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The sixteen18 project

The sixteen18 project

Exploring young people’s sexual practices in the UK.

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The sixteen18 project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), investigates young people’s sexual practices in the UK.

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The sixteen18 project about

The sixteen18 project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), investigates young people’s sexual practices in the UK.

We explore the different sexual activities young people aged 16-18 engage in, and the meaning and significance of these practices for them. The practical aim of the study is to provide information to help improve and broaden sexuality education, and to help sexual health professionals work more effectively with young people.

Publications Sixteen18
Publications List
Pornography and young people’s health: evidence from the UK sixteen18 project
Marston, C / In this short paper, Cicely Marston presents evidence from the recent LSHTM ‘sixteen18’ research project into young people’s sex lives. The project explored a range of sexual practices and attitudes; this paper focuses specifically on pornography. The paper argues that there is little evidence to support claims that porn is a public health danger, contrary to political and media coverage of young people in particular. The sixteen18 project did indicate some harms from using pornography as ‘sex education’, which suggests that sexuality education should emphasize the importance of mutuality and consent, but argues that sexual coercion and consent are better understood within the larger cultural context. Future research using an interdisciplinary and especially ethnographic approach can build up a holistic picture of porn use and health effects.
Porn Studies. pp. 1-4. ISSN 2326-8743, DOI:
Lewis, R; Marston, C; (2016) Oral Sex, Young People, and Gendered Narratives of Reciprocity
Lewis, R; Marston, C / This paper looks beyond gender differences amongst young people in giving and receiving oral sex to explore their own perspectives on gender dynamics in oral heterosex. Here, we explore the stories told by 16-18 year old men and women in England in their accounts of oral sex via in-depth interviews. On one hand, oral sex on men and women was narrated as equivalent, while on the other, oral sex on women was seen as “a bigger deal” than oral sex on men. Young men and women used a ‘give and take’ discourse that implied oral sex should be ‘fair’. We argue that these ostensibly positive discourses about equality in sexual practices also obscure women’s constrained agency and work in both giving and receiving oral sex.
Journal of sex research, 53 (7). pp. 776-87. ISSN 0022-4499 DOI:
Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK
Marston, C; Lewis, R / In this paper we set out to explore expectations, experiences and circumstances of anal sex among young people, through qualitative interviews with individuals and groups in three different settings in England. We found that anal heterosex often appeared to be painful, risky and coercive, particularly for women. Interviewees frequently said their peers had anal sex because of pornography, but in fact their narratives showed that even if this was sometimes partly the case, there were also other very important factors. These include normalisation of pressuring partners to have anal sex, and non-consensual ‘accidental’ penetration. Our study suggests an urgent need to address the harmful social norms that support coercive, painful and unsafe anal heterosex; we want to encourage discussion about shared desire and consent, reduce risky and painful techniques, and challenge views that normalise coercion.
BMJ Open, 4 (8). e004996. ISSN 2044-6055 DOI: