Tarts and studs still dominate the playground

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The Independent Online
It may be 30 years after the sexual revolution, but in teenagers' eyes girls are still tarts and boys are still studs.

A study of 14- to 16-year-old girls and boys has found the old double standards firmly in place, with girls still worrying about their reputations while boys brag about their conquests. But researchers warned that unless action was taken to counter such attitudes, implications for sexual health were serious in the light of HIV/Aids.

Seen as "looking for it" if they carried condoms, girls were either having to risk their health or their reputations.

Linda Dainty of the University of Wolverhampton, asked the teenagers to imagine telling a creature from outer space about what sex was like. All the boys expected orgasm or "the buzz", but none of the girls spoke about having an orgasm.

Telling friends about sexual exploits was seen as a pleasure for boys but a danger for girls. Boys were termed "studs" or "stallions", while girls remained "slags" or "tarts". Girls who enjoyed sex were downgraded even further to being "dirty cows".

"Boys relived the time they had through their sexual story-telling, they would go up in their mates' esteem," said Ms Dainty, speaking at the British Psychological Society's Women and Psychology Conference in Loughborough yesterday.

"In effect they had two orgasms - one real and one in the telling. The 15-year-old girls told me that one of the worst things about sex were if [their partner] went and told everybody and `getting you a name'."

Both sexes thought that either boys or girls should carry condoms to protect against sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy, but "girls who carried condoms on the off chance were perceived as tarts by boys, and even girls colluded in this thinking that such girls were asking for it," said Ms Dainty.

She warned that safe sex messages were unlikely to be effective until these attitudes were addressed. "Society's current system of sexual morality operates in opposition to the urgent need to protect sexual health."