Thursday, May 17, 2007

postheadericon Lust in Translation

Book: Hardcover |304 pages | 19 Apr 2007 | The Penguin Press

For those of you who do not wish to read on, I'll understand, but for the rest of you,
Pamela Druckerman, former foreign correspondant for the "Wall Street Journal" came upon the idea to write about infidelity when on a trip to Columbia she kept being propositioned by married men all the time. Once she got over her shock and horror, she realized that extra-marital affairs are not frowned upon everywhere in the world and she decided to explore what the rules of infidelity were in different countries resulting in this cracker of a book, "Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee".

T0 make it more interesting and readable, I've decided to share, countrywise,what Druckerman found out about infedilty in her research and trips abroad and how it contrasts with the American view:

Let's start with
Finland, because, in sexology circles, Finland is known for having Europe's best sex research (in 1970, Finnish researchers sent uniformed nurses door-to-door to question people on their sex lives and got a 91% response rate!). The Finns aren't ambivalent about sex...they see it as a positive experience. Unlike elsewhere, the Finns or their media do not focus on the perils of sex, such as diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Also, they travel a lot, creating a lot of opportunities for affairs. Although they value being faithful to their partners, they believe that if there is an opportunity for an affair that no one will get to know about, they will grab it with both hands because they consider it a positive and valuable experience!

The French surprisingly (and I say surprisingly because watch any French romantic comedy and you will imagine that l 'adultere is a national pastime) are boringly and staggeringly faithful to their spouses. When, and if, they do stray they don't tell their spouses and their spouses don't seem to want to know "...Extramarital sex becomes "adultery" only when your partner finds out". Also, although they view adultery as a transgression, they seem to understand that it can and does happen and do not usually experience terrible guilt over it. The only realm of French life where infedility is derigueur is politics (there are some very nice passages on Mitterand, Chirac and even France's new PM, Sarkozy in this book)

The Russians probably have the most laidback attitude when it comes to extramarital affairs, a fling is almost always welcomed and enjoyed, not at all surprising when you read about the problems facing today's Russians (alcoholism, violent crime, cramped living spaces, poverty, illhealth, car accidents). An affair seems like therapy for all the problems they have in their day to day lives. Another reason there's so much adultery in Russia is that there are so few men. "...For Russian women in their 30's and 40's a man who isn't married or an alcoholic is as rare as a Feberge egg."

From all accounts, the Japanese are probably having the least sex of anyone around. It's the land of the single bed. The minute a Japanese wife has her first child, she moves out of her bedroom and into the child's room and sleeps there until he is 5 or 6, giving rise to a phenomenon they call a "sexless marriage" or the abbreviated, "sexress". Many of the men actually pride themselves on having chaste marriages. Sexress has spawned the development of a thriving sex industry with hostess bars (where businessmen pay by the hour to talk to young women); Sex clubs (self-explanatory); love hotels (where couples can rent rooms without comingn face to face with a clerk.) Japanese couples have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. "Have your affair, but be discreet about it" is what Japanese women seem to be saying to their husbands.

The chapter on South Africa was the saddest chapter to read...the culture seems to not just accept, but even encourage promiscuity and with AIDS being so prevalent, not being monogamous is a death sentence, literally and yet, King Mswati III, King of Swaziland (the last absolute monarch of Africa) with his multiple wives is held up by most South African man as someone to admire and emulate.

Polygamy is legal in Indonesia and although it has fallen out of favor, the fact that it is legal makes easier to justify. "...Polygamy legitimizes the idea that one woman isn't enough and effectively gives married men permission to date , even if they have no plans to convert thier mistresses into wives." Although extra-marital affairs are forbidden by the Koran it doesn't stop Indonesians, especially the upwardly mobile, from having them.

China's new economic boom means that even working class men in China can now afford to keep second wives or yi lai as they are called. Many Chinese explain away their extra-marital affairs by saying it is not cheating when you fall in love with someone other than your wife. Does that sound familiar to Westerners? Although you can sympathise with the Chinese when they say it because romance was considered a vice during the Cultural Revolution. Are the Chinese simply making up for lost time?

The American view:

"Adultery provokes more outrage in America than in almost any other country on record (Ireland and the Philippines are two exceptions)."

Americans have become more tolerant on practically every major sexual issue from having a child out of wedlock to divorce ... and homosexuality. They are more accepting of all these issues except infidelity, where they seem to have become stricter.

Not only do the Americans feel a lot of guilt, but they also believe there must be complete honesty between spouses, which means, when and if they have an affair, they will feel a burning need to confess every little detail of the affair to their partners once the affair is over. Americans are extremely bothered by "lies" or "witholding the truth" in relationships. Even when it comes to their leaders having affairs (eg. Bill Clinton) the American public were more concerned about him lying about the affair than the affair itself.

Adultery is traumatic everywhere, but in America it's especially so. The reactions of a betrayed spouse resemble the post-traumatic stress symptoms of the victims of catastrophic events like 9/11 or the Asian tsunami.
"Betrayed spouses" as they're called here, can take years to recover, they feel so out of control,they feel their going crazy. One person described a spouse's betrayal as feeling worse than when she lost her child. In Europe, betrayed spouses either take the affair with a pinch of salt or like in France, they may opt for a "revenge affair".

It's hard to sum up a book which is packed with so much information, but if I can make any conclusions it would be:

1.Religion is not a deterrent when it comes to adultery. In other words, religious societies can have the same rate of infedility as non-religious ones.

2. Location trumps religion because the stats have consistently shown that people in warm places are more promiscuous, with Scandanavia and St. Petersburg being the exceptions.

3. There appears to be more infidelity in poorer countries than others,especially by men.

While the evidence Druckerman presents is primarily anecdotal (this is not a scientific study by any means)she still manages to provide the reader with a cultural, albeit voyeuristic, guide to infedility in various parts of the world in an engaging and interesting manner. The anthropologist in me enjoyed this book! Oh, and one last word, don't be fooled by the cover, there is no sex in this book!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

postheadericon The Seven Wonders of Canada

The National and Sounds Like Canada are searching for the Seven Wonders of Canada and need our help.

After pouring over 18,000 suggestions from Canadians all over, the Seven Wonders team at the CBC had the unenviable task of reducing all those pitches to a short-list of 50 nominees.

I want you to take a look at the nominees and if there is something on there you recognize and have visited and would like to see it nominated as a wonder of Canada, please feel free to do so, here.

Guess you're wondering which one gets my vote, well, even if you're not, I'm going to tell you :) ...It's the NorthWest Passage. The Passage is rich in scenic beauty and history and is also endangered on account of global warming, just for that I think it deserves a vote!

While CBC and the National were putting together the WOnders of Canada, I had to ask myself why they were doing it, what is the value of an exercise like this, and ofcourse many different things came to mind...

It instills a sense of pride in one's country

It honors monuments, institutions, natural wonders together as a nation

It encourages dialogue...Canadians are coming together from all parts of Canada and indeed, the world, to talk and debate on the various nominees

Last, but certainly not least, if you believe that your physical landscape has a lot to do with the making of who you are then this list is a representation of the Canadian people themselves...who they are, what they believe in and what they stand for. The list gives one a sense of place, a sense of what Canadians are all about.

Vote with me!

To read more about the Northwest Passage and what it means to Canada, go here

And listen to Stan Rogers' glorious hit, "Northwest Passage", here