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Sex differences in cultures

The other day, I wrote a post showing a more “private” side of my personality. A side that my husband sees and really no one else. We love to tease, flirt and play with words all the time. It’s great fun. Plus, it keeps the sparks alive.

Don’t worry I’m not going to go porno here (boy, I should get some interesting hits from that one). If you were offended or felt uncomfortable, I’m sorry. It won’t be something I will be doing again. There was a purpose in what I was doing for this one time only.

So, why did I publish the post?

Well, because sometimes it’s good to think about mothers as women, too. Women with sexual wants, needs and desires. A mother can be sexy even with chocolate all over the front of her blouse. A mother can be a sexual tigress in bed. A mother can be a wanton slut with her lover. A mother can be sensual and sexual while still being a great mom. Right? Another thing is, I am very open. I think it’s ok to talk about sex but sometimes people are ashamed.

I don’t think I wrote anything offensive. However, some of you may have thought that I was going a bit too far. I know the second story was a little risqué because talking about masterbation or oral sex is a huge “no-no” in American society. So, I am sorry if you thought I went too far with it.

Living in France with small children is a little like that for me. I feel that the French go a little too far in regard to the sexual images and play with words I see on tv or right on the street walking with my kids. Because of my children, I get upset at least once a week because of something I see or hear.

I, personally, am very open to talking about sex with most people. I wouldn’t mind all the sex on tv or the street if I didn’t have kids. Actually, I’d enjoy it. I’m human after all.

Over the past two years I have gotten used to “sexy France”. However, there are days (like yesterday) when I am stopped in my tracks. (See photos here – warning- these pics are considered porn in the States. So, look if you are comfortable with that. Otherwise, just continue reading :)) These ads for porn magazines were hanging right outside our local tabac in plain site of my children.
Americans and French don’t have the same views on what is ok and what is over the top. I will be the first to admit that in the States (at least Ohio) it’s too restrained. I have seen plastic boards put over the cover of magazines hiding “sex” from virgin eyes. Of course, I had to see what was so risqué and lifted the plastic board right up. I couldn’t help but to laugh at the image that was considered too harmful for some to see. I hardly think a picture of a women wearing a slinky, sexy dress is going to drive American youth into a sexual hystera or cause any trauma. However, the plastic boards were there each time I went through the check out lane at the local grocery.

Another thing that is different. In America, talking about sex and making sexual jokes is not uncommon. My co-workers and I would sometimes throw out a good joke or line about sex. I didn’t feel uncomfortable about it. I’m pretty open to talking about sex and not too much will surprise me. It’s when my kids are around that I am not comfortable. The only time I was a little uncomfortable was about seven years ago.

I was uneasy as I sat in on an interesting conversation with a bunch of Kindergarten teachers at a school I was student teaching at. The conversation was about men who were circumcised and men who weren’t. They talked about whether or not they had slept with a circumcised man and how gross it was. There was only one teacher that had slept with an uncircumcised man. Hey, I didn’t fess up…I’m open, but not that open! Besides they were my mentors not my co-workers, that makes it different.

The other teachers grilled the woman as to what it was like. She, of course, said she didn’t like it. If she had said otherwise the others would have thought her weird. I could see it on their faces. It was just too strange for their little brains to even think of having sex with a man just like God made him, perfect. They were like, “It’s dirty…yuck, and so on. It was too silly of a conversation for me.

However, I am sure I was blushing as I listened to such a detailed (and, it was!) conversation with women I didn’t know too well. Not to mention the fact that we were all sitting in little Kindergarten chairs the middle of a room filled with crayons and childrens books during what was suppose to be team planning.

So, I would say that (from what I have seen in France) Americans are more open to the talking about sex where as French don’t do that with people that are not very close to them. However, what do I really know?!? French could talk all hot and steamy at work and I wouldn’t know because I am home with babies all day.

Yes, I am home all day watching hot and steamy sex on tv or seeing it in the streets while walking to the park. Hmmm…now, that I think of it maybe that is why I like it here so much. Just kidding?

Another thing that surprised me is the flirting and sexual play on tv. It seems on tv the French aren’t worried about making bold sexual remarks. I hear on tv quick one liners not unlike my post the other day on tv during the time that children could be viewing. It’s said in a way that very young children don’t understand.

On A prendre or au laisser I watched the game show host look directly up a woman’s skirt. He was really looking and he took his sweet time. Keep in mind this isn’t cable and it’s a show that’s on at 7 pm during the week nights. Oh, and it gets better late at night! However, my kids are snoozing so I can enjoy all the late night sexual humour without worry.

My conclusion to all this is most societies have a form of sexual culture (I’m just making up my own term here) that they are comfortable with. It’s really not fair to try and compare or say who is right or wrong. The majority of us (whether growing up in France or America) grow up into normal adults living out normal lives.

Since I live in France, it’s me that has to change the way I think. Over time I have found I don’t worry too much about it. Angel Girl doesn’t even notice the sexy commercials or she will just laugh at them. She’s the one that has to adjust yearly from one culture to another. It’s always interesting to hear her take on it all. She tells me when she is in France she thinks like a French and in America, she thinks like an American. Smart kid, huh.

Her first summer in France she adjusted quickly to the French way of thinking. The first time we went to the beach she showed she wasn’t afraid to “be French”. Kids are much more open than adults. Let me explain…

On a French beach, it’s not uncommon to see women with no tops on bathing in the sun. My husband doesn’t want me to take my top off and he’s French. So, I think everyone (even in France) has their own comfort level with the whole going topless issue. The difference is that no one has an issue if someone else wants to go topless.

While most of the women and all the teens kept their tops on, Angel Girl was one of the few girls to have hers on. She asked me if she could take it off and I told her to do what she wanted. So, she did and it was fine. She ran around the beach topless at eight years old. You couldn’t tell her apart from the little boys other than her long dark hair laying in moist curls all around her happy face.

When I told my mother about it, she was extremely upset. She thought it was unappropriate for any little girl over two to go around without a top. Her comment to me was, “Why don’t you just let her go around bottomless, too. I don’t see the difference between her going around without a top as opposed to without a bottom?” Hmmm…I do see a difference, Mom. But, I couldn’t convince her of it. Now, that Angel Girl is getting older and her body is changing she will not be going topless. I’m not ok with that. So, my mother can rest easy.

The longer I live in France I am less and less uncomfortable with all the sexy tv and ads. French tv doesn’t surprise me too much anymore. So, I think we become less sensitive to it the more we see it. Maybe, being more open about sex is a good thing and not showing explicit sexual images where children can see them would be better, too. Or, maybe, it doesn’t really matter what we do. Because…

Each country has it’s own culture, a culture that includes how we think and react to sex. And, that’s ok.

For all of you living in America, here is a commercial that you may know but the version you see is clipped. To view Charlize Theron in a hot and sexy Dior commercial, click here.

So, was the commercial really so bad that the end should be clipped? You tell me.

Oh, I just have to add that my mother teased me about writing that post because of the reference to oral sex….this is the woman that regularly sends me, her daughter, dirty email with sex jokes and/or sizzling photos of nude people. So, I just had to tease her back. I could never see my husbands parents looking at such email let alone forwarding it to my husband. I told her it was her fault I am so open. And, that it’s a good thing.

It took my husband some time to get used to my families openness to talking about sex and cracking jokes considering he came from a family where he has never even seen his parents kissing.

Copyright © 2006 FROM MY FRENCH WINDOW. No photographs or content may be reproduced in any manner without express written permission given in advance.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Meredith May 29, 2006, 5:01 pm

    I don’t really “see” , after 15 years in france, all the explicit images, ads, etc on display, until I have male visitors from the USA and see their eyes bugging out at all the naked ladies visible on billboards, on TV, on the beach…
    The french I know seem to have a lot of fun with sexual joking about, but would never really talk about their own experiences with coworkers. That stays private.

  • Pumpkin May 29, 2006, 6:15 pm

    See, it’s a little different. But I am beginning to see that it’s ok. After two and a half years I am starting to see France through new eyes and not just “American” eyes. I think over time things that surprised me when I first came here and still sometimes do will not be such a big deal later. In the past two years, I have changed so much as a person. The first year was the hardest for me in France, but afterwards I slowly loosening up. I still am. I am seeing things differently.

    BTW, I saw a little boy peeing yesterday at the park because he really had to go and I really didn’t think much of it. So, even something that bothered me just recently doesn’t as much now. I think writing and talking about the cultural differences helps me see that it’s really not a big deal unless I make it one. It’s me that has to change…not France.

    Some days I wonder if even when I do get the French citizenship I will FEEL French and be seen as French. Then, I think about all the ways I already have become French inside. Then, I don’t worry about it as much. :)

  • bReal May 29, 2006, 6:22 pm

    I think that it is great you are discussing differences in culture, including sex. Sometimes the topic becomes so taboo that people don’t know how to engage it. You are opening yourself up completely to the culture around you and not expecting it to adjust to you. That is wonderful and your attitude surely impacts Angel Girl’s ability to do the same, along with your other children.

  • roland May 29, 2006, 8:16 pm

    Great post!
    it’ s a very personnal question! dependid on what your parents told you about sex. was it natural ,secret,mecanic or just driving you straight to hell. For sure it’s cultural and as a french I thing that a video clip of Madonna or “the cute sixteen in a short skirt -white socks-pushup bra-but I’m steel virgin” britney spear is much more a sexual assault than a women topless on the beach. I leave near St Tropez so since I am a kid I have seen thousand off breasts of all shape. It’s not the breasts which are sexual it’s the way they are naked.On french TV if a women is in the shower she is naked…and if she is alone or with her lover and have to cross the bedroom she stay naked as you do too. Nothing sexual in this case …If you don’t agree with that I have to warn you! Don’t come at Le Louvre there is hundred of naked bodys .
    I think that in America all the “interdits” are stronger than in French culture but sex is everywhere and in a much more perverse way.
    Cheerleader are sexual objects used to arouse .It’s sex show and no one find this amoral.
    May be you mother think it’s a shame to let a 8 years old little girl topless but by my side I think that put a bra on the body of a so young girl is close to be shoking. When you do that you put sexuality on steel nonsexual body. What do you hide? some thing that don’t exist.
    I don’t want to hurt anyone so excuse me if I didn’t choosed the right word at the right place…..c’est un sujet sensible et chaque mot compte!
    Bravo pour ton esprit si ouvert et curieux tu est un pont précieux entre nos deux cultures!
    Continu a nous parler de tes étonnements car cela nous ouvre les yeux.

  • Pauline May 30, 2006, 6:08 am

    I thought of you last night while watching the Tv. Around 20h00 there was an advert for Desperate Housewives. The red haired one says in front of a group of people something like: “Rex cries after he ejaculates” – My husband and I were sat there with Leon and of course Leon pipes up Papa what does that mean ? One of those moments when we both tried to stay serious and think of a good ‘child proof’ answer.

  • Pumpkin May 30, 2006, 8:52 am

    Kids and tv are so much fun :)

  • Paris Parfait May 30, 2006, 11:27 pm

    This is great! It’s absolutely true about the differences in perspective of Europeans (not just the French) and Americans about sexuality and body image. I have come to appreciate the European’s frankness in these matters. That being said, it still surprises me when I see women sunbathing topless in the Bois du Boulogne (across the street from my apartment). They’re so casual about it.

  • Pumpkin May 31, 2006, 3:50 am

    Roland, My husband has said similiar things about America and the way girls dress. He tells me that the girls are just kids and if I tell them to cover up then I am teaching them to be sexual…just like you said. I see where that can be true and when I was a girl I felt that way when my mother told me I couldn’t take my top off too and run in the water hose like the boys in the backyard. I was mad in plus ;) I didn’t want to get my shirt wet!

  • RaleighRob June 1, 2006, 4:38 pm

    I’m still cracking up laughing over the Circumcision Discussion amongst kindergarten teachers. They must have younger teachers these days….because I just cannot imagine the sweet old grey-haired lady that was my K teacher talking about that!! :-P

    It is also funny how Americans are sooo convinced that “cut” is normal and “uncut” is weird or icky. Step outside the US (or Israel, I suppose), and it’s completely the other way around!

  • Pumpkin June 1, 2006, 4:46 pm

    RaleighRob, I know! And, yes, these teachers were all in their late 20’s and early 30’s.

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