cultural attitudes

Recent posts

How The Germans Do It

When I was coming of age and starting to ask my parents questions about sex and puberty, they did their best to educate me.  Like many good Midwestern liberal parents, they sat me down, looked me in the eye…and handed me a book. The “What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys” allowed me to learn about the changes in my body and mind, and read about masturbation, body growth, and attraction.  This book was my entryway not only into my pubescent years, but also into my lifelong interest in sexuality and sex education.  However, as I grew older and learned that many aspects of sexuality made people in the USA uncomfortable, I found I was interested not only in what this seminal book contained, but also what it omitted. So, while studying abroad in Germany, I acquired a book called “Weil Wir Jungen Sind (Because we are boys)” that was also aimed at teens trying to figure out what to do with their growing bodies and feelings.  After a decade spent with the American version, I was surprised by how open and detailed the German version was about some aspects of sex that my book simply glossed over. Topics covered in detail in the German book, but conspicuously absent even in the latest edition of the American book include:

Anal Intercourse
Coming Out
Erogenous Zones
Sexual Positions (with line drawings!)

I found myself thinking, “Why can’t we have such detailed sexual health information in the United States?”  And I realized that any book marketed for teenagers in the US and containing these topics would be quickly attacked and accused of being pornography.  One of the reasons I love to travel and explore is to notice these cultural differences, and see what I/we can learn from them.  Maybe from the Germans, we Americans can learn to be a little more open when talking about sexuality. Continue Reading →

How Fear of Men Hurts Us All

In my work as a director for a boy’s camp, I was able to see some of the best examples of male leadership, compassion, and care.  I was particularly touched by the multiple times I saw college-aged young men helping to comfort homesick ten-year-olds.  These young leaders were some of the most caring and fun guys I’ve met, busting outside of gender norms to help be role models for the next generation of men. 

Which is why it worries me to see articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal.  To summarize, Lenore Skenazy shares stories from around the world that point to society’s growing distrust of men as caregivers.  While I understand how men are the primary perpetrators in the majority of crimes, I think there are better ways to protect children than constant suspicion and vigilance towards half of the population. It’s quite concerning to me that we demonize men like this, when there are many examples of positive male role models and caregivers in our society (one only need look at the White House to see that).  While attacks, sexual assaults, and misogyny happen, we need to be aware that there are just as many men out there fighting against these things than who perpetrate these acts. The trend pointed out by Skenanzy also relates to growing suspicion of other people in general, with folks locking their doors and avoiding neighbors.  We as a society are more distrustful in general.  Ask any typical parent today whether they’d let their kids go to the park down the street by themselves, and I’m guessing they would say no, for fear of their kids going missing from the “strangers” in their neighborhood. What can we do?  We need to remember that the potential for good and bad can exist in all people, and living in paranoia is an unhealthy practice both for us and for our community.  As a staunch supporter of using a community to produce social change, this idea is difficult for me.  When you and your neighbors (especially the male ones) lack a mutual sense of trust, it will be impossible to create those special communities that take care of each other.  Let’s make sure that any males in our life are treated with cautious respect when it comes to children, and acknowledge that while any given male may be a sexual predator, the vast majority of them are not. Continue Reading →

Contrasting European And American Attitudes Toward Sex

I’ve written before about how attitudes toward teen sex in the Netherlands differ from those in the U.S. Here’s a link to a visual analysis of the differences between Western European and American beliefs about sex. American media tends to construct sex as threatening and dangerous, whereas European ads reveal an acceptance of sex as natural and normal. Go check out the site and decide for yourself–the ads might arouse your, er, curiosity if nothing else. Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Follow Jeana, the author of this post, @foxyfolklorist. Continue Reading →

Attitudes Towards Teen Sex In The Netherlands

This Salon article on the Dutch approach to teen sex reports on a study examining Dutch attitudes towards teenage sleepovers in their parents’ home, finding that parents generally express a desire to be involved in their teens’ lives as they grow up and become romantically and sexually involved. Additionally, access to contraceptives and other sexual healthcare is widely available, which, along with a greater acceptance of sexuality as a normal part of life rather than something to be stigmatized as dirty or shameful, have shaped a very different cultural atmosphere. The evidence is striking: Continue Reading →