Reviews PERSONAL VIEW

The value of agony aunts

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7404.1465 (Published 26 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1465
  1. Petra M Boynton (p.boynton@pcps.ucl.ac.uk), non-clinical lecturer in health services research
  1. open learning unit, department of primary care and population sciences, University College London, and agony aunt at Men's Health and http://www.mykindaplace.com/

    When is sex advice not sex advice? When it's sex positive information given by an agony aunt to a teenager. Then, according to the Home Office, it becomes child abuse. Well, that's how it seemed until just last week. Teenage magazines were facing possible prosecution under the Sexual Offences Bill if they discussed anything other than pregnancy or the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Clause 15 of the bill is designed to prevent “arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence,” which is suitably vague so as to leave those who offer advice on emotional aspects of sex being open to prosecution.

    Fortunately, the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) fought to get the bill amended in the House of Lords to offer exemption to those who legitimately offer advice to young people about sex. Agony aunts were granted their reprieve last week (www.ppa.co.uk/news/news.asp?news_id=602). But this was not before certain sectors of the media launched a campaign against them, and certainly not before those who offer …

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