Going Dutch

The Dutch norm is for parents to allow teenagers’ boyfriends/girlfriends to sleep over in their bedrooms. This would be shocking to most Americans. But it’s part of a more general attitude toward sex that emphasises the importance of autonomy, consent, communication, and avoidance of unwanted consequences. The result is very low rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies, and a greater tendency for teen sex to take place within ongoing relationships rather than outside them. For more, see here and here.

6 thoughts on “Going Dutch

  1. I have often noticed that the Dutch attitude to sex, and the ease with which sex and sexual matters can be discussed here is confusing to non-Dutch who think that easy talking about sex means an “easy” attitude to casual sex and promiscuity. It’s nice that this article points out that on the contrary, according to the study, Dutch teenagers’ sexlife tends to be more monogamous than that of their american counterparts.

  2. My son has his girlfriend sleeping over and I’m pleased as punch: it’s gotten him to clean up his room. I got him a nice duvet cover from IKEA and he’s gotten out the dirty dishes and rotting food.

  3. I don’t think boyfriends/girlfriends sleeping over is a panacea for problems like teenage pregnancy since it is also the norm in England and we have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy (so I hear). Since my children reached the age of consent to sex I have not thought it proper to restrict them in their own home. Most other parents I know are the same.

  4. (Disclaimer: what follows is a rant based on my limited personal experience, it does not claim to be anything like solid scientific or philosophical argumentation.)
    As a Brazilian who has been living in the Netherlands for over 10 years, what strikes me about the Dutch approach to sexuality (if such a generalization is warranted at all) is that an apparent liberal attitude towards sex does not translate into a high level of eroticism. To the contrary, it is almost as if the liberal attitude had the effect of neutralizing the power and the importance of sex in people’s lives. It becomes just a prosaic thing that one does, not very different from going to the supermarket or doing the dishes. Perhaps this does make life considerably simpler, and indeed monogamous, long-term relationships seem to thrive in such an environment (speaking from personal experience). But… somehow something seems to be missing, a spark of passion, it all becomes so rationalized!
    Oh well, at least it seems to lead to very low rates of STD and teenage pregnancies (I will make sure to remind my husband of these figures when our daughters are old enough for such sleepovers!).

  5. When I lived in Russia I encountered something similar, though I’m not sure how wide-spread it was. It certainly wasn’t viewed as the sort of highly unusual situation that such arrangements would be in the US. Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to reduce pregnancy (though birth rates were low, due to abortion) or STDs much, as using condoms wasn’t that common. As for Catarina’s remark, I think I’d want to suggest that sex _just is_ another normal part of life, though hopefully a very pleasant one, and that making it exotic in any deep way is likely to have more bad than good effects. That doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting- I sometimes get excited about a really good meal, or a great bottle of wine, even though I eat every day and drink wine more regularly than I probably should- but it seems to me that the traditional exotic/eroticizing of sex is largely for the bad. (It also contributes to the dumb idea that our deepest selves are revealed in our sexual choices. I’m actually quite sure that more is learned about a person’s character, insofar as such a thing exists, by watching how he or she drives than his or her sexual choices, though I guess the connection between thinking sex is deeply special and thinking that it reveals our deepest nature isn’t necessary, even if it’s pretty common.)

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