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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
'Benny Hill culture' link to teen sex
Benny Hill
Did Benny Hill make Briton's giggly about sex?
Britain's "Benny Hill culture" is to blame for the country's high rate of teenage pregnancies, a government adviser has suggested.

Cathy Hamlyn, head of the government's Teenage Pregnancy Unit, has said people's "giggly" attitude to sex is sending out mixed messages to young people.

She said teenagers were often too embarrassed to talk about sex or contraception and that this led to many unplanned pregnancies.


We are stiff upper lipped. We can't talk easily about sex in this country

Cathy Hamlyn, Teenage Pregnancy Unit
Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. It is almost three times the rate of France and Germany and almost six times the rate in The Netherlands.

Stiff upper lip

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Hamlyn said Britons needed to be more open about sex.

"We are stiff upper lipped. We can't talk easily about sex in this country.

"But we are also a little coy and giggly about sex. I sometimes call this the Benny Hill culture - a culture where we are not very open about things."

She said young people received mixed messages about sex and contraception.

"On the one hand, they are bombarded by messages through films, the media and more generally, which give the impression that everyone is having sex and they should too.

"On the other hand, we all find it very difficult to talk about it and parents also have great difficulty talking about it.

"That really does send mixed messages to young people."

Ms Hamlyn also said British teenagers needed to access to better advice and information on sex and contraception.

She added that they also needed to know how to access contraception.

Falling rates

Figures published earlier this year show that while Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe the figure is falling.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there was a 2.4% fall in pregnancy rates in under 18s between 1999 and 2000.

Overall, pregnancy rates have fallen by 6.3% since 1998.

The government is committed to reducing teenage pregnancies in under 18s in England by 15% by 2004.

This story is featured in the radio programme Life as a teenager and in Health Matters on the BBC World Service

Click here for listening times

See also:

28 Feb 02 | Health
16 Jul 01 | Health
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