Sex & Relationships

5 American Sex Norms Europeans Probably Think Are Insane

Some of the biggest sexual WTFs Europeans have about America.

Europeans tend to see a lot of American ideals and behaviors as bizarre. In particular, they aren’t wild about our politics and our food (though they love our television and our movies). And when it comes to sex? Well, Europeans tend to view us as the land of the free, home of the batshit crazy. Below are some of the biggest sexual WTFs Europeans have about America.

1. Extreme violence in the media is fine, just don’t show a nipple.

According to reports, the average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and witness 16,000 murders on TV by the time she is 18. Not only that, but the violence is getting more brutal and sadistic, and it often goes unpunished. In video games like Grand Theft Auto, players can run over sex workers, and the violence in Call of Duty has been linked to teen suicides. While this is considered fine and normal, showing the naked or partially naked human body on TV is considered extremely taboo. When Justin Timberlake accidentally ripped off a piece of Janet Jackson’s costume during the Super Bowl halftime show, revealing her nipple for a fraction of a second, this not only caused a moral outrage that lasted for days, but the FCC tried to fine television network CBS $550,000 for broadcasting “indecency.” The FCC ultimately failed, but not first without going all the way to the Supreme Court. The nip slip incident became the most-searched-for thing on the Internet in 2004, and CBS actually forced Jackson to apologize to Americans. “I am really sorry if I offended anyone, that was truly not my intention," Jackson said.

A Dutch friend who now lives in London also remarked on this disconnect between violence and nudity: “The movie Frida with Salma Hayek is rated R in the U.S. because of nudity, but in Holland it was 6 (for children 6 and older). But many violent movies are 16 in Holland and PG/PG-13 in the U.S. Why are boobs worse than death? How do boobs affect people negatively? Are they scary? Do they make people do bad things? I wanna know!”

2. Our puritan prudery.

Sex is everywhere. We can’t even sell a cheeseburger in the U.S. without overtly bonerrific images that are, frankly, confusing. Are we supposed to eat our food or have sex with it, Carl’s Jr.? And yet, we’re also so prudish that Attorney General John Ashcroft once spent $8,000 of taxpayer cash to cover up a statue’s breasts. We have spent billions on abstinence-only education programs that spread misinformation and shame teenagers into thinking sex is dirty and will ruin their lives forever. And instead of curbing the number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, the opposite happens. Compared to European countries, most of which boast comprehensive sex ed, easy access to birth control and universal healthcare, the U.S. has alarming teen pregnancy rates—41.5 per 1,000 people, as reported by the United Nations in 2009. By contrast, the Netherlands had a teen birth rate of 5.3 per 1,000, Switzerland is 4.3 per 1,000, and Germany is 9.8 per 1,000. Europeans also have have lower STI rates, and far lower rates of HIV/AIDS.

3. Our fear of hugs.

Research has shown that non-sexual physical contact has a profound impact on people's emotional and physical well-being. Despite this knowledge, and our hyper-sexualized tendencies, America is one of the most touch-phobic countries in the world. A global study on touch rated the United States among “the lowest touch countries studied.” In contrast, the high-touch countries include Spain, France, Italy, and Greece. Some researchers think our fear of platonic touching actually leads to violence, particularly in young males. In one study, American adolescents were shown to touch each other far less and be more aggressive toward their peers compared with French adolescents.

While there are many reasons why Europe has a much lower violent crime rate than the U.S, could a lack of healthy physical connection add to this trend? In 2012, research conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that the U.S. had a “homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 people compared to only 0.3 per 100,000 in Iceland, 0.7 per 100,000 in Sweden, 0.8 per 100,000 in Denmark and Spain, 0.9 per 100,000 in Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, 1.0 per 100,000 in France, and 1.2 per 100,000 in Portugal and the Republic of Ireland.”

4. Our anti-abortion violence.

Though there have been a few incidents of anti-abortion-related violence elsewhere (in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, for instance), the vast majority of violence occurs right here in the good ol’ US of A. The Department of Justice amended its definition of domestic terrorism to include this type of violence last year, and it includes such incidents as destruction of property, arson, bombings, vandalism, kidnapping, stalking, assault, attempted murder, and murder. In the last 20 years or so, anti-abortion violence has killed at least eight people in the U.S., including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort. In contrast, approximately ZERO people have been murdered trying to have or facilitate a safe and legal abortion in Europe.

5. Our preference for circumcision.

Though infant male circumcision rates have declined in the U.S. in the last decade or so, circumcision remains one of the most common procedures performed in hospitals (about 1.4 million annually). In Europe, however, circumcision is rare and generally frowned upon. A 2013 resolution called male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children,” and was passed overwhelmingly by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Studies (both formal and informal) have shown that women in the U.S. have strong preferences for circumcised penises, citing “visual appeal” and “sexual hygiene” as reasons for their predisposition. European women, of course, prefer their men with dong-snuggies.

Anna Pulley is the author of The Lesbian Haiku Book (with Cats). Follow @annapulley on Twitter. 

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Environment
Food
Media
World