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Nordic Prudishness (the s.c.nordic FAQ)
nordic flags
The home pages for the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nordic
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Nordic Prudishness

 



Subject: 2.7 

Sex, drugs and censorship

Usenet being what it is, dominated by Americans, makes some issues more confusing than others. How come the Nordic societies are so liberal on pornography and promoting indecent lifestyles (also known as homosexuality) but so repressive against prostitution, smokers (of usual cigarettes as well as joints) and other drug users? Isn't it a contradiction that films get censored due to "excessive violence" in the countries which all over the world are notorious for their free sex and as the base for Nazi propaganda? What a strange mixture of liberalism and intolerant censure!


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Scandinavian drinking habits havn't changed much

 

2.7.1 Sex in the Nordic cultures

Section 2.7.1 is unwritten.

Please write and ask in the newsgroup if there are any particular questions you would like answered!

 

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2.7.2 Domestic partnership (Same-sex "marriages")

In all Scandinavian countries (i.e. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and also Iceland, but not Finland or the Faroe Islands) same-sex marriages, officially called "Registered Partnerships", are recognized by the law - with more or less the same rights and duties as in bi-gender marriages. In Sweden two very well-known female performing artists, Eva Dahlgren and Efva Attling, married publicly the spring 1996 with much fanfare.

Denmark, Norway, Greenland, Sweden and Iceland have (in that order) made the cohabition between people of the same sex possible to get officially registered, which in most non-religious respects makes the status of the relationship equal to that of a married couple. As late as June 27th 1996 the law took effect on Iceland.

Finland has not yet joined the other Nordic states, but is rapidly and under unusual parliamentarian means catching up. Being last will probably also mean that they will end up with the most radical laws.

The laws are very short - what they do is state that gay couples who register are entitled to all of the benefits (and responsibilities) of their country's respective marriage laws. They do this by simply referring the Registered Partnership Acts to the respective sections of the country's Marriage Act that applies.

The ceremony is performed much like a civil wedding ceremony. The Church does not perform such ceremonies, but some priests have chosen to bless partners in connection with the ceremony. The registration of a partnership makes no big practical change compared to living together without it, however for instance rules regarding inheritance are affected. The meaning is most of all emotional, as an act making the relationship "officially" acknowledged.

The laws requires at least one of the partners to be a citizen in the actual country.

Until recent years homosexuals in all Nordic countries have been in a situation where their partners have not been recognized by the official society at all, for instance often have not been properly informed in case of accidents and hospitalizations, and with severe problems to keep the lease of a shared flat in case of a divorce or a death. During the 1970s this started to change, and gay couples became equal to unmarried couples without children at the same time as most social benefits became depending on cohabition instead of marriage. And 1989 Denmark was first out with a specific law regulating the rights and duties of gay couples who live in recognized partnerships, i.e. common law marriages.

Due to the Swedish Registered Partnership Act women who have entered into partnerships have also been granted social benefits in connection with a birth equal to if the other woman had been the married father of the child. It is likely that this implementation will be normal in the future.

Still the authorities in Finland treat cohabiting same sex couples as single persons and not like unmarried heterosexual couples (common law marriage) which leads to an increased financial burden. This has implications to taxation, health insurance, and so on and on...

In none of the Nordic states does the law permit the adoption of children by gay or lesbian couples, nor does it give the right to artificial insemination. Insemination is in Sweden illegal outside of the public health care system and the requirements make it impossible for lesbians without an infertile male husband to get inseminated. In Denmark insemination for lesbians is not illegal, however not financed through the health-care insurances.

There has been some discussion about these laws, involving both requests for more radical steps and urging of Conservatism. Many homosexuals would probably agree that the partnership laws are the best possible result of pragmatic compromises by gay-rights activists and the straight [heterosexual] politicians who supported the law. It's a typical example of Scandinavian step-by-step reforms. And it will be improved further.

The Icelandic law is similar to those passed in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, but it also gives gay couples joint custody of the children of either partner. Both partners then become the childrens' guardians and should the natural parent die, the other partner - the childrens' step parent - automatically becomes their sole guardian. Nowhere have gay couples had such rights up to now. In addition to this the Alþingi (the Parliament of Iceland) is scheduled to change several provisions in the criminal law, making it a punishable offense to defame or persecute gays and lesbians in public. In addition, the law only permits gay and lesbian couples to confirm their partnership in a civil ceremony; this in light of the Church of Iceland's firm opposition to church marriages of gay and lesbian couples. The new law enjoys the support of all political parties represented in parliament and only one member voted against the bill.

Top politicians have in some cases chosen to be quite open regarding their own experiences and feelings of homosexual nature, as for instance Andreas Carlgren, the vice chairman of the Center party in Sweden; and in other cases chosen to regard these matters as strictly personal which well might be acknowledged in an interview or two, but which are not allowed to become a part of their image, as for instance the Norwegian minister of Justice, Anne Holt, and the Danish minister of Health, Yvonne Herlov Andersen. In the Nordic countries it's customary to respect the individual's choice in these cases.

 

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2.7.3 Pornography

[ Lennart Regebro writes: ]
Norway and Iceland don't allow pornography, but through the years the definition of what is pornography has got more liberal.

Sweden has one of the world's best protections for Freedom of Speech, which made it hard to outlaw pornography. Thus, Sweden got its reputation of being the land of free sex, because in Sweden you could actually make porn magazines.

Some time during the sixties, Denmark removed its laws prohibiting pornography, and became a mecca for Nordic porn. It still is in many senses. For example, the view on "unusual" sex seems much more relaxed in Denmark. Sado-Masochism seems pretty accepted, for example,while it in Sweden seems to be taboo. There is even a law against distrubuting "violence-sex", something that seems to be aimed against sado-masochistic pornography.

Sweden (just like Denmark) doesn't allow distribution of child-pornography. Although you legally can own it, the police can take it, if it is evidence for child-misuse. Owning it is not an offense, although the law in Sweden is proposed to change on that point.

[ someone else: ]
Finland has its own major contribution to the porn industry in the famous (and newly deceased) artist Touko Laaksonen (alias: Tom of Finland), who from the 1940s and forward published a lot of often overt erotic drawings of Nordic males as forest workers, bikers, firemen and policemen with pretty faces, huge dicks, and a shameless amount of appetite for each other.

 

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2.7.4 Censorship in the Nordic countries

[ Gunnar Medin writes: ]
Denmark is an easy case. There is no censorship at all. Not for adults anyway. A film can be prohibited for viewing in a movie theater by children below 12 or 16, but no censor decide what adult people can see. (But some kind of pictures are unlawful to show, i.e. child pornography.) This does not mean that charges cannot subsequently be brought against publishers of the material for breaking of laws like racist allegations, libel slander or perhaps copyright issues. But the main thing is that there is never any preemptive censorship.

Another thing is what the audience like! American films seem sometimes to get distributed in two versions. One cut for Northern Europe with more sex and less violence, and one for US with less nakedness but more violence. US films with relatively explicit sex scenes, e.g. Basic Instinct, are often made in one version for Europe and one shorter ("censored") version for the USA. The only reason I have heard of for censoring films in Sweden in modern times is violence.

[ someone else: ]
In Sweden, the same laws apply to what you can and what you can not show on movies and video. The difference is, that movies are checked for violations before being shown, while videos are only checked if there is a complaint.

This means that a movie distributor /theater can never be convicted for what they show in movies since the censoring system absolves them from responsibility. In contrast, video distributors can be convicted for selling and renting videos with prohibited content.

The same rule also holds for printed matter in Sweden. Books which are libelous, infringes copyrights, prints military secrets and so on, can never be censored before publication.

The problem with doing this for movie theaters is that it takes so long time to get a conviction, so that the movie would have stopped showing anyway. In effect, it would "remove" the censoring, unless you would get long jail sentence. That would in turn lead to the much worse "self-censoring" system that exists in the US.

[ Otto-Ville Ronkainen: ]
In Finland, all films are subject to a preview by the State Film Approval Office, which can approve the film for all audiences or for audiences above a certain age. The highest age limit is K-18. If a film can't be shown as K-18 as such, it must be cut or it can't be shown. Nowadays the standards on sex are more lenient than in the US. Movies that are R-rated in the US can be K-12 or K-10 here.

For video films, the Finnish system requires the limit to be K-16 or less, so K-18 films have to be cut to be released on video. However, such restrictions don't exist on import for own use, so the real enthusiasts can get their films uncut from England or Denmark, for instance.

[ Kari Yli-Kuha: ]
Currently, the Finnish censorship is about to be abolished, since with the current information technology it's practically impossible to prevent people from seeing whatever they want. It's not so important what the adults see or do not see, but removing censorship, the main purpose of which has been to guard children from the most hard-core violence, emphasizes the role of parents.

 

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2.7.5 Drugs in the Nordic countries

This is a controversial theme, which maybe can be illustrated by the following quotes from the news group:

[ Stein J. Rypern writes: ]

At least Norwegian culture is pretty clear on this - drugs are out.

Alcohol and nicotine are allowed, but with some restrictions:

Norway is culturally a part of the "vodka belt", where occasional drinking yourself into a stupor at parties is socially acceptable, but not really done all that much by people who are above the age of 20.

There is a fairly strong taboo against drinking and driving. It still happens, of course - but most people have the sense to park the car and take a cab home or arrange for one person to stay sober and drive the others home when they have been drinking.

What has all this got to do with drugs? Not a lot, I guess :-) 

Drugs just aren't socially acceptable. Might be part of the puritanical heritage of Norwegians; might be common sense - we know how to deal with drinking (we drink, get drunk, fall down, no problem :-), but not with using drugs. Several decades of good propaganda work by the health authorities have also firmly fixed the idea that "smoking marihuana leads to the use of heavier drugs" in our minds. It may or may not be true - I don't much care either way - I see no need for people to use drugs when we have the time-honored way of getting blasted - alcohol. :-)nbsp;

I guess people also see using drugs as something done by junkies and prostitutes and people who are down and out. There are no role models who advocate the use of drugs.

I accept my neighbor's right to meddle in my decisions when what I do affect him. When I expect him to pay my medical bills (through taxes) if I need surgery or when I drive my car down the street where his kids go to school after drinking or using drugs. In those cases it is not just my personal choice, it is also my neighbors problem. Most Norwegians seem to be somewhat more inclined toward the common good than individual freedom.

The "relaxed" attitudes of the Scandinavian countries are mostly an US myth, I suspect. Just because we don't have all your hang-ups about sex and don't pay lip service to "godliness" doesn't mean that anything goes over here :-)

Coffee, loud music, fat food, skiing slopes too steep for you - all these things might cause some kind of damage to your health. It is neither desirable nor practical to try to ban everything that "is bad for you". I am willing to accept some risks.
After all - life is dangerous - must be close to a 100% fatality rate, eh?
;-)

Keeping drugs banned is practical politics as long as the number of drug (ab)users is fairly limited. Politics is doing what we believe is right, within the confines of what is possible in the real world.

I don't think you can cure most drug addicts from their addiction. I would prefer to spend whatever resources we can afford to spend on preventing or actively hindering people from being recruited into drug addiction. Based on the principle "one stitch in time saves nine". Prevention tend to be less expensive both in terms of money and human suffering than trying to cure an existing condition. I don't know what is the cheapest alternative. I believe that it is that as few people as possible use drugs. I also believe that making drugs illegal, hard to get and as expensive as possible will make fewer people start doing drugs. I draw my line between smoking /drinking on one side and doing drugs on the other side. For practical reasons - it is a line I believe can be enforced.

[ Mikko Hakala <hakala@cermav.grenet.fr> writes: ]
The situation also varies from country to country. Denmark is most tolerable, and in contrast, Sweden's attitude towards drugs has become something close to paranoia, planning to criminalize even prostitution. I feel that since Palme's murder Sweden hasn't been the country it used to be. As if the nation had lost her faith in tomorrow.

Norway and Finland are somewhere between. Probably more close to Sweden than Denmark. Most Scandinavians don't come personally in touch with drugs. They see drugs only in (American) movies. Therefore the Nordic sense of reality hasn't become part of their drug-policy.

If one is caught in Finland with, say, with 2 grams of hash, there won't be any prosecution. BUT the considering, which takes one minute for a policeman in the streets of Helsinki, may take several days for a rural police chief in Kajaani. - Meanwhile the "criminal" stays in custody!

[ From: Anders Nordseth <anders.nordseth@sn.no> ]
In Copenhagen, Denmark, they also sell cannabis in the open, in the so-called Pusher Street in Christiania. There they have sale-stands where they sell hashish, and the police bothers only once in a while.

I would agree that Norway and Finland are closer to Sweden than Denmark. For smuggling cannabis products in larger amounts you might in Norway risk 21 years in prison, which is the highest sentences one can get in Norway (the same as homicide).

Recently, a person from Denmark was caught smuggling 30 kg of hashish from Denmark to Norway. He escaped from Norway and went back to Denmark. The Norwegian authorities wanted to seek extradition for him, but the Danish authorities didn't look at the crime as serious enough, so they didn't extradite him. He is a free man in Denmark, in Norway he would have been a "very dangerous criminal".

Possessing smaller amounts of cannabis, is not that serious. In the bigger cities (like Oslo) you would usually get a fine, in smaller places in Norway you might risk some days in prison.

The crimes involved with drugs are caused by drug addicts who need money to finance their use of drugs. If it wasn't prohibited, the price would not have been as high, and they wouldn't have to resort to theft, prostitution or robbery to finance their drug use.

Use of alcohol leads to violent behavior more often than the use of drugs. A stoned person is quite harmless. I've been driving cab in Oslo for several years on weekend nights while studying. Drug addicts or stoned people have never caused me any problems, drunk people have very often caused me problems.

It's a dilemma, what problems should we choose? My opinion is that it would be a more fair distribution of the problems if we legalize drugs. Today a lot of innocent people suffer for the criminal acts done by drug-addicts hunting for money. By legalizing drugs, more people will probably have personal problems, but less innocent people will have problems caused by drug-use. And remember, everyone has that choice to "Just say no". It might be a cynical view, but freedom has its costs.

[ From: Nils Ek <armn033@cmc.doe.ca> ]
The serious health risks imposed by cannabis, cocaine, heroin, etc. have been well established (at least to the satisfaction of most educated people) by responsible medical groups. In Scandinavia, those who abuse their bodies with alcohol and/or drugs are entitled to publicly-funded health-care. So perhaps it's no wonder that the governments decide they'd rather not put up with the medical as well as social costs of de-criminalized intoxicant drugs. Of course these arguments and conclusions have been vehemently denied by the addicts (or counter-culture drug proponents, if you will).

Rather than tolerance, the issue may be one of: whom do you believe? The Nordics probably have more respect for their medical community than elsewhere, e.g. compared to U.S. where it's perceived as "big-business". Meanwhile the counter-culture types typically believe they have tapped into some ancient secrets of the orient. However, I believe that for many people, this has to be a turn-off because of the use in oriental "natural" medicine of bears' gall-bladders, tiger penises, and rhino horns. Perhaps this is why pro-drug arguments of (American) counter-culture seem to have less of a foothold there.



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- Is the text above really reliable?
- See the discussion in section 1.2.2!
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