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Are Brits really as liberated about sex as the Scandinavians? Top sexpert ASA BAAV reveals how open-minded her fellow Swedes really are compared to the ‘still buttoned-up British’

  • In the beginning, I didn’t always get the tone of the conversation quite right 
  •  I asked at one dinner party ‘How do you know exactly which sex toy is for you?’

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When I left Sweden and moved to London in my early 20s, I worked hard on fitting in and nurturing friendships with my new British girlfriends. Yet, in the beginning, I didn’t always get the tone of the conversation quite right.

At one dinner party, I casually mentioned I’d popped into the Ann Summers shop and browsed the sex toys at the back of the store, before blithely asking those gathered at the table: ‘How do you know exactly which sex toy is for you?’

The stunned silence made me realise that this wasn’t a discussion the average British woman ever has in company.

I’m fairly certain I’d have been met with similar gasps and clutching of pearls had I asked if they’d ever tried sensual massage. It’s the same when I talk about my love of tantric sex: British women — and men — swiftly close up like clam shells. But why shouldn’t we be having these conversations? I’m 36 and in the prime of my life. Unlike so many Britons, I don’t have any hang-ups about my body; it’s not perfect but I love it just the same.

For me, sex is something enjoyable, to be openly discussed, rather than something awkward or shameful that we struggle to talk about even with those closest to us.

When I left Sweden and moved to London in my early 20s, I worked hard on fitting in and nurturing friendships with my new British girlfriends. Yet, in the beginning, I didn¿t always get the tone of the conversation quite right

When I left Sweden and moved to London in my early 20s, I worked hard on fitting in and nurturing friendships with my new British girlfriends. Yet, in the beginning, I didn’t always get the tone of the conversation quite right

Unlike so many Britons, I don¿t have any hang-ups about my body; it¿s not perfect but I love it just the same

Unlike so many Britons, I don’t have any hang-ups about my body; it’s not perfect but I love it just the same

I credit this to the fact I grew up in Sweden, with its long-standing liberal attitude towards sex and nudity.

Thanks to my upbringing, I have no problem telling a partner exactly what I need in the bedroom, being naked with others in a sauna or enjoying the beach in the nude. There’s nothing more delicious and empowering than feeling the sun on every inch of your naked body; I even practice ‘yoni sunbathing’, an ancient Taoist practice which involves exposing your genitals to the sun for a minute. Can British women honestly say they feel as liberated?

According to the World Values Survey, a global research project released this week, Britons are apparently now as broad-minded as us Scandinavians when it comes to our love lives, with 42 per cent of you believing that casual sex is acceptable, compared with 39 per cent in Sweden and 33 per cent in Norway.

Well, having lived in the UK for 15 years, I can tell you that I don’t believe for a second that Britons are more relaxed about sex.

And it’s such a shame. It’s why I now work to help British women to become as sexually open as us Scandinavians, even stepping away from my City career to do so.

As a dating, relationship and intimacy coach, I wish I could bottle the sexual confidence we Swedish women possess and hand it out. Because sex doesn’t just give me pleasure in the bedroom, it improves every area of my life.

So why are Swedes so at ease with their body and open-minded about sex in comparison to the still buttoned-up British?

For starters, nudity isn’t sexualised in Sweden and that’s a result of how ingrained saunas and nudist beaches are in our culture.

From childhood, I learned to love my body — and the bodies of others — in these environments.

When everyone feels comfortable about showing their body, you soon understand that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes — and that’s absolutely normal. You learn that all bodies are equally deserving of love and respect.

I credit this to the fact I grew up in Sweden, with its long-standing liberal attitude towards sex and nudity

I credit this to the fact I grew up in Sweden, with its long-standing liberal attitude towards sex and nudity

From toddlerhood, Swedes learn that the appropriate response to seeing people naked is not ‘What were they thinking?’ but ‘Who cares?’. The message, as with all things sex-related, is to do what makes us happy, rather than worrying about what anyone else thinks.

No wonder I grew up never thinking of my naked body as a big deal.

I played football throughout my childhood and, after a game, we’d strip off and all jump into the shower together. One of my friend’s mothers was constantly naked around the house as she grew up and she passed on to her daughter an incredibly healthy relationship with her own body.

The same can’t be said of Brits. Instead, the attitude here seems to be avoid being seen naked unless absolutely necessary. Anyone who is happy to go nude on the beach or in the sauna is regarded as being a bit ‘different’. Nudity seems to fill you with alarm, and a trip to a sauna with British friends involves all sorts of complicated towel placements.

Some of my clients can’t even look at themselves nude in front of a mirror. The very idea fills them with horror, which is such a shame.

Not that Brits are the only nationality guilty of this. A friend told me that when she was at a summer camp in the U.S., she stripped off to shower after sports practise with her peers. The fuss it caused! The American girls, apparently, just didn’t do that in front of one another.

Similarly, in Sweden an open and positive attitude towards sex is practised at home from an early age, and then at school.

Sex education has been mandatory since the 1950s. At school, I learned about sexual health, sexual safety and how not to get pregnant — without any associated moral judgments.

Sex wasn’t presented to us as something to be avoided, alarmed at or hidden, but something to be responsibly enjoyed by all participants.

So why are Swedes so at ease with their body and open-minded about sex in comparison to the still buttoned-up British?

So why are Swedes so at ease with their body and open-minded about sex in comparison to the still buttoned-up British?

I entered into my first relationship at 15, the legal age of consent in Sweden. Dad had the conversation with me about sexual safety and using protection. It was then my mum who practically and unselfconsciously talked me through my options for contraception. Thanks to her advice, I went for the Pill.

Conducted at the kitchen table, there was nothing secretive or shameful about these conversations. She spoke to me using straightforward scientific terms rather than confusing and vague metaphors, as so many Brits do.

I didn’t feel embarrassed and neither did my parents. Rather, I felt safe and protected.

I’d stay over at my boyfriend’s house and our parents were in contact with one another, too.

As a teen couple, we had open and honest conversations about sex; neither of us was ashamed to say what we were — and importantly weren’t — happy with; and what would make me feel good was just as important as what would satisfy my boyfriend. It means I’m confident that my first experiences of sex — we were together for three years — were the best I could have hoped for.

Sadly, I know that many British women cannot say the same of their first sexual experiences. Embarrassed to talk about their own needs — and most likely completely unaware of how sex could be pleasurable for them, given most British parents’ reticence to discuss the specifics —many I have spoken to say their first times were, at best, awkward and uncomfortable and, at worst, painful and frightening.

Unsure what constituted a normal and healthy sexual relationship, they followed the lead of their male partner, whose own views are likely to be informed by pornography, rather than a loving and supportive parent or good sex education at school.

While you may feel something close to mortification at the prospect of discussing the ‘birds and the bees’ with your children — having been unable to discuss it with your own parents — ask yourself this: would you rather your children’s only source of sexual information was social media, their friends or the disrespectful and often violent world of porn?

As for my partner and I, it goes without saying that sex is an important part of our relationship. We¿re both entrepreneurs and occupied with our businesses, but we make a conscious effort to be together

As for my partner and I, it goes without saying that sex is an important part of our relationship. We’re both entrepreneurs and occupied with our businesses, but we make a conscious effort to be together

Or that the first naked body they saw other than their own was an enhanced and artificial one that only served to make them uncomfortable in their own skin?

My sister speaks to her teenage children about sex — and that includes pornography and masturbation — the same way that our parents did to us. Only by having honest conversations from an early age can we instil the importance of boundaries, respect and feeling comfortable in a sexual situation.

The lack of conversation in Britain means the general perception among British women is that good sex is something that just happens; that ‘if he loved me, he’d automatically know what I want’ — even if they’ve never spelled out what they want.

They also assume that to be ‘good’ at sex themselves, they need to look, act and sound a certain way.

A Swedish woman will always talk about what she wants, and won’t be afraid to say when things aren’t going well. She won’t just wait for her man to initiate sex, either. We’re big on equality in Swedish society and, when it comes to wanting and asking for sex, in my experience it’s evenly split.

You can’t assume to know what someone else likes in the bedroom and the fact that neither nudity nor frank conversations are an issue for us Swedes means that we can relax in a partner’s company, being more present and focusing on enjoying the pleasure we are both giving and receiving, rather than ruining the moment by constantly worrying about perceived imperfections.

This means that most sexual relationships are happy — and lasting. While many young Brits seem to assume that their elders are no longer sexually active, in Sweden, sex is still a massively important part of life in our retirement years.

One Swedish woman in her late 50s recently told me that sex just keeps getting better and better for her. And that’s as it should be.

You might think that Swedes’ liberated attitude towards sex means we’re all sleeping with multiple partners. But as a society we’re quite relationship-focused, because we know sex isn’t just the reserve of dating and one night stands, to be treated lightly, but is a key part of a partnership and marriage.

As for my partner and I, it goes without saying that sex is an important part of our relationship. We’re both entrepreneurs and occupied with our businesses, but we make a conscious effort to be together. We’ll schedule time to have sex, but it’s about the emotional connection, too. It’s important we both feel safe in a relationship and that we’re heard when it comes to our sexual desires.

So, to any Brits who feel uncomfortable or unhappy about sex I’d say this: Be a bit more like us Scandis, get to know your body, embrace nudity and recognise that sex isn’t a topic you should shy away from at the dinner table. Rather, it’s an act of love and pleasure which we should all feel happy discussing.

  • See asabaav.com. As told to Samantha Brick

HOW TO BE MORE SCANDI ABOUT SEX 

1. Educate yourself about sex. There are apps, books, podcasts such as Turned On, Tuned In and workshops. On Instagram, women can look to my account @coachwithasa, while men can try @theauthenticman_.

2. Get to know your own body and explore what you like.

3. RecognisING that sex is never just about the actual act can change your life.

4. USE direct communication with your partner. Think about how you can effectively ask for what you want. If you’re asked to try something different, don’t see it as a criticism — see it as an opportunity to grow sexually together.

5. Spend time in nature. When we’re outside we also get out of our own head, and so become more in tune with our bodies.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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