Reflect on Your Sexual Health and Behavior
While you are living in a foreign culture, you may find that attitudes towards sex and relationships differ from your own culture. Therefore, whether you are sexually active or not, it is important to reflect upon your own sexual health and behavior before departing for your summer abroad. While you are abroad, being conscious of the cultural differences and taking proactive safety steps will be of the utmost importance.
Before traveling abroad, be sure to protect your own health as well as others by visiting your doctor, scheduling a sexual health check-up, and filling necessary contraceptive prescriptions.
In general, Scandinavians have a more liberal attitude toward sex than many cultures (including the U.S.), where sex is thought of as taboo. Sex is discussed openly and sex education is a part of the school curriculum. Sexual exploration is simply seen as part of growing up and finding one’s way to adulthood, and might not hold the same connotations as it would in other cultures.
Scandinavian teenagers commonly have their boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over with the approval of their parents. In adulthood, it is common for romantic couples to live together, and have children, without being married. Marriage, partnerships, and adoptions are legal for same-sex couples and well accepted.
The concept of consent may also be different. In the U.S., college students learn that consent means a very clear, enthusiastic ‘yes.’ In Scandinavia, consent may be commonly implied when you agree to go home with someone and engage in an act of a sexual nature. While you can, of course, say no at any point in a sexual encounter, most young Scandinavians would find it odd to go home with someone they just met at a bar who doesn’t intend to have sex.
In Sweden, the law requires that sexual activity be the result of the free will of each participant.
DIS recommends that students utilize a few simple safety measures while in Stockholm, Copenhagen, on study tour, and while on personal travel in Europe. These tips are provided for proactive purposes only, and it is DIS policy that the victim/survivor never be blamed for their choices or actions surrounding sexual violence. No matter the circumstance, perpetrators are to blame for sexual violence and it is never the victim/survivor’s fault.
- Have an open and direct discussion about your intentions and limits
- If you are not sure what the other person wants, you must ask. Don’t guess and risk harming the other person or committing a crime.
- Review the tips for staying safe in Scandinavia
- Don’t go out alone. Pairs or small groups can watch out for one another
- Monitor your consumption of alcohol and don’t drink so much that your judgment is compromised
- Before going out, know how you will get home
- Travel home with your friends when possible, and don’t leave a friend behind
- Watch your drink and do not accept a drink from a stranger. If someone wants to buy you a drink, take it directly from the bartender
- If you see a friend in a compromising situation, help them if you can do so safely, or ask for assistance from a bartender or the police. Learn more about bystander intervention in this video
Sexual Health and Contraception Resources
Though DIS recommends that you travel with your contraception from home, if you need to discuss a contraception option, find out how to set up an appointment with a doctor here.
All DIS students have access to free condoms at the DIS Copenhagen or Stockholm Front Desk. Additionally, condoms are sold at all convenience and grocery stores. The ‘Morning After Pill’ and pregnancy tests are available at pharmacies. These items are frequently behind the counter, but do not be embarrassed to ask for them!
Scandinavians generally have a relaxed view regarding Sexually Transited Infections (STIs) and Diseases (STDs). They are seen as treatable conditions, and are generally not seen as shameful.
To get tested and explore treatment options in Stockholm:
- Clinic for Sexual Health & Contraception
- The Gay Men’s Health Clinic
- For HIV testing, find resources here
To get tested and explore treatment options in Copenhagen:
- Schedule an appointment with a doctor
Visit one of the following clinics:
- Sex og Samfund
- Aids Fondet
- The Clinic for Sexually Transmitted Infections at Bispebjerg Hospital
- Gentofte Clinic for STDs
DIS takes the issue of sexual misconduct very seriously. Sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault, and relationship violence are not tolerated and are a violation of the DIS Code of Student Responsibility. Students violating local laws will face the local consequences and neither DIS nor the U.S. Embassy can interfere with legal proceedings or obtain release from jail. DIS will report any incidents of sexual misconduct to the student’s home school that will handle the report per their own policies under Title IX and other relevant laws.