Study, work or travel in the UK. British culture and life.
Information for heterosexual women coming to the UK
|Sex, contraception, pregnancy|
|Unwanted sexual attention|
This page gives some basic information about relationships for heterosexual
women who have come to the UK from another country.
Lazy Girl's Guide to Good Sex
Over 100 Things Women Should Know About Men
Author: Lisa Sussman
Publisher: Carlton Books
Date: April 2002
Author: Ann Hooper
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Date: January 2003
Click here for other books in the category: sex
A heterosexual woman is a woman who is sexually attracted to men (sometimes known as a straight woman). In Britain, if you describe a man as your boyfriend it means that he is your partner. If you are talking about a general friend and want to make it clear that it is a man, you can say male friend. Common slang words for men include bloke, fella and guy. If you are attracted to a man you fancy him. In Britain you go out with a man, meaning that you start to socialise with him as your partner (in American English, you might date someone). If you call someone your lover, it implies that you are having sex with him but you are not married to him - you would not normally use this word except to a close friend. A love affair or affair is a romantic or sexual relationship with someone, often when one of you is already married or has a partner. If you say you sleep with a man, it means you have sex with him (it doesn't mean you just sleep in the same house). An indirect way of saying you are ready for sex with a man is to say that you want him.
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Normally people just say "hello" (or a similar greeting) when they meet each other. Shaking hands is common in more formal situations.
It is quite common for a man to give a woman that he already knows a light kiss on one or both cheeks or a quick, gentle hug. This does show some feeling of friendship, but is not necessarily a sign of sexual interest. Kissing on the lips is usually only between a boyfriend and girlfriend.
What contact details should I give to a man?
Do not give your address, telephone number or e-mail address to a man unless you want him to contact you. If you want to give a man an address, it may be safer to give him your work or school address rather than your home address. If you want to give him a telephone number, it may be safer to give him your mobile telephone number rather than the telephone number at your accommodation. If you want to give him an e-mail address, it may be safer to give him a special e-mail address that you give only to people or organisations that you do not yet trust (you could tell him your main e-mail address later, when you know him better).
If a man wants to give you his own contact details, you can let him do this
if you want, but don't say you will contact him unless you intend to do this.
Remember that if you telephone or e-mail him, it may be easy for him to find
out you telephone number or e-mail address and he might use these to contact
you. If you want to be cautious, you could call him from a public telephone
or e-mail him using a temporary e-mail account. Do not assume that a man will
not be interested in you sexually because he is older than you or because he
already has a partner.
I'm attracted to this man, but does he like me?
British men do not always talk openly about their emotions, especially when
they do not know you well already. However, even if he does not tell you directly,
it should become clear whether a British man likes you, from his body language
and the way he speaks to you. Some possible signs might be:
- He may start making more direct eye contact with you, and smile more often
- He may ask more personal questions, for example "Do you have a boyfriend?"
- He may complement you about your appearance, for example "You have lovely eyes"
- He may try to impress you in some way, for example "Can I buy you a drink?"
- He may act in a jealous way when other men talk to you
- He may ask you to meet him alone somewhere
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It is acceptable for you to ask a man to go out with you. Remember that he is less likely to ask you first if he is shy or if he already has a wife or partner, even if he wants to go out with you. In Britain it is more common to ask someone to go out with you informally. For example, you might be asked "Would you like to come to the cinema with me next week?" instead of "Would you like to go out with me?" (often this question is never asked directly).
British men can be shy about saying "I love you", and generally don't
like to be asked the question "Do you love me?" If you love him and
want to know how he feels about you, it may be better to tell him how you feel
about him (in a private place) and listen to how he reacts. Some men prefer
not to kiss or hold hands in public, because they think it is more polite to
show affection only in private.
He asked me to go out with him. How do I tell him that I don't want to be his girlfriend?
If possible, avoid lying to him, and try to face the situation instead of just trying to ignore him. If he suggests meeting on a certain day and you pretend you are busy, he will probably just ask you if you want to meet on another day. If you say you have a boyfriend but you don't, he will feel worse if he sees you later with someone else. If you say you will phone him or send him a letter or e-mail, he may keep hoping to hear from you until you contact him.
It is better to tell the man clearly and directly to his face (looking at his
eyes) that you are not interested in him. Depending on your personal situation,
you might say something like:
"I'm sorry, I already have a boyfriend"
"I'm sorry, there is someone else I'm interested in"
"I'm sorry, I don't want to go out with you, but let's stay friends"
"I'm sorry, I don't want to go out with you. Please leave me alone"
I want to stop being his girlfriend. How can I tell him?
There is no pleasant way of telling someone that you don't want to go out with
him any more.
Choose the right moment, and explain to him how you feel. Let him answer you, but be firm about your decision if you still want to leave him.
For example, you might say "I'm sorry, but I think we should stop seeing each other for a while", followed by a brief explanation of why you want to split up.
In Britain, men sometimes remain friends with former girlfriends; let him know if you still want to meet him as a friend.
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Should I have sex with him?
In Britain, it is your own decision if you want to have sex with a consenting
Most churches advise people not to have sex until you are married, but these days sex outside marriage is common in Britain.
Do not feel pressure to behave in a way that you do not feel comfortable about.
Try not to worry about what other people might think about you, or what other people do.
Respect your partner's decision if he doesn't want to have sex with you.
If you don't want to have sex with him, tell him clearly what limits you want to set.
If you want to have sex, think about if you want to take precautions against becoming pregnant or catching a sexual disease (see below for more details).
How can I prevent becoming pregnant?
Visit your doctor or local Family Planning Clinic for advice on contraception
or for a pregnancy test. The Family Planning Association's website is at: http://www.fpa.org.uk
Brook Advisory Services provide information on sexual matters to people under 25: http://www.brook.org.uk
In Britain, contraceptive pills can be obtained free from your doctor.
A User's Handbook
Popular brands of condom in the UK include Durex and Mates.
You can buy them online if you find it embarrassing to buy them in a shop.
Visit your doctor or pharmacy as soon as possible (and certainly within 3 days) after having unprotected sex if you wish to obtain the "morning after pill" to avoid possible pregnancy. For more details: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/sex_relationships/facts/morningafterpill.htm
If you think you may be pregnant (for example if you have missed a period unexpectedly), visit your doctor or local Family Planning Clinic for a pregnancy test.
Abortions are legal in the UK, but they are usually only carried out less than
20 weeks after the last period.
Contact your doctor if you are thinking about having an abortion.
You may also wish to contact the British Pregnancy Advisory Service: http://www.bpas.org
How can I stop myself from getting AIDS?
* AIDS is not a problem which only affects homosexual men. In Britain in 2002,
more people were infected with HIV through heterosexual sex than through homosexual
HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) is a virus which weakens the immune system (which defends the body against disease). You can catch this virus from a man's semen or blood, and he may catch it from you from your vaginal fluids, breast milk or blood. It can cause AIDS (Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome), which may lead to death due to the body's inability to fight illnesses
HIV infection is increasingly common among young heterosexual men in the UK. You have a higher risk of getting HIV if you have sex with a bisexual man or which a drug-taker who shares needles. The risk can be reduced if your partner uses a condom during sex. You can also reduce the risk by having sex with fewer men, by avoiding anal sex, and by not sharing a needle or syringe with another person. The disease is not passed on by everyday social contact
If you are worried that you may have HIV, confidential HIV tests can be obtained from any STD ("sexually transmitted disease") clinic or GUM ("genito-urinary medicine") clinic or VD ("veneral disease") clinic. For information about how to find your nearest clinic, see: Personal/Health.
The Health Protection Agency provides information about HIV and AIDS in the UK: http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/hiv_and_sti/hiv/hiv.htm
The National AIDS Helpline is a free telephone service for people worried about HIV or AIDS. The telephone number is 0800 567 123 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
The Terrence Higgins Trust is a UK charity providing help and advice about HIV and AIDS: http://www.tht.org.uk
Where can I have sex?
If you are sharing accommodation with other people, remember that some people may not like to hear you having sex.
If you are staying with a host family, your landlord or landlady may not want their children to be aware of your sexual behaviour.
You should ask your landlord/landlady for permission before letting someone else stay overnight in your room. If this starts to happen regularly, he/she may ask you to move or to pay more rent.
There are no love hotels in the UK. You cannot usually rent a room for a short time: one night is usually the minimum period.
In Britain, it is illegal to have sex in a public place, although it is rare for the police to take action if nobody can see or hear you. Kissing and fondling in public are accepted provided that you keep private parts of your body covered and try to be discreet
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He has started talking to me in a personal way. How do I stop him from doing this?
A man may try to get close to you or find out about your attitude to sex by
talking about personal subjects or by introducing sex into the conversation.
If you do not like this, try to avoid answering personal questions. For example,
if he asks "Do you have a boyfriend?" you could answer in a teasing
way "Maybe. Why do you want to know?" or you could joke "Too
many to count. But not as many as your girlfriends, I guess!". You may
also try to change the topic of conversation to something you would prefer to
talk about. Some possible ways to change the topic would be:
- "I don't want to talk about that. Could we change the subject, please?"
- "Oh, sorry to change the subject, but what do you think about ?"
- "I'm not sure. By the way, did you hear about ?"
He touched me. What does it mean, and how should I react?
British people are generally shy about touching other people; if a British man touches you accidentally, he will normally say sorry immediately. If a British man sits very closely to you, puts his hand on your hand, shoulder or leg while talking to you, it is probably a sign of sexual interest. If you feel uncomfortable with this behaviour, move his hand away from you. If he keeps doing it, say something like "please stop touching me" or "sorry, I'm not interested" quite forcefully. If he still doesn't stop, move away from him, or tell him something like "stop touching me, or I'll call the police". Don't worry about appearing rude or embarrassing him.
If a man touches your breast, thigh or bottom non-accidentally it is almost certainly a sexual act. If you do not want this, tell him immediately that you want him to stop, move away from him and tell him to leave. If necessary, tell him that if he doesn't leave you will scream or you will report him to the police; if he lets you go but you still feel unsafe, contact your local police station. If he doesn't leave and you feel threatened, scream, set off your rape alarm (if you have one near you), or run away if you think it is safe to do so. If you are near a telephone, call 999 and ask for the police service. If you are afraid of being raped and wish to try to defend yourself, you could spray hairspray or perfume in his face (mace is not legal in Britain), you could use your keys in your hand to hit him hard, or you could kick him; be careful about using force, however, because this might make the man react more violently against you.
If the man who behaved in this way lives in the same accommodation and you feel scared that he might try again, move to a different place immediately. If the man who behaved in this way was your landlord and the accommodation was arranged by your school, report his behaviour to the school, so that other students do not have the same trouble in future.
I have been raped
If you have been raped, do not wash or change your clothes, and go to your
nearest police station as soon as possible. You may ask to be seen by a woman
The London Rape Crisis Centre operate a 24-hour telephone line (020) 7837 1600 for women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. They will listen to you, and offer practical advice.
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He keeps trying to contact me. What can I do?
Sometimes a man might keep trying to contact you, even though you are not interested
in him either as a friend or as a boyfriend.
In this situation, tell him clearly that you aren't interested in him and that you don't want him to contact you.
If he doesn't stop, tell him you will go to the police unless he leaves you alone.
If you feel scared by his behaviour, make notes about his behaviour and contact your local police station. They may contact him and warn him to stay away from you. If necessary, a court may order the man to stay away from you, and the man may be arrested if he doesn't do this.
If someone keeps trying to telephone you or text messaging against your will, tell him clearly to stop doing this. If he doesn't stop, ask your telephone company if they can block calls from his number, and ask for advice on how to deal with nuisance calls. You can find out the telephone number of the person who called you by phoning 1471. You can also ask your telephone company about their Caller Display service, which will allow you to see the telephone number of the person who is calling you before you answer the phone. If you want to phone him but don't want him to be able to see your telephone number, dial 141 before his phone number. If necessary, you can ask your telephone company to change your telephone number and to remove your details from their online and paper telephone directories (this is known as going "ex-directory").
If you have given a man your e-mail address and he keeps trying to contact you against your will, reply to his message by telling him clearly to stop sending you further messages. If he keeps trying to send you messages, find out whether your e-mail service allows you to block unwanted messages.
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