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Wild Toyah isn't promoting sex ..she's shown girls how they can learn from their mistakes; EXCLUSIVE: Street's Georgia defends the teenage seduction that shocked millions.

ENA Sharples, Coronation Street's sternest moral guardian, would have had a seizure.

Even today, the latest controversial plot in what used to be TV's least lurid soap caused outrage as wild child Toyah Battersby lost her virginity in the back of a car.

Thirteen and a half million viewers watched the shocking episode last Sunday when 16-year-old Toyah agreed to have sex with her loutish boyfriend, Dobber.

Moral watchdogs have already blasted the storyline, saying the episode sent out the wrong signals to schoolgirls by promoting sex and the morning after pill.

But yesterday Georgia Taylor, who plays the teenage tearaway, hit back at critics and said: "We have taken a strong moral line and are not promoting teenage sex. It's quite the opposite.

"Toyah's actions should be a lesson for other girls not to fall into the same trap. It was an educational storyline, and I feel it was done in a responsible way."

But Valerie Riches, general secretary of the Family and Youth Concern Association said: "It is very powerful propaganda that having sex before marriage is OK as long as contraceptives are taken.

"Coronation Street has sunk to the same level as its rivals in a bid to attract viewers."

GEORGIA, who is 18 and two years older than the character she plays, has been stung by the criticism.

"What we have done is to show young girls how Toyah deeply regrets her actions," she said.

"She can't turn the clock back because it's too late for her. But girls can learn from her mistake.

"Toyah has learnt her lesson the hard way but maybe she can help prevent other girls from making that same error.

"Anyone watching can see Dobber is just using Toyah and I hope the message gets across to other girls not to fall into the same trap."

In the story, Toyah's big sister Leanne persuades her to go to the doctor for a morning-after pill.

"Leanne has been her conscience and the voice of common sense," said Georgia.

"Seeing the mess her sister is in, she told her the best way to deal with it. I believe, in the circumstances it was good, responsible advice."

Georgia has more sense than her screen character and would never allow herself to get into a similar situation.

She put her love life on hold for 18 months because she was worried that men might want to date her because of her showbiz celebrity.

When she joined the Street cast, Georgia convinced herself she was having too much fun on her own to consider a relationship. But a handsome student she will only name as "Phil" has changed all that.

When the couple were first introduced by mutual friends seven months ago, they chatted about music, films and football.

And when the subject got around to television, Phil, 19, confessed: "I really don't know anything about the soaps - I don't watch them."

Heartened by the fact that he genuinely did not know who she was, Georgia agreed to see him again.

But her own eagerness to keep her fame under wraps almost backfired when strangers would stop and stare at them in the street.

"Phil was puzzled over why they should make such as fuss when we were out," she said.

"In fairness to him, I knew I would have to come clean about what I did sooner rather than later.

"We were just getting to know each other and I was worried that having found someone who liked me for me, the attention that my role brings would scare him away."

But her fears were unfounded and now Phil is a Coronation Street addict.

Speaking for the first time about her new love, Georgia said: "At first we just went out for a few drinks to places where I wouldn't be known.

"I was worried how he would handle the ups and downs of my job and I didn't want to scare him off.

"I finally told him what I did and he was pretty cool about it. I don't think he fully realised the implications because he did not watch Corrie.

"The first two months were the test because he was quite taken aback at how well known I was."

Phil was shocked by the way people would come up for a chat or autograph.

"We are just in the early stages of our relationship and I was worried that he might find it all a bit overbearing," said Georgia.

"I found it pretty daunting myself at first - but he has been great."

A Manchester university undergrad who is taking computer studies, Phil was initially "vetted" by Georgia's close circle of friends - and passed with flying colours.

She said: "I've got a great group of friends who watch out for me. They knew Phil and have told me he is the nicest person I've been out with."

The couple have been together for seven months and spent a summer holiday together in Tenerife. They hope to get away again closer to Christmas with friends.

Georgia recently moved out of the family semi she shared with her mum, dad and 15-year-old brother in Wigan, and is now renting a flat in Manchester.

And where once her mum Caroline or accountant dad Geoff would be her confidantes, she now turns to Phil for support.

Georgia said: "He is very understanding. I can come home after filming and say I'm really exhausted because I have done a scene where I have been crying.

SOME people might think I am being a bit pretentious, but not Phil. He will make me a cup of tea and give me a hug and take care of me.

"He realises it can take a lot out of me emotionally. Phil's really into computers and detached from the acting world. He is a real breath of fresh air.

"Before I met him, I thought maybe I would end up going out with an actor. But now I think if I went out with another actor it would be very difficult because there would be an atmosphere where it might get too competitive."

Georgia's own upbringing is a far cry from the troubled and troublesome schoolgirl she portrays.

Her own most rebellious action was having her nose pierced when she left school at 16 to go to college. "I had asked my mum and she said 'no way'. But I thought I would do it anyway. She actually quite liked it, but my dad hated it.

"Then there was the time when I dyed my blonde fringe bright red, but it looked awful.

"I washed it three times a day to try and get rid of the colour but it just went from a lurid red to pink.

"It didn't look cool, just silly."

Fans often confuse the real Georgia with her 16-year-old soap character.

Worried mums tell her off if they see her light a cigarette, and she was once barred from a club because the men on the door refused to believe she was 18.

Georgia said: "They wouldn't let me in. They thought I was too young and asked for my ID.

"I didn't have any so we had to leave. Funnily enough, my picture had been in the papers that day because it was my birthday. But I couldn't play the big 'Don't you know who I am?' bit."

Despite her status as a high profile actress in Britain's top soap and the wealth and glamour the role brings, Georgia is incredibly down-to- earth and still worries about overspending.

She can barely bring herself to confess that her most extravagant buy to date is a Vivienne Westwood dress which set her back pounds 400.

In fact, it was a bargain - the original price tag was pounds 900.

Georgia said: "I bought it six weeks ago and I still feel bad about it. It's a beautiful dress but I haven't had the nerve to wear it yet.

"I was in a real dilemma over it - I've never spent that much on one outfit before and I kept thinking that kind of money could buy a well for children in Africa.

"My boyfriend finally convinced me by telling me I work hard so why shouldn't I splash out on myself.

"He said I deserved a treat, so I got it."
COPYRIGHT 1998 MGN LTD
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Sayid, Ruki
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 10, 1998
Words:1389
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