Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 409–437

Swedish or American heterosexual college youth: Who is more permissive?

  • Martin S. Weinberg
  • Ilsa L. Lottes
  • Frances M. Shaver

DOI: 10.1007/BF01541856

Cite this article as:
Weinberg, M.S., Lottes, I.L. & Shaver, F.M. Arch Sex Behav (1995) 24: 409. doi:10.1007/BF01541856


Theories of human sexuality have proposed that two factors reduce the double standard of sexuality and lead to a convergence of male and female sexual behavior: the degree of social benefits and amount of power women have in basic societal institutions and the extent to which a society accepts permissive sexual norms. As these factors increase, the strength of the double standard will decrease and the convergence between male and female behaviors will increase. Compared to the United States, Sweden has instituted more policies to promote gender equality and has been thought to accept more permissive premarital sexual attitudes. The focus of the research reported here is to examine country and gender differences in sexual attitudes and sexual behavior for a sample of university students in the United States (N = 407) and Sweden (N = 570). Results indicate that Swedish students endorsed more similar sexual standards for women and men and reported more accepting attitudes than did American students. For sexual behavior, American men reported the most sexual experience, Swedish men the least, with the women of both countries generally in the middle category. Notwithstanding this more permissive behavior on the part of American men, gender convergence with respect to sexual behavior is stronger in Sweden on several of the dimensions examined: age of first engaging in partner-related sexual activities for those who were sexually experienced, relationship with first partner, number of partners both in the last year and in their lifetime, and affective reactions to first coitus. Gender convergence, however, is weaker in Sweden than in the United States with respect to the incidence and frequency of various sexual activities and the degree of satisfaction with current sex life. Findings are discussed with respect to the questions they raise about the current theories that framed this research and the differential amount of sex education provided in the two countries.

Key words

sexual standardspremarital sexual behavioraffective responsesgender differencesSwedenUnited Statescross-cultural

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin S. Weinberg
    • 1
  • Ilsa L. Lottes
    • 2
  • Frances M. Shaver
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.University of Maryland Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Concordia UniversityMontrealCanada