• Sweden's news in English
Swedish women’s sex habits: riskier than ever
Photo: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/IStockPhoto

Swedish women’s sex habits: riskier than ever

The Local · 30 Jun 2015, 11:32

Published: 30 Jun 2015 10:32 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Jun 2015 11:32 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Sex is a hot topic these days – but perhaps not in the way you might think.

In gender-equal Sweden, women’s health and women’s bodies are increasingly on people’s radar – the natural way, not the Photoshop way. Recently Swedish women even got their very own word to describe female solo action.

But is Swedish sexual gender equality all bark and no bite?

Recent research from Uppsala University shows that Swedish female university students are engaging in more and more risky sexual behavior: condom use is on the decline despite earlier sexual debuts and the number of sexual partners is on the rise.

“It is a factor for concern that women infrequently use condoms when having sex with a new partner,” Tanja Tyden, one of the key researchers who compiled the study, stated.

The study from Uppsala University was based on a survey of female university students, and revealed that the number of lifetime sexual partners had increased from just 4.0 in 1989 to 12.1 in 2014.

While the number itself may not be cause for concern – and indeed may be proof of modern Sweden’s gender equality - the corresponding decrease in condom use is a problem, Tyden said.

“The development is worrying. More young women must demand that their partners use a condom."

Why aren't men using condoms?

One study showed that most of the young men surveyed “worried more about their personal consequences than about the consequences for their partner”.

Elina Berglund, co-founder of Swedish natural birth control app Natural Cycles, isn’t surprised.

"Men are accustomed to women using the pill and not having to do anything themselves," she remarks. “Even though men are always fertile and women are only fertile about six days a month.”

Berglund pointed out that using condoms just six days a month should be a relatively minor burden for men, compared with women having to take a pill every single day.

atural Cycles displays green "safe days" and red days when protection should be used.

Read also: Expat women opt for Swedish natural birth control

When presented with the statistics, Anna Blom – a midwife at RFSU, the Swedish Association for Sexuality Equality – is quick to note that there are many factors involved.

“There is a general image that men just don’t like condoms. But the issue is more nuanced than that,” Blom tells The Local.

“You want to be secure in that moment. Men want to be able to handle the pressure and perform when they have sex. And they might not know how to use condoms the right way, and have problems with them.”

Blom says that if men feel comfortable with how to use a condom correctly, they are more likely to actually use one, no matter what the situation.

However, she also agrees that men should do more when it comes to contraception.

“It’s true that most of the burden is on women’s shoulders,” she admits.

“And men need to buckle down and realize that condoms are the only way they actually have to protect themselves, not just against sexually transmitted infections, but also against involuntarily becoming a parent.”

Knowing your body

Another issue with birth control is a lack of knowledge about available options and about women’s own bodies, Blom notes.

“Generally women know a lot about birth control here, because they research online and ask friends,” she says. “But when it comes to understanding the information in terms of your own body and what might be better suited to you, it’s more difficult.”

Try NaturalCycles - Swedish hormone-free birth control

Sweden isn’t the only country grappling with the issue. Earlier in June, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper launched an editorial campaign called #TakeBackBirthControl, aimed at helping women better understand contraception.

Surveys revealed that more than a quarter of British women didn't know "what hormonal contraception was doing" to their bodies, and one-third of women said they also felt that they were expected just to "put up" with the side-effects, whatever those may be.

Fear of hormones

Sweden doesn’t fare much better.

Research from Uppala University reveals that one-third of female university students in Sweden worry about the effects of hormonal contraception, particularly mood changes – but continue to use the pill anyway.

But Swedish women are starting to shy away from the pill, and investigate alternatives in larger numbers.

Statistics from Swedish health authorities have shown that fertile Swedish women are buying 14 percent less birth control pills than they did 10 years ago, and in city regions the numbers are even higher.

“There has always been a fear of hormones, and many people ask about hormone-free methods,” Blom says. “But in the 1960s women were just happy to get pills at all; it was part of women’s sexual liberation. But now women want to share the responsibility with men.”

A natural solution?

Berglund with NaturalCycles agrees that something has to be done about outdated gender roles when it comes to pregnancy prevention.

In addition to educating women about their cycles, the natural birth control app is gently nudging women to be proactive, helping them “take back birth control” by educating them about their individual cycles.

Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl, founders of Natural Cycles. 

The app’s algorithm rapidly learns from a woman’s daily temperature readings to identify when she is and isn’t at risk of pregnancy with a simple colour-code system, red means a women is at risk of pregnancy and green days are proven to be 99.9 safe.

"But we also send a condom along with every thermometer in the post," says Berglund. "We want to remind women that they - or their boyfriends - must take precautions on the ‘red days’ given in the app indicating a risk of pregnancy." 

Women can keep track of their cycles with intuitive graphs and cycle statistics that provide users with all the information they need to manage their reproductive health naturally yet effectively.

“The education aspect is a critical element, particularly given the general lack of knowledge about fertility,” Berglund adds.

NaturalCycles further addresses fertility education by offering not only a prevention plan, but also a family planning version to users can optimize timing and chances of conceiving.

“It helps you get to know your body better so everything is easier when you’re ready to start a family,” says Berglund, who switched from the prevention to planning programme herself and is now a proud mother.

Sharing the burden

The studies from Uppsala showed wide discrepancies in the women’s knowledge about fertility. When asked at what age fertility significantly decreases and it becomes more difficult to have children, responses varied greatly.

“This group of women would benefit from more information about age-related risks regarding reproduction and more importantly their own fertile potential," the report from Uppsala states.

“That’s one reason why individual visits are so important,” Anna Blom at RFSU explains. “Some women are most fertile at age 25, but others can still get pregnant at age 40.”

But either way, whether on the pill or using hormone-free birth control, Blom feels that Swedish women need to demand more of their partners before getting in bed:

“Men need to pull themselves together and realize that they also have a responsibility to protect themselves and use condoms the right way.”


This article was produced by The Local in partnership with NaturalCycles. 

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available