People’s sexual activities

Studies concerning peoples sexual behaviors are not often looked at or conducted, but however this is a subject where there is a great deal of talk and speculation, so there is not a great deal of evidence to help illustrate the points trying to be made. This means that questions concerning information such as about sexual behaviors, including the age and circumstances of first sex, attitudes to homosexuality and abortion, young people’s experiences of sex education, the use of contraception and sexual health services, remaining largely unanswered, and anyone attempting to discover such information, did so under much controversy.

It is important however that the public has access to information about sexual lifestyles to understand what effect their sexual behaviors are having on their health. With an ever increasing number of people becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases, new diseases emerging, and people becoming more aware of AIDS and HIV, the only available data is not very reliable. Studies conducted on HIV have usually been based on homosexual men, injecting drug users, and prostitutes for example, Winkelstein, Lyman, Padian, 1987) This is not a cross section of the population, and so does not tell us a great deal about the spread of the HIV virus. It is a specific sub-group, which is expected to be of a particularly high risk because of their lifestyle, and so can not be used as a measure to assess the general population’s behaviours and the findings generalized to the wider population (Cochran, Mostelier, and Tukey 1953).

When conducting a large scale survey on peoples sexual lifestyles several important things need to be considered. One of the main studies to be conducted was that by Wellings, Field, Johnson, and Wadsworth (1994) on sexual behaviours in Britain: the national study of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. The study came about as a result of an emerging HIV epidemic, which provided its justification and the funding opportunities to arise.

A research agenda or hypothesis is required when conducting a study with such sensitivity. It needs to justify or provide a rationale for the study that reflects its main aims. The momentum for the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles was to provide information on the spread of HIV, and in order to help the creation of preventive strategies, and the survey also provided an ideal opportunity to collect data on personal relationships, sex education, people’s reproductive health and careers. Therefore the aim of this project was to take advantage of the data from the National Survey of specific relevance to help understand the patterns of family formation and household composition, so it was mainly concerned with firstly exploring the patterns of family formation and structure. Secondly, it wanted to investigate factors influencing why people form relationships particularly those relating to sexual attitudes and lifestyles.

Thirdly the study wanted to describe the apparent effect on the course of someone’s life by having been, or having lived with, a lone parent. Then the study wanted to document the possible reasons for and the result of teenage pregnancy. Finally it wanted to examine the extent of education, information and communication about sexuality and family life and to explore their relationship with family formation. A large scale study will be looking at how people behave and what the social aspects of their behavior are.

The aim will be for it to describe patterns of behavior. By following these objectives the study is a sociological study rather than one driven by bio-medical concerns, such as the spread of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. The survey is measuring facts, attitudes and behaviours, and the participant will answer questions that they understand and can answer. It is also testing whether the hypothesis or research agenda set at the start is met and then confirmed or falsified. This is why it will need to look at all of the sociological aspects of the topic, and not be caught up in one aspect, such as HIV, and just looking at that to help with it’s medical advances. If this were to happen the survey would not show significant representativeness. The sample would not be representative of the population, and the findings would therefore not be statistically significant, because only the target group specific to HIV would be targeted.

Funding is a very important aspect of a national survey. Without substantial capital a survey will not have the impetus required to reach as many sections of the population as would be necessary to get a good cross section. The funding can however impinge on the research agenda because most of the funding is likely to be provided by pharmaceutical or other drug related companies who would be able to use the collected data to help advance efforts to find drugs to cure sexual transmitted diseases, or contraception companies looking to target specific areas of the market.

However, the therefore scientific survey would be linked with contemporary social and health issues. This would make see the general applicability become limited to a narrow focus or too limited a sample. The policy implications of the data from the national survey had clear relevance to the planning of health services relating to areas such as fertility control for example. They also have implications for education, particularly relating to sexuality, personal relationships and parenthood. By the study having a range of important areas looked at, people are more likely to want to be involved in giving money to the study.

They will be gaining the opportunity to promote their field of study and have access to reliable statistics to further the research into their concern. One of the agenda’s may however have more to gain. The prime minister at the time of the study Margaret Thatcher reneged on an earlier commitment to fund the Welling’s study/ project because her government did not feel that the data would be reliable, and so it was an unwanted invasion of people’s privacy. Why would the government want to be linked with research of AIDS and HIV? The data would not fit in with the party’s policies, because any negative aspects of the results which were found would be questioned by the general public, and these would be expected to be tackled and improved, and the health policy would come under close scrutiny.

When a similar study was carried out in America, the true official norms of sexuality were not in line with what was thought to be officially practiced in the American society, but also understood that sexual conduct that did not match those norms was harshly judged. The publication of the study by Kinsey exposed to an entire society the difference between official dogma and the actuality of people’s lived experience (Gagnon, 1988). If Thatcher had been faced with such inconsistency, it could have been detrimental to her government and their hold over the country. It was better no not be involved at all.

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