Everyone’s favorite topics! And no this is not about my love life. I’m talking mostly academics and culture.
To be honest my first encounter with any of these three things in Norway happened when I was planning my James Bond lesson. The plan was for the class to watch Moonraker (1979) and I realized a few days before we were scheduled to watch the movie that I should double check and make sure the movie wouldn’t be considered inappropriate. My main concern: the sex scenes.* Keep in mind that the movie was made in the 70’s so the scenes were hardly graphic. I was also working with 18 and 19 year olds and figured they would find the scenes unremarkable. But I thought it’d be in my best interests to double check with my co-teacher. To my immense relief, Maria immediately shrugged off my concerns, telling me that the students could care less about sex and nudity but that they would find violence upsetting. Again, Moonraker was made in the 70’s so I wasn’t worried about the corny combat scenes.
One of the things that did stick with me from this conversation was the blasé attitude Norwegians have towards sex and nudity. It’s not uncommon to see uncensored pictures of naked people, and to even find them on the front page of newspapers. It’s not necessarily done it a sexual way; from my outsider perspective, it seems as though people are simply accepting of what the human body looks like. What a great and novel concept in today’s society. No Photoshop for anyone! Saggy body parts galore!
My curiosity officially sparked on these three topics, I was talking with an American friend and her Norwegian boyfriend when I asked what sex education is like in Norway. He told me that sex education is taught in schools as are various methods of contraception. He was a bit stunned when I described a few of the more extreme sex education classes that I’ve heard of in the US. (I’m looking at you Texas). I did however hastened to reassure him that not all schools have abstinence only programs.
After a bit of cajoling from his girlfriend, my Norwegian friend told me that once he reached the age of consent (16) his parents didn’t mind if his girlfriend spent the night at his house. This of course led to a flurry of questions: In your room? (Yes) Could you sleep over at her house? (Yes) Doesn’t that make breakfast with everyone awkward? (Sorta). I went to a fairly liberal high school, but when I tried to imagine people from my high school doing the same thing a picture failed to compute. Then again maybe my high school was just weird.
Thoroughly intrigued as to whether or not this was a universal experience, I increased my sample size to include two more Norwegians. Based on my ridiculously small sample size, it appears that this is the norm. Although I was told that this does not hold true in Norway’s Bible belt. Yes, Norway has a Bible belt.
The last Norwegian opinion I got on this topic happened to come from a Norwegian doctor. I figured that there probably wasn’t going to be a much better authority on attitudes toward sex in Norway. What I was not expecting to hear in this conversation was this bombshell: 18% of Norwegian men have chlamydia. No you didn’t read that number incorrectly. EIGHTEEN PERCENT. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Me: But, but why?
Doctor: Well, most Norwegians have unprotected sex.
Me: Sooo do people just rely on female birth control?
Me: But, I still don’t understand the popularity of unprotected sex. I mean you guys have a comprehensive sex education system, right?
Doctor: Well yes…but…um…you know the sensation…it…ah…feels better
(Note that by this point I had a pretty shocked expression on my face since I was expecting a more compelling answer)
Me: But…I mean sure…but 18%???
Doctor: Well HIV isn’t really a thing in Norway so people prefer to take their chances.
Me: Oh…Well…In the US condoms and safe sex are pretty heavily promoted. Then again that’s not everywhere. There are places in the United States that don’t teach comprehensive sex education.
Doctor: Oh well we don’t really have that problem in Norway. And our teen pregnancy rates are quite low. Here the government will provide women with the Pill for free from 14-18. No parental consent required.
While I applaud Norway on the availability of the Pill and their overall liberal attitude, I still think their arguments regarding unprotected sex, especially considering their STI rate, could use a bit of work.
On a related note: for those of you who have been asking me if everyone looks like Marvel’s Thor, aka Chris Hemsworth:
Well the answer is obviously no. My life would be infinitely more enjoyable if it were, but sadly it is not the case. I would also like to add that there is nothing that kills off the relative attractiveness of your population like giving them a high STI rate.
*The reason my epiphany was so delayed was because I assumed that my American co-teacher would automatically know that every Bond movie has a sex scene or four.