent, as usual. Only girls get themselves pregnant – penis’s obviously have nothing to do with it!

NorthernJess // Posted 19 May 2009 at 4:39 pm

In order to get free condoms at the FE college I work, where most of the pupils first language isn’t English and where literacy levels in English are comparitively low, the only way of getting free condoms is through having a ‘c-card’, which you have to fill in a form for, and then keep on you for next time you want to pick some up. Why does administarvtive procedure have to come into everything? When I asked the connexions team the point of the cards, why can’t you just give the students the condoms?, they said it was ‘for their records’, what, do they cross reference the students to find out who is shagging who? Absolutely ridiculous. And this website is appauling.

What really really narks me off about the teenage pregnancy thing is the amount of people who seem to think that girls ‘get’ pregnant in order to get a council house quickly. Is this sexist? To presume that a woman without a live in male partner who chooses to be a mother, that is, keep her baby rather than abort must be doing so to rip people off not because it is her life and her choice and if she wants a kid at 17 then fair enough to her. I didn’t want a kid when I was 17 so I had an abortion, but I don’t see what is so wrong with a woman having baby then as long as it is her choice.

Liz // Posted 19 May 2009 at 5:23 pm

To comment on the current provisions for young sexually active people:

In my experience over the past 9 years it has been extremely easy to get sexual health advice and services. Wherever I have lived there has been a ‘clinic’ linked to a doctors surgery that provides a drop-in service with a doctor and a nurse present, neither of whom judge you for being there. Not all towns have access to a full sexual health screening service – these are located in centralised areas – but there is access to the pill, condoms, coil, depo, advice etc. at all the clinics I have visited. When you first visit they fill in a file or card for you and keep it for their records, then all the ask is your name next time you visit.

The provisions I have experienced have been excellent, always at appropriate times and places. The last one I went to told me that I didn’t have to even go and ask for condoms, just to ask for ‘my supply’! (I’m 23 now, so thought it was a bit daft, but can see how it would be useful to younger people)

Whether they are used to their full potential is questionable but I do know that ‘the fp clinic’ was common knowledge when I was in high school. In fact, we used to visit en-masse!

I don’t like the advert, because it doesn’t contain anything useful, but I wouldn’t want to criticise the NHS as a whole for this slip into idiocy, as they have been fantastic for me.

karen // Posted 20 May 2009 at 6:59 am

when i had sex education, i think then at 13, it was factual basics how you make a baby, how you avoid it, and a video of birth, by the time my youngest had sex education at 11 ( now 22) he came home with knowledge of vibrators etc…………so is this “sex” thing a game a bit of fun with toys…………to an 11 year old i think so maybe if they knew less they would investigate later rather than sooner

Qubit // Posted 20 May 2009 at 11:38 am

I am very surprised by your son’s experiences Karen, because I am only 24 and mine were very different. Being a very late developer it was very hard for me to remember any of my earlier sex education but we learnt the basics about periods and reproduction and then information on contraception and what protected against what. We never discussed vibrators although unsurprisingly I learnt what they were through people at school, just not teachers and not in sex education. I don’t think I learnt this until 6th form but that would depend on how informed or curious friends your son had. I don’t think the issue of masturbation came up either in a classroom context.

In 6th form, despite section 28 still being around we were given a very quick gloss over of dental damns with no real explanation of what they were for, just that the nurse giving the talk shouldn’t talk about it but wanted to protect us so if we were doing the activities that needed them (not mentioning what they were) to use them.

University was big on the sex education and I learnt a lot there particularly since my friends were involved in welfare roles however again officially this extended to what STIs you could get, what contraception protected against various STIs and what to do if you had one. This is probably where I learnt what protection female and male gay people should take and the different protection required for different activities.

Issues such as the idea some people are gay, activities other than penetrative sex, the idea that people (including women) masturbate and the emotional aspects of sexual relationships all had to learned through friends or personal experience. I think that was normal for someone my age.

Kez // Posted 20 May 2009 at 12:39 pm

Karen – I’m surprised to hear of your son’s experiences. My son is now in his late teens and he also had sex education (PSE) at about 11, but although it did talk about the basics of sex and masturbation (which thoroughly appalled him at the time, LOL) I’m pretty sure it didn’t get into specifics about vibrators and other “sex toys”. Obviously I don’t know what approach was taken at your son’s school, but in my experience – and my husband also teaches sex ed to older primary children – it is definitely not presented as “a bit of fun with toys”, and the emotional and relationship aspects are very much part of the whole approach, as I feel they certainly should be.

tam // Posted 21 May 2009 at 10:16 am

While I appreciate that the advert is very odd and I know that it takes two to make a baby, the truth is that the woman has more to “lose” in an unwanted and/or unplanned pregnancy esp. if that woman is a teeaeger.

She is the one that has to carry the pregnancy and when the child is born it is a lot more difficult for her to turn her back on the child even though it was unwanted/unplanned. A man can usually “choose” to have as much involvement in the child’s life – and in my experience many do not have the decency to honour said commitment.

Because of this, while I agree that men should be encouraged to take responsibility for preventing pregnancy, the truth is that because the have less to “lose” they may not feel the pressure to use the necessary protection. Women on the other hand are more inclined to. For example, I am young, unmarried and I want to build my carrer, I know that having to be pregnant for 9 months then having a child at home will not work for now. Because of this I have the incentive to take greater responsibility for my protection. Even though my partner takes protection seriously, I know that my life will change more dramatically with a baby than his will.

Hence I think that an advert that targets women, while unfair in that it takes two to make a baby, is effective as women usually tend to bear the brunt the life change that stems from pregnancy.

Chad // Posted 26 May 2009 at 7:42 pm

Being male, I am obviously missing the sexist or misogynist undertones to this video somehow. I was first given sex-ed at the age of 9/10 which was a video of a bunch of teenagers in the showers after PE; and a couple of internal diagrams of the penis and vagina. This meant little at the time and provoked more hilarity than understanding. At the age of 15 we were then shown another film – a toned-down “joy of sex” type and given a condom to put onto a banana; followed by a film of sperm swimming and penetrating an egg, and an AIDS film – this was c. 1990.

This again was a bit of a waste of time on a number of levels: most people have their first sexual encounter prior to 15; a condom and a banana – REALLY?; and no real explanation of the true consequences beyond HIV.

I work with young people, and in many areas this video accurately portays the attitudes which would be displayed to such an event – which for the record, I say from experience…I dealt with a birth in a disabled public-toilet not all that long ago! She “didn’t think you could get pregnant the first time” – a shocking belief from an otherwise sensible young-woman [Gifted & talented stream]. Her parents withdrew he from sex-ed for religious reasons / to prevent her experimenting. When will we [Brits] wake-up and smell the coffee? Young people need information – real information whether it suits “us” or not.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds