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.