Like many American teenagers, I grew up watching movies like "EuroTrip" with its Dutch dominatrix, and "American Pie" with its naughty Czech exchange student Nadia. But unlike American teenagers, I could have been one of those sexual targets.

I was born in an Eastern European country - Poland - and grew up in a Western European country - Germany. I was born "Karolina Bledowska" and my accent has so far been described as a mixture of German-Polish-Midwestern-American-English.

According to frequent European stereotypes in movies, that would make me the typical American boy's sexual dream, right? I don't know about that. But a guy told me a few months ago that he absolutely loves women with an accent. Well, too bad I'm not into guys who love women only because of their accent.

Every culture is stereotyped by other cultures. It's our way of understanding each culture and simplifying their usually complex heritage. Often though, stereotypes only lead to misconceptions and false accusations, as is certainly the case with the stereotype of the sexually available and promiscuous European woman.

Europeans have fewer sexual partners than Americans, which makes them less promiscuous. A study published in Family Planning Perspectives in 2001 compared the sexual activity, safety, sexual disease and teen pregnancy rates of the U.S. and five European countries. It found not only more promiscuity, but also a higher teen pregnancy rate, less use of contraceptives and a higher level of STDs in the U.S.

A similar study by Advocates for Youth later in the decade showed that teen pregnancy is four times higher in the U.S. than in Germany. The U.S. abortion rate per 1,000 women is twice as high as in Germany, even though abortion has serious restrictions in some states, but is completely legal in all of Germany.

The latter study concluded that the European countries with lower rates - Germany, France, and the Netherlands - all emphasize mandatory sexual education in school and value the individual as a sexual being with needs and desires. Those countries find information on sex and safety more important than opinions by religious groups or personal preferences.

These are the same reasons I would give for the creation of the common female European stereotype. The European woman is confident and educated in her sexuality because her culture is more open to communication about sex and accepts sexual activity and experimentation in youth.

In school, I received mandatory sex education, including two extra sessions on HIV, one of which was in the local center for drug addicts. In magazines, I saw pictures of nude men and women in non-suggestive poses, which showed me the various types of human bodies rather than the "ideal" body generated by advertising. In those magazines, I also read about common questions and problems surrounding teen sexuality even before I decided to have sex. When I was ready, I knew that I didn't have to lie about it, not even to my parents.

I grew up in a society that treats sex as a part of life, not as a sin or marital duty. I grew up with enough information on sexual health to fill an abortion clinic. And I'm glad I grew up in a society that let me ask any question I wanted without being judged as immoral or indecent, even when I asked my parents about the first time they had sex (although I still don't know what had gotten into me that day).

Bledowski is a graduate student from Cracow, Poland, in journalism.

Recommended for you