Most apartment blocks in Sweden state that tenants are not permitted any loud activity, for example drilling or even vacuum cleaning, after 10pm so as not to disturb other residents.
So one Twitter user who had apparently had it up to here with his neighbours' late-night romps took his sleepless woes directly to Health Minister Gabriel Wikström – who replied.
“My neighbours are once again having noisy sex. You're my only hope: could you ban risqué exercises after 10pm?” asked the man.
But he had his hopes dashed when the minister responded: “Sounds nice for them, I think. Good for their wellbeing and thus public health as well.”
@Twiststorm Låter trevligt för dom tycker jag. Bra för välbefinnandet och därmed folkhälsan också.
— Gabriel Wikström (@gabrielwikstrom) March 9, 2016
The exchange was part of a bigger debate, but the minister later elaborated on his comment in an interview with The Local, saying that he had taken the opportunity to highlight Swedes' declining sex rate.
“The reactions were overwhelming, I never thought it would get that big. I thought the question was amusing (…) and thought this would be a good way to raise the issue,” Wikström told The Local after his tweet went viral.
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Swedish Health Minister Gabriel Wikström. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
While Swedes may have a reputation for their liberal attitude to sex, the frequency of a romp in the hay is dropping. A poll by the Aftonbladet tabloid in 2013 suggested the average adult has intercourse 3.8 times a month, compared to five times a month according to a separate, state-funded public health survey in 1996.
“That's a 24 percent decline. If it had been down to free choice it wouldn't have been a problem – obviously the state shouldn't tell people how often to have sex – but it is often linked to stress, pressure and people feeling they don't live up to a certain body ideal. That's a problem and it will lead to people feeling even worse. We're humans, we need intimacy,” said Wikström.
But the 31-year-old gave a non-committal, albeit a typically Sweden-style candid, answer when asked by The Local whether he practises what he preaches, considering his own busy ministerial schedule.
“It's a pretty personal question, but… it happens. I am satisfied with my sex life,” laughed Wikström.
Referring to the tongue-in-cheek Twitter exchange, he joked: “I'm sure there's a lot about our neighbours that can annoy us, but if they have actually managed to get down to business you have to be forgiving.”
His fellow Swedes are also known for their open approach when discussing issues involving topics such as gender, sex and sexuality. And Wikström urged more of his ministerial colleagues abroad to speak up.
“They absolutely should. We know that there are also negative aspects, for example sexual violence around the globe, STIs or unwanted pregnancies. If we don't talk about that in a relaxed way we can't have good sex, and that involves talking about the positive aspects too, that it can be fun and nice,” he said.