WONDERLAND

What's modern about sex tourism in Denmark?

Article published on Sept. 17, 2009
community published
Article published on Sept. 17, 2009
This scandalous is already popular enough, perhaps too popular, so there's no need to advertise it further. Yet what interests me is the way this advertising agency was refuting the blames it received. I don't care that much whether the video was successful (bad publicity = good publicity and all that jazz). What I'm interested in is what kind of Denmark it tries to represent.

video

The video is a story of a single mother looking for the father of her child, who ran off after a one-night-stand. It's supposed to serve as an attractive representation of Denmark. Critics say it conveys a wrong message, people behind the video say that the story "shows that Denmark is a broad-minded country where you can do what you want. The film is a good example of independent, dignified, Danish women who dare to make their own choices", says VisitDenmark CEO Dorte Kiilerich, also quoted in youtube next to the video.

In what way are the single mother in the video and the country she represents 'modern'? For one thing, the single mother says she doesn't want anything from the father. Which means that Denmark is a well-functioning welfare state where a single mother can be independent both financially and emotionally. Why would it ever serve as a tourist attraction though?

In what ways is the mother and the story Taliban-backward? Firstly, the mother says with that modest smile of hers that she doesn't want anything from the father, only to let him know his child exists. Which implies that raising children is a sole responsibility of a woman. There's no way of acknowledging that the child is equally the man's, and the man should share the responsibility for this young individual of mixed heritage. Neither does the man have other responsibilities, such as to use a condom or any other means of protection. The woman humbly accepts whatever life brings her, without considering, for example, taking a 'morning after' pill so common in Scandinavia, or at least sharing the child-rearing duties with the father. With her modest smile and unpretentious speech she looks like a Madonna with the Infant - it's possible that the advertising agency consciously exploits this archetype. The tourist is almost like (no offense to anybody) the Holy Spirit: he descends from wherever he comes from, changes the life of the woman, while she humbly accepts what life brings her. What happens to her is simply IT - almost undefinable, the woman has no memory of the happening. She's not promiscuous, as critics claim, because she stresses that she wasn't physically involved with anybody else after IT happened (again, I have a suspicion that Christian imagery is consciously exploited, maybe it's not).

The woman chosen to represent Denmark is stereotypical in every aspect. Classically blond (potentially exotic), heterosexual, modestly dressed (not a Goth, punk, any other subculture) - 'normal' in everything about her. That's what a sex tourist would look for. Modernity and independence are not marketable and not 'intercourse-friendly'. The tourist is most necessarily male, and he is enveloped in this godly welcoming: he is permitted to descend upon this woman without acquiring a definite personhood (nameless and traceless, he comes and goes unidentified, only leaving the results of his presence in the woman's body). It's a very typical marketing strategy for sex tourism - implicit reference to the status of a god. Which I find insulting actually. The woman does make choices, but her choices are what she is prescribed to do as a woman. More precisely, a woman chosen to represent the country, and she performs her role with a humble smile - like the country, she accepts the god-tourist into her body, without questioning, just giving him full rights and no responsibilities.

Therefore the video is not about choice and independence, it's about 'normalcy' and archetypical femininity.