Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Nation Of Barebackers

It’s 4:30 in the morning at the 10-11 on Austurstræti, as a night of steady drinking, sweaty dancing and anonymous groping comes to an end. Couples slobber and dryhump through the aisles, clutching sandwiches and Coke to power-up for a night of sloppy fucking and awkward re-introductions in the morning. At the check-out line, the display rack of condoms and lubricants is practically untouched and ignored.

For the most part, Icelandic culture is more open and accepting of casual sexual activity than most places in the world. This cultural aspect has been popularised overseas to the point that the country’s leading airline managed to advertise ‘Dirty Weekend’ trips for years and Reykjavík is now a classic stag party destination for hooting British males. What the airline’s marketing campaign did not divulge to horny tourists was that ‘dirty’ should be taken quite literally and they might go home with more than they bargained for. The condom is not very popular in Iceland.


None of the young people I spoke with had any reasonable explanation for why there is such a pervasive aversion to slapping on a jimmy-hat and seemed apathetic to think of one. I turned to Sigurlaug Hauksdóttir for answers. Sigurlaug is a social worker at the Icelandic Directorate of Health and holds a Masters degree in parental sexual education. Her view is that condom use in the country is, indeed, insufficient, attributing it to several factors. “One reason is people here start to have sex very early, especially girls,” she told me. “European research has showed that Icelandic girls are the third youngest to start having sex, behind Greenland and Denmark. When kids start having sex very young, they are very vulnerable. It’s harder to assert themselves, say no and insist on using a condom.”

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