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Culture Shock: Sex Around the Globe

Despite a person’s cultural background, there are some aspects that transcend a nation’s borders: religion, politics, survival and sex.

Each culture has its own way of dealing with sex in the media and no two nations have the same view of sex.

“Sex is vulnerable,” said Emily Alcott, a 19-year-old psychology major and an American student. She feels that the American society is open to talking about sex.

Jungmin Lee, a 21-year-old English literature major and exchange student from Seoul, Korea, said that Korean culture is more conservative than American culture and doesn’t openly talk about sex. The Korean culture views sex more as a personal issue.

This difference in culture regarding sex is a culture shock that exchange students experience when they come to America to study. In Lee’s culture, sex is a private matter, even kept out of the  media.

“When I watch “Friends,’ the sitcom, they talk about sex openly, Lee said. “They have lines like ‘No, I won’t have sex with you!’ But in Korea, there are no lines like that, especially when [the show is] not R-rated.” She said that she would not feel comfortable watching sex scenes in Korean TV shows, but sees similar scenes in American shows, such as a hook-up scene between Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson from “Glee,” as normal.

Alcott said that she does feel pressure in the American media towards sex. “People think we need to be more sexy [than we are],” she said. “We shouldn’t need to put as much effort into it.”

The pressure from the entertainment media is the same to Lee as it is to Alcott. “I think movies and songs have a key role in that pressure,” Lee said. “In movies, sleeping with guys is portrayed like nothing.”

However, the idea that having sex is not important does not transcend into reality, according to Lee.

“Men talk about, like, having sex with girls proudly … I don’t think women feel free to talk about that issue because they are afraid of being judged by others,” Lee said.

Commenting on the fact that there are words in English for women who are promiscuous, Cameron Meiklejohn, a 29-year-old sociology major from the University of Queensland in Australia, said “why is there not a discussion or a term used” for men who are promiscuous.

However,
Angelo Cardullo, a 19-year-old environmental studies major and an American student like Alcott, sees that the American media is more focused on censoring sex than in other cultures.

“In Europe, toplessness is normal and more accepted,” Cardullo said about his time spent studying abroad in Italy. “In America, that’s taboo.”

These cultural differences can be seen outside of the media in the way people interact with each other.

Meiklejohn commented on the difference of “going out” in America compared to Australia.

“Seems like much more of a game,” Meiklejohn said. He sees a “much greater level of competitiveness between the guys in terms of scoring the girls which [he doesn’t] really see with [his] friends as the driving force behind hooking up, as [Americans] call it.”

Lee said she was shocked when she went to an American party and saw people who had just met each other making out. Lee says that hooking up is more personal in Korea and would not happen often at parties.

According to Meiklejohn, in Australia, people “go out to have a good time,” not to see who they can take home.

In simple mannerisms throughout different cultures alone, one can see the culture’s attitude towards sex. Though it is uncommon in America for friends to greet each other intimately, it is a common thing in European cultures for friends to greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks; This is widely accepted as a friendly greeting in these cultures.

While Meiklejohn spent some time living in Cairo, Egypt, he noticed that men would walk the streets linked arm in arm “like you would with your boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that would never happen in Australia,’” Meiklejohn said. “That level of ‘This is my best friend, and I’m willing to display that in such an open way.’ Anything beyond shaking your friend’s hand in Australia is considered going too far … you don’t hug your friend, that’s blurring the line of sexuality.”

In Korea, it’s not the men who walk around affectionately, it’s the women.

“Women just hold hands as friends,” Lee said. “[It is] one way to interact with each other.”

If she saw two women holding hands in America, she wouldn’t automatically assume that the women were just friends, as she would in Korea.

But, no matter what each person’s definition and opinion of sex is, on Valentine’s Day, love is in the air. Or, at least, in every store’s window display.

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