Compromising Positions

A sex ed blog with more

Cultural Differences

Having spent 3 months in Europe, I’ve met people from all over the world. While having numerous conversations about various topics, cultural differences have become quite apparent so I began asking specific questions about cultural sexual norms from people from different countries. Spending time in some of these places has given me some insight as well. Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that things are different in different places; it’s fascinating!
[Please note that these are ideas from a small group of people and not necessarily representative of every country or every person in said country.]

1) At what age do people start having sex?
Australia: 17-19; though it’s getting earlier
Canada: 17-18; though most think it’s earlier – you can talk about sex knowledgeably without having it
Denmark: 14-15; it’s easy to find because girls want older guys and lots of people go to co-ed boarding school at age 14
Italy: 14; used to be later

2) Tell me about marriage.
Australia: Quite important, but not for religious reasons. We’re not really religious, but we’re technically a Christian nation. We all live together before getting married, but the order we go through important life stages doesn’t matter … like, live together, have a kid, get a sweet job, married – no big deal. Gay marriage is a huge topic right now; big debate, although the gay community is open and accepted in big cities.
Canada: It’s becoming less important because jobs are more readily available to women. Our mothers would have been less likely to have been able to support themselves. I mean, they had like 3 career options: teacher, nurse, or secretary. There seems to be a growing trend on the internet that marriage is bad for men due to the increasing divorce rate and subsequent child support, custody, etc. Oh, and we got gay marriage in 2005, but we’re still super heteronormative. [hetero = guy and gal, normative = normal]
Denmark: No big deal. We can live together and have kids and then maybe get married, but lots of people aren’t. We’re culturally Christian, so if people get married, it’s in a church with a priest or at city hall. It’s a romantic gesture but not necessary.
Italy: It is important, but it’s losing significance. And we have way bigger issues to deal with than gay marriage. I mean it would be nice if I could get married, but 70% of gay people say they wouldn’t marry even if they could. So I guess that says something. Ha! We actually have ONE legal lesbian couple because they got married as heteros and then one transitioned. It was all over the news.

3) Where do people meet for sex or dating?
Australia: It has to be a group social setting so usually it’s a friend of a friend, or your friends are out drinking and you meet someone. It’s 50/50 on who initiates, and one-night stands are verging on normal.
Canada: Through friends, at clubs, online…. That one’s definitely becoming more popular. I know lots of people who use online dating. I have a friend who dates as a hobby: a few dates with different people each week that she meets online. Sometimes it’s to hook up, most of the time it’s just to meet someone new.
Denmark: Lots of people start dating someone they meet while out drinking, so what may start as a one night stand turns into something much longer than one night. Sex on the first date is pretty common.
Italy: Uhh… in bars, pubs, clubs, at university events, through friends, online for gay males especially, though it’s getting easier and more socially acceptable for everyone.

4) How much is sex discussed (in families, at school, among friends, etc.)?
Australia: Catholic school sex education is shameful, just awful i.e. only abstinence. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to get a morning after pill for 16 year olds I worked with cause they had sex and didn’t know to use a condom. As for friends/ family: My family doesn’t talk about sex at all. And um, men are pretty general when it comes to sex discussions while women go into slightly more detail. But we would never talk about problems or issues or anything non-vanilla.
Canada: My parents never talked about it. I think there was one joke “Don’t get the girl pregnant” and that was it. At school, we had a few hilarious health classes – funny because it was all guys, and pretty basic. We mostly learned about STDs and anatomy, but the main message was missed: don’t pick up skanks from the bar. So, the theoretical stuff was there, but the practical stuff was seriously missing. Girls talk about major details in terms of sex, but guys definitely don’t. We’d never talk about feelings. The most guys would say is “Didja fuck her? Was it good? Gonna do it again?” Young people are becoming more open with discussions, laws, etc.
Denmark: We rarely talk about sex with our parents. Sometimes our siblings … maybe. The gay community flaunts sex like nobody’s business, though. They are all over that shit. Guys don’t discuss details, and girls decide on limits, which they probably talk about.
Italy: Sex is totally taboo to discuss, except with female friends. Oh, but the LGBT community is much more open. Oh, but there’s a new law that says that people can’t discriminate based on sexuality … except it doesn’t apply to political parties, organization, religious orders or associations. It’s completely stupid.

5) How important is personal space?
Australia: We only touch when we’re drunk or greeting each other, unless you’re dating the person. We don’t shower or change together, not even in gym class, and there’s no nudity in advertising … but we’re a bathing suit culture so nothing is really left to the imagination anyway.
Canada: Super important. We really like our personal bubbles. We shake hands to say hello, or good friends will hug, and we tend to keep our distance. We don’t have communal showers in general, but sometimes guys’ sports teams will be really homoerotic with shower time. When we change in gym class most people try to hide their junk.
Denmark: Getting naked isn’t a big deal … we have topless beaches and communal showers. So, the line is probably drawn at touching, but even then, it’s hard to say. We shake hands to say hi, or friends hug.
Italy: We’re warm people. We hug and kiss each cheek to say hello. But, personal space is important: we don’t shower together, no nude beaches, but people show a lot of skin and sometimes women go topless when tanning.

6) How are men and women treated about their sex lives?
Australia: Dudes can sleep around, girls can’t.
Canada: Oof. There’s a huge slut-shaming double standard. It’s completely sexist.
Denmark: Guys can do whatever they want, and it’s all good. Women are considered sluts if they sleep around.
Italy: Women are sluts if they have a lot of partners. Except lesbians, because they don’t tend to have a lot of partners anyway. Oh, and gay guys tend to have a lot of one night stands.

So, there you have it. Maybe we’re not so different after all. What are some other cultural sexual norms from around the world? Are there other perspectives from the countries listed? Share! I’ve only heard from a few 🙂


2 comments on “Cultural Differences

  1. Sarah
    October 2, 2013

    There’s communal showers everywhere in Canada! Most people wear their bathing suits, since it almost always happens next to a pool or gym, but showering has never been that big of a deal.

  2. electricbohemian
    October 2, 2013

    Thoughts I would give my thoughts based on united kingdom, but its based on my own observations and of my friendship circles, as its stands I’m much more of a city girl and cities will have a different approach to country life, although having said that I did spend my teenage years in Somerset I think it was more open minded there then my school in London.

    Marriage = again subject for debate going through parliaments general opinion for most people is they can’t see any reason why not. As far as cities go, gay communities are the norm although I should imagine there are still a few backward people and religious people unhappy about this

    For Heterosexuals, definitely live together first. Marriage is not really important, again its probably because these days its the male and female can work and before marriage was often an act of survival, and less about love – I have found that if people get married its all about the event, I can’t be sure but I should imagine religious ceremonies are less called for and its more register, people are looking for style, so a big country house or somewhere unique.. Allot of money is spent on weddings and we have many tv programmes including, don’t tell the bridge where by the women cannot have any part in arranging the wedding and the man has to do all the work, including choosing a dress and they are given 12,000 to create something.

    What age do people start having sex?
    I should imagine very young as soon as people hit puberty, people are embarrassed if they are virgins when they enter university., Generally it can be seen as pushing the barriers to have sex before the legal age at 16 – we had many years of underage kids being pregnant and we had some issues with the fact benefits where provided for single parents the more kids you have the more money you get, so many underprivileged kids saw this as a great way to survive, so the government says here. It seems to be dropping off now, benefits have been changed and I guess schools are having more impact in regards to discussing this.

    Where do people meet for sex or dating?
    Generally when you are younger, its quite easy – mainly meet people in pubs and clubs. There are allot of drunken one night stands, then there is uni – again much the same. As you get older it becomes much harder. Generally meet people at work sometimes but allot of people use dating websites now and go on speed dates and singles holidays. I would say its quite difficult to meet someone these days unless you go out clubbing allot.

    Talking about sex
    In my experience school was the place that you learned about the ins and outs. Friends talk about it allot, men and women are quite balanced now often mixed groups. People like to talk about sex – We have a magazine called More magazine that gives you positions of the month and other such useful advise and that is what we grew up on. Whether that’s a good thing I don’t know, as I think there are allot of problems when it comes to intimate relationships , sex can be seen as some kind of performance rather then an act of love, which seems to take second place.

    Personal Space
    Interesting – Uk are well known for being quite cold I guess, but I’ve noticed a big change in that. For strangers we choose to sit further away so for example on a bench you wanna have as much space as possible and if you bump into someone well its all about being polite. However friends a whole new different vibe, tend to do the European kiss thing allot and hug as a greeting, same goes with family. Not everyone is like this but I think we are becoming warmer as a nation. I’m 30 now and when I was younger you wouldn’t dream of hugging anyone other then immediate family members. In schools we have communal showers and changing rooms same goes for swimming pools, some people don’t mind walking around naked some do the towel dance, trying not to show off their bits but again that is changing.

    How we are treated about our sex lives?
    I still think there is the age old line between men and women, Ie men are gods if they sleep with loads of people and women are the devil if they do the same, although I would say with programmes like sex and the city I think attitudes are changing – saying that I don’t think its a good thing because then relationships and sex are perceived as just a game, something to win. Many of us envy cities in Europe such as Italy and France where its feels as though its all about passion and excitement, we are definitely more timed and many a bit more sentimental, or just really crass.

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