I spent my semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and I was able to visit Paris, France and Amsterdam, Netherlands with the travel enrichment grant I received from Ms. Natalie Ammarell. I explored these cities in order to learn about the sexual relationships between couples and consent education throughout Europe. I conducted my research by observing couples in Paris, Denmark, and Amsterdam and was able to learn how relationships differed from those in America. To begin, in Denmark, before we even began class, we learned about consent in Denmark. In Denmark, consent is not something that is talked about like it is in America. Instead of learning how to practice consent, we learned social cues and what they meant in the context of Danish culture. For example, agreeing to go back to someone’s home meant that you were agreeing to sexual activities. This is different in America because we invite people into our homes all the time after a night out but that does not mean we agree to sexual activities—we need a verbal or physical act of consent to agree to such activities. This was something that shocked me as an American exchange student. Something else I found interesting was that men do not buy women drinks in Denmark like they do in America. Instead of hitting on someone at the bar by asking to buy them a drink, women are usually the ones to make the moves. However I noticed that this was not the case in France. While I was in Paris, I came across couples who displayed a lot of public affection. Yet in Denmark this was something I did not see since the culture was more reserved. In Paris, men approached women more aggressively and even with same sex couples, there was usually someone who was more dominant in the relationship. I was able conduct these observations by spending time in parks and in major venues like the Louvre as I people watched. Lastly, I went to observe the Red Light District in Amsterdam. As I walked through the district I saw women revealing themselves for the pleasure of others in order to make money. Here prostitution is legal and something that is considered normal. Coming from America, this was an interesting experience for me to encounter. Something that seems so taboo within my own culture was something completely acceptable in another. People in Amsterdam were so free and did not care what people saw in public and went about their relationships however they wanted to.
From my findings through this project, my education at St. Lawrence has become more enriched. Bringing back what I have learned from my travels has shown me how different cultures practice sexual relationships and consent differently. There is no right or wrong way to practice these topics but each culture has their own set of values and norms. Now, I am the Title IX intern and I am using my knowledge to create a new training program for St. Lawrence students on campus. I am continuing research on sexual relationships and consent to learn about the effects sexual assault can have on those who choose to seek support from others.