Monday, September 14, 2009

Selling Sex in Sweden

Sexuality in Sweden is one of those stereotypes that has travelled the world. There is an idea of openness when it comes to sex that you just don’t find in the US. Sometimes, it’s a great thing. I love that there are massive campaigns handing out condoms in Stockholm. I love that you can catch a boob on TV (or in an elevator) every now and again. And I love that sex toys are sold at Apoteket in hopes of removing stigma.

That being said, the news in Sweden today was somewhat disturbing. Sex sells. Kind of. Sex is being sold and a large percentage of people between the age of 16 and 25 think that is quite ok. A new study, reported in all kinds of media outlets, shows that 1.7% of Swedes between the age of 16 and 25 have sold sex online. That’s about 20,000 people. And 43% think that is quite alright. Of course, the country already allows for the selling of sex by prostitutes. It’s the buying of the sex that is illegal. Interestingly enough, it is the men in this age range who are more likely to be paid for sex.

I am in the age range of people who think this is ok. Granted, at the far end of the range. At 25 I’m basically an old man. But I don’t think it is ok to sell sex over the internet. Or to accept payment for sex. Nor have I been offered money for sex. Which I’m pretty ok with.

I know I have been shaped by the sexual attitudes of the US. I think it is an extreme that is unfortunate and very much based on the religious background of the US. It’s something I don’t necessarily agree with, especially when it leads to a fear of sex and the stigma that follows. But I understand it, if only because it’s the sexual culture that I grew up with.

In Sweden though, I wonder if the opposite is true, if the openness leads to a destigmatization that allows for sex to be sold by young adults online. And not just allows for it, but accepts it as if sex is something that should be on par with buying a bag of chips at Pressbyrån. Or online. Yes, I’d like the new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol, and a blow job please. For 100 SEK... well as long as shipping is free.

Social media has contributed with the availability of pictures and information that was once meant for friends, not Facebook friends. Cell phone cameras have contributed with sexting and pictures of things that were once meant for that awkward first experience in high school. Or maybe it is middle school now. It’s as if my generation has grown so accustomed to openness that it has become blind to any repercussions. Blind to the sex trade that they themselves are suddenly taking part in. Because that is exactly what this is, a new age sex trade.

I suppose from an entrepreneurial standpoint this is cutting out the middle man. Cutting out the pimp. It’s just good business. But I don’t want it to be a business. Everything has a price. Economically, everyone and everything can be bought. It’s just a matter of how much. But I don’t want sex to be a commodity. But if sex is allowed to be so open that there is no mystery behind it, no sense of meaning, then it will become just that. And when 43% of 16-25 year olds think that payment being exchanged for sex is ok, well, then sex is becoming a sellable good. And Sweden has 20,000 new prostitutes.

Welcome to Sweden. And web 2.0’s sex trade.

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  1. Oh... Sells! I was thinking, like in advertising? Then I caught on. Must've been watching too much Mad Men.

  2. It's a very interesting observation.

  3. Boo! That's depressing. Can't you come up with another cheerful post about chlamydia or something?

    I don't agree that everyone is for sale. At least not in the sense that you seem to think. Maybe we all have our price, but I don't think cash is the going currency...even lots and lots of it isn't going to buy some people. Maybe love or power or whatever. Even as materialistic as people seem to be sometimes, it feels like *most* people care about other things more. Or maybe that's just me.

  4. That's kind of ironic since I'm guessing some Swedish women see a man paying for dinner as sexist (because he might have certain expectations later) but someone overtly selling problem.

    Also regarding the previous post and comments:
    I wonder if a population of sissy men is a consequence of a feminist society which in a sense has gelded the men of your country by deeming all traditional forms of masculine wooing sexist? Now that the men can no longer show aggression or strength b/c of the sexist implications they in turn take on more feminist characteristics which is found to be more socially acceptable. (this is all based on my vast knowledge of Swedish culture gained entirely from reading this I could be way off base...just a thought)

  5. Oh and the Cubs actually won...but even that didn't lead to conversation.

  6. Interesting blog here! Good work Hairy Swede, I myself have American and Swedish roots and am amazed by the Swedish ideals. I found particularly interesting the American bashing entry, countless times I've been exposed to that situation.
    To add to this discussion I'd like to mention parents letting naked babies strut around on the beach. This needless to say infuriates me for the lack of respect for nudity, sex, the mysterious stigma that surrounds it, and that I think is needed to keep it alive and well in any culture/society. If Swedes are so liberal with sex then why can't they be liberal with things such as Mary Jane? Two of my brothers 19 year old friends have gotten girls pregnant and they both had big deal right, but smoking some grass (YOU ARE A CRIMINAL!)

  7. I feel that in general Swedish people see prostitution and the buying of sex as a huge (secular) sin.

    It is a result of the dominant feminist ideology.

    I think prostitution should be legal but that it should be only for people over 18 and that it should be regulated and taxed just like they do it in the Netherlands.
    The sex workers must have protection and now that is not the case.

  8. Why do you think there need to be a stigma around sex and sexuality? Isn't sex good enough as it is? Come on, sex was only mysterious when you were a teenager. When you're an adult it's sex, and that's it, but you still like it.

    I think the fact that more and more people see prostitution as OK, or more OK than before, is the fact that fewer and fewer people in Sweden are religious. I don't see anything sinful or wrong about selling sex, Or buying it for that matter. Sure, I don't think it's the ideal career, or the ideal way to get laid, but generally, I don't have any moral problems with it.

    So with no moral stigma surrounding it, let's look at it pragmatically. The problems I have with it is the fact that people are forced into it, that the "workers" are unsafe and vulnerable and can easily be used or hurt by a customer or a middle hand. Let's try to deal with these problems instead of trying to force your own morals and ideals upon other people.

  9. I didn't really get my formulations right at the end, there... Anyway, what I meant is that we should try to deal with the problems of reality instead of trying to force our morals and ideals upon other people. I mean no matter how wrong or sinful you think prostitution is, let's face it, it won't go away so why don't we stop judging people and instead try and make their reality better?

  10. So funny my sambo just told me about this study and I didn't believe him. So it's true. Damn.

    @Oscar - I love you. So true. It's just propaganda. Same as they say we get about sex being a sin in religious America, they get BS proganda that you are dying or going to jail for smoking a lil weed. Pisses me off to man. I would have a lot respect for Sweden if the liberality was more braod spectrum than sex, sexism, feminism, etc.

  11. Problemet med marijuana är ju att alla mer eller mindre kan odla det hemma. Man har ju till och med läst om folk som har odlat upp hela rum mitt i centrala Stockholm. Detta gör ju att regeringen inte kan kontrollera och därför inte heller beskatta marijuana försäljningen. vilket leder till att det istället är förbjudet, det är ju faktiskt inte så nyttigt att röka det, och vi har inte heller samma tradition av marijuana som vi har med alkohol, även om den hälsomässiga effekten inte direkt skiljer sig nämnvärt.
    Marijuana kommer alltså aldrig bli lagligt sålänge inte regeringen kan få monopol på att odla och importera det.

  12. I wanna know what Sweden was like back in the 50's? Before the femin-nazis and PC policies?

    And how and when did it change? That's what I'm curious about. And what it might be like had it not changed so drastically.

  13. OT but HairySwede, what are your thoughts or have you observed what Swedes think of their current mission in Afghanistan? I know they have around 500 troops and are positioned in the North with the Germans, Norwegians, Finns and Hungarians and it was peaceful until 2007. So just curious what you think or heard?

  14. But are not Swedish women very feminine? They wear tons of make up and shop for top fashion and they enjoy cooking and IKEA. I mean i suppose a minority are FEMI-NAZIs but not of the majority. I would say the feminism of the past has decreased dramatically.

  15. You just taught me a new word - sexting! That's how old I am (at 31)... Would that be kind of like the texts I was getting to my work phone which lead me to having to explain doggy-style to my boss?!

  16. I'm a part of that group who thinks payment being exchanged for sex is ok. Just because you have a tolerant attitude towards prostitution doesn't mean you'll prostitute yourself just like having a tolerant attitude towards homosexuality or abortion doesn't mean you are a homosexual or will have abortions. Your American conservatism really came through there.

    @Oscar: "I'd like to mention parents letting naked babies strut around on the beach. This needless to say infuriates me for the lack of respect for nudity, sex, the mysterious stigma that surrounds it."

    I think you need to look into those lustful feelings for children you're experiencing. Get some help. That was most likely a Freudian slip but you just gave revealed a lot in that comment.

  17. well i suppose, sex business does not only exist in sverige, it's everywhere.
    but anyway i'm 23 so feel free to contact me lol

  18. @stu – way too much Mad Men.

    @Carin – whether it is true or not... who knows.

    @E – umm... actually its Chlamydia. Lets make sure we give it its due and capitalize the C.

    Youre right, it doesn’t necessarily have to be money. But everything has a price. Whether its priced in dollars or gummy bears or love, but I really do believe that everything has a price.

    @mama – oooh, a good call on the sexist thing. I hadn’t thought of that.

    I also like your manliness theory. Mostly because you have based it on the empirical research that this blog constitutes. Which is obviously awesome.

    Maybe the Cubs win was just so shocking. Everyone was speechless.

    @Oscar – The American bashing is a fun little past time here.

    I will say though, the babies naked on the beach doesnt bother me one bit. In fact, I think that is when the nudity thing really should be allowed. It’s a time of such innocence that worrying about nudity when the kid doesnt know any better does stigmatize it too much.

    But the weed thing? I still haven’t really figured that out. Smoking weed here is viewed as being a heroin addict in the US.

    @Linus – Can something be considered a secular sin? I like the usage.

    I suppose my question is whether allowing prostitution really is a win for feminist rights. As a friend said, allowing the sex trade is a slippery slope, even with regulation.

    @Robban – I don’t think there needs to be stigma around it. In fact, I think there is too much stigma around it in the US. I do however believe that it shouldn’t be allowed to become a commodity.

    The moral issues are something that you and I have probably hashed out before in a post about prostitution. We’re not necessarily going to agree on them. That being said, you hit an interesting point with the forcing of people into the sex trade. That’s where it gets tricky. That’s where someone can be taken advantage of. Regardless of regulation, there will always be risk of someone being hurt by a customer. The nature of the sex trade is that there is a whole lot of one on one contact.

    A friend recently wrote to me about having worked in a developing nation helping former sex workers try to acclimate into normal society. She was amazed that developing countries were working so hard to get rid of the sex trade because of all of the negative aspects that surround it, while some western countries, are working to further it and allow it to continue in hopes that a few rules will keep that seedy underbelly from emerging.

    That being said, it has been noted that prostitution is the worlds oldest profession...

    @m8 – it is true. Unfortunately.

    @Dan – That argument is sometimes made in the US. But there the idea is that that if the government were to legalize it then it would bring the growing of marijuana to the mainstream and those people sitting in their apartments in Stockholm with heat lamps growing plants wouldn’t be as profitable and so not do it any longer. The whole supply and demand thing would drive it from the black market into the open allowing the government to tax the hell out of it. Like cigarettes.

  19. @Kevin – I think you have to go back even farther than 1950 to get away from the very left leaning politics of Sweden. Aside from a few hiccups, the Social Democrats have been in power for damn near 70 years.

    Actually, I think the big shift came around WWII. And I’m sure plenty of arguments have been made about the benefits of neutrality and the fact that Sweden was never attacked allowing them to prosper quickly after the war by helping to rebuild Europe. Sweden had iron and timber. Europe was destroyed. Life was suddenly good for the Swedish economy.

    @NATO – Its about damn time the international community began asking my opinion. I expect the IMF to come to me soon.

    Swedes seem to bury their head in the sand a little bit when it comes to Sweden being in Afghanistan. Every once and a while something will pop up that will remind them that they are there, but it isn’t discussed nearly as much as I expected. Especially now considering Afghanistan continues to be a dangerous place and Swedish forces have been involved in armed conflict.

    @lybare – well the girls on stureplan wear a lot of make up and do the high fashion thing. But I think that in general feminism and even extreme feminism, is alive and well in Sweden.

    @terander – I think it is usually reserved for pictures. But doggy style descriptions might also count. Im not expert on the subject Im afraid. Im at the old end of that age range.

    @anonymous – I agree. But if 43% were ok with it. Which I believe ended up being about 35,000 people, and 20,000 people were doing it, the percentages suggest that a lot of people who think it is ok are doing it. But thats not really my concern. I dont really buy your homosexuality and abortion argument though. Lets take homosexuality. Homosexuality doesnt really lead to the possibility of people getting hurt. Despite the crazy religious folk who believe hell fire will soon rain down on a modern day sodom. But prostitution definitely can lead to damaged people. And does.

    Not just from a physical standpoint but from an emotional and mental one.

    Regulation doesn’t mean it will be safe. It doesnt mean there wont be people taking advantage of the sex workers. From the employers to the customers. You might even be able to argue that allowing it in one country will only increase the number of people who are brought here form other countries to work in a country in which it is legal.

    I am amazed that people are so convinced that regulation will suddenly make it safe and that young men and women wont become desensitized to the sex trade because there is regulation in place.

    @tod - right in the age range...

  20. Agreed. And I can be bought with gummy bears. How did you know?

    If the CDC doesn't capitalize chlamydia, I don't see why I should have to do it. Unless it's a proper noun...the twins. Well done to anonymous over in your manliness post's comments.

  21. Well, desensitizing in this probably isn't the proper word, in my opinion. Sex to me can be a number of things, much like a massage or even a good dinner, it can be a simple thing of money exchanged for an experience or a romantic, loving notion between two people connected in various ways. It's all about context, really. And I don't doubt that there would still be abuse present among sexworkers , but that with regulation and legalization you'd see a decline in the negative aspects because of the increased ability to shed light on the industry. And in the end, what matters is if sexpurchases can be stopped or not, to any degree, which it seems they can't. No matter if it's legalized or not, tomorrow a lot of people are going to attain what they want to, via money. Wether or not that's acceptable to some people or they have to pay a bit more due to the illegality of it all would not really matter all that much.

  22. @HairySwede, I know whenever I hung out in Stockholm, I was suprised to keep seeing so many "fashion obsessed" women. I was still waiting for the feminists to be out and marching. But I must say 1 thing, they know style.

    But I suppose I will have to find me a course when I re-start university so I can learn more about Sweden, Scandinavia in general. Neutrality, welfare states. So much to learn

  23. Indeed man. I think all of Europe and even the USA, Canada, Australia and other allies need to bring the mission in Afghanistan to their attention and explain carefully. No need to use just "national security" as an excuse. Explain what we want to accomplish and why. It might have a positive effect or it may just want people to withdraw troops, but those fighting should have support and be cared for and not be vehemently oppoed by doing what the current government has asked of them.

  24. @ Hairy Swede: Of course it can. Homosexuals can take sexual advantage of people who are not expecting it. You could imprison all homosexuals to prevent sexual attacks or you could realise that not all homosexuals are sex-offenders just like not all prostitutes have emotional issues. Both of these are common stereotypes and neither is true. You can't ban prostitution because some will be hurt by it. People will always be taken advantage of in any trade but the difference in a legal trade is that there are places you can go for help. The only real problem with allowing prostitution is human trafficking.

  25. "The nature of the sex trade is that there is a whole lot of one on one contact"

    Ha, good one... on one...

    Anyway, I don't know how it's gonna be worked. maybe we should have a state monopoly for prostitution and state-owned bordellos with surveillance cameras in each room. I don't know but seriously, I think it would the prostitutes would be a lot safer if the state could get more insight to and control of the business. Of course, I don't really know how it would work so maybe I'm totally off. Anyway, that's just my humble opinion.

  26. @anon - I think that is pretty rude and innacurate to compare homosexuality and prostitution. You probably would insult a lot of people if you said that out loud. Do you really see a natural INSTINCT to be gay as the same thing as a CHOICE to be a prostitute? Homosexuals have been trying for a long time to get people to stop calling their lifestyle a choice, and especially a bad choice and to realize it is how they are born. No prostitute was born a prostitute. They chose it (not counting those victims of trafficking). You can't just compare apples and oranges to make a dumb point buddy. It's just one of my irritations when people compare uncomparable things in an attempt to provetheir point...

  27. @m8surf - "It's just one of my irritations when people compare uncomparable things in an attempt to provetheir point..."

    Exactly, like you're comparing fruits to prostitutes and homosexuals. "Symbolism". Yeah whatever, I buy that, m8...

    Seriously, though (yes, m8surf, that was a joke...), I agree that homosexuality is not a choice but I don't think prostitution is in most cases is one, either. If you only have one choice is choice really the right word?

    But anyway, that's not the point, because I don't think what anonymous was saying is that homosexuality is equal to prostitution. He, or she (damn those feminazis), was simply just trying to explain that just because people don't think prostitution is morally wrong doesn't mean that they'll go in to prostitution themselves. And, of course, that not ALL homosexuals are sex offenders.

  28. not so surprising, tho i think the results are a tad bit inflated!...cowboyfromnowhere

  29. @robban - oh please. I know exactly what point anon was trying to make. I just didn't like it and found the logic seriously flawed. I think it is absolutely nuts to legalize prostition and I think it sucks to compare that to gay rights. Because they are not really related in my opinion...

  30. I agree that the two has absolutely nothing to do with each other and whatever point he was trying to make it just didn't make any sense. If my previous comment seemed kinda illogical it was because I actually had no idea what point he was trying to make...

  31. Oh my god. Did you just agree with me? Is this the same blog?

  32. @E – because gummy bears are the greatest currency ever. And awesome people understand that.

    @Anonymous – well that comes back to the whole oldest profession thing and that you’ll never really be able to stamp it out. Which may be true. I’m just not sure I can ever get fully behind that for no other reason than some deep seeded (seated?) belief.

    @Kevin – there is a whole lot. And I would definitely suggest a history or politics class about Sweden.

    @NATO – I can definitely agree with that.

    @Anonymous - I just really can’t buy into this comparison at all. I can’t be the only one...

    @Robban – ooh, also a good one.

    I think that would lead to an underground market of leaked sex tapes.

    @m8 – thank you. Well done.

    @Roban – another good one.

    @David – I really hope so.

    @m8 – agreed. The point is there. Its just so bad the way it was achieved.

    @Robban and M8surf – this has the makings of a very happy ending.

  33. If you and I agree that you pay me 500 kr for an hours back- or foot massage, then nobody cares, but if you pay me the same amount for an hour's penis massage, then all of a sudden you are a criminal...

    If I agree to give you whatever massage for 500 kr for one hour, then that means I want to to this (in the strict sense of the word, or else I wouldn't do it). This means that I have an incentive to encourage you to accept the deal. Call it marketing if you want. In other words, it is legal for me to encourage you to break the law... (In other cases, not even the police has the right to provoke someone to commit a crime.)

    The law against selling sex must be the most twisted law that exists in Sweden.

  34. Sorry, I meant the other way around. You see, in Sweden it is legal to sell sex, but not to buy it...(!)

    So in other words, if I charge my girlfriend 500 kr for a lick-job, and she then charges me 500 kr for a blow-job, so that none of us owes the other one anything, and we already know this from the beginning, as in any normal relationship, then we must both be breaking the law against selling sex, even though no money has actually been transferred...(?) Yest another twisted aspect of this law.

  35. thats the thing that always gets me here in Sweden. The illegalities of buying but the legalities of selling. They cant seem to make up their minds.

  36. first, in any, and all other forms of life on this planet, you have the right to do what you want, with anything you own, including your body, and you have the right to protect all that you own from the corruption , or inpede ments of others. this defines the basic human rights.this being said, if you wish to drink a beer, you can do that, if you wish to smoke, you can di this as well, if you wish to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, just to get your jollies, thats fine! if you enjoy sex, and you desire to serve others with your sexual abilities, that is also your given right. it is your body, your life, YOUR CHOICE. for someone to say that you dont have this right, is absurd. this is the same as saying you dont have the right to enjoy life in any other available method, be it alcohol, drugs, music, video games, art, excercise, martial arts, sports, gardening, or by which ever means you feel comfortable passing your time. if you enjoy sex, why not profit from it? if i could i would!