TEENAGE BOYS are only interested in the four Bs - booze, bums, birds and breasts. At least that's what the lads magazines say. They're wrong.
Martin Raymond, head of public affairs at the Health Education Board for Scotland, says boys are "hungry for information and guidance" about sex and desperate to discuss issues. "The bravado of young males is a bit of a front and hiding a lot of concerns," he says.
The Health Education Board commissioned researchers to study the effects on young people of its latest advertising campaign on sex education and investigate how the media shapes opinions about sex. After friends, the media is the next most important source of information.
Margaret Reid, an independent consultant who looked at the views of 14-17 year-olds in six focus groups, said many young people claimed to know enough about contraception and the physical aspects of sex. In reality, they didn't.
"They recognise they need practical advice and support on the emotional side of sex and relationships. They're not getting that. Females are much more ready to acknowledge this need than the males," Ms Reid said.
Most boys initially said they had no worries but further questioning revealed deep concerns. "There's the fear of not having done as much as everyone else in their peer group, of being the only virgin, of simple rejection by a girl - or of getting drunk and perhaps having sex with the wrong girl and subsequently being teased about it," she said.
Sixteen and 17-year-old boys who were still virgins were the most anxious and under the most pressure. They lacked confidence and were scared of being knocked back by girls, whom they regarded as "serious".
Ms Reid said most young males had to conform to stereotypical attitudes, such as admitting they knew all about "it" and that girls were "always gagging for it". To think or talk about relationships was more sensitive - not something a real man would do.
Girls were much more willing to talk about concerns and emotions. They take on the stereotype of deciding how far relationships will go and make crucial decisions about couples' behaviour.But they had other concerns. "Will I do it right? Will sexual intercourse be sore? Why are there so many different kinds of contraception?" More generally, teenage girls discuss relationships and sex with friends and this informs their decisions. "But sometimes I can't help thinking this is the blind leading the blind," Ms Reid said.
Young men do not talk about emotions and relationships, and do not have the magazines girls do to help them understand. They claim they would be mocked if they tried reading such material. Young people recognised that schools generally covered the basics of sex and contraception.