SINAS Research Seminar: "'Should We Do It the Swedish Way?': American Coverage of Sweden, Sex, and the AIDS Pandemic"

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Room 16-1044 and via Zoom - contact Adam Hjorthén for link
  • Lecturer: Saniya Ghanoiu, PhD in History, Suffolk University
  • Organiser: Swedish Institute for North American Studies (SINAS), Department of English
  • Contact person: Adam Hjorthén
  • Föreläsning

Abstract: Throughout the twentieth century, American sex education ebbed and flowed based on cultural and political changes in society. By the 1980s, sex education advocates and detractors existed in numerous factions. If sex education had been contentious before, however, the decade of Ronald Reagan forced another global reexamination of sex education in light of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that swept the world. While mainstream sex education emphasized heterosexuality, marriage, and procreation, AIDS catapulted information about homosexuality, gay sex, and sex instruction into even more public conversations. 

 

This paper examines the American media coverage of Swedish sex, sex education, and cultural attitudes towards sex during the 1980s and 1990s. I argue that a lot of American media, including newspapers and television interviews, attempted to reframe the construction of Swedish sex from one based in notions of immorality and lewdness to an idea of openness, discussion, and problem solving. While the spread of AIDS did not necessarily have a direct impact on this change in media coverage, it did contribute to a changing consciousness about how and why schools, parents, educators, physicians, and, yes, even the government needed to talk about sex.