There is not the same taboo around sex here as in the rest of the world. Thus people talk about it in a completely different way, a more free way, thus not talking about it much at all. A night on the town can easily result in an offer (phrased as “who are you with? Are you with them?” or the more direct “Can I come home with You?”), and they can not really understand if you refuse it. I have experienced it from four women, and know two women who have experienced casual offers from young men – one man was a craftsman at work in her home who was promptly fired when she (the client, my danish colleague) called the company and complained.
Be aware that if you get the offer from someone you just met that night, she might very drunk and has a frayed heart – so it is mostly about being with a nice person: sex for a safe place to sleep. If you get an offer and You do not want to, do NOT act or be offended – a “no thank you” is always accepted. (Perhaps only after a single “Aaaah, come on ….” or “Why not?”). Immediacy is the matter here – it’s easy to ask, and it’s easy to say yes or no thanks. Perhaps that’s why there’s no porn here?
And people do, obviously – sexually transmitted diseases abound, as do unfortunately abortions.
Two of my students have written the following: “.. we believe that it is because greenlanders are closed and secretive, that they do not talk so much when they get to know each other, and therefore they skip dating, instead choosing the intercourse.” More of my students agrees with this description.
There is no porn or sex in public places or sexologists such as we know it from Denmark. Maybe it’s considered so normal that problems in that regard are a little bit taboo? Conversely, people – young people, at least – are not physically shy, people who are friends are often seen entwined or embracing each other, and lovers kiss and hold hands without anyone seems to notice it. And the excursions of last night results only in a very short banter, not in any condemnation or surprise.
Despite the above description, it is NOT equal to everybody wallowing in sex – on the contrary. But if you like each other, there is not so much “superego” and there is more immediacy, and intimacy. In addition, there are many jokes about sex and party games often have a sexy sheen.
It must also be said that many have been sexually abused – between a quarter and third of women depending on who you ask, newspapers or people with knowledge of the young people. (Sermitsiaq March 8, 2011: ” Every third woman in Greenland subjected to sexual abuse “ (danish)) says that it is is relatively 16 times more than in Denmark. (I do not know how many men)
Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe it’s the same immediacy which is coupled with misplaced macho behavior as described below – that is, men who imagine that the woman, the girl, thechild (!) like it even though she / it doesn’t – and she/he dares not to state her own mind and thus confront the abuser and create enmity. I suspect that these factors play one or another role in the large sexual abuse.
So do not tell jokes about paedophiles, do not show the movie “The celebration”/”Festen” without explaining the story first (a mistake I have committed). Perhaps I am exaggerating, but maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The following section is pretty controversial – many of my students who have read it, is upset about it and doesn’t think that I have proved it. (despite the links)
It is a violent society, but it is only spouses and children feel it. 62pct women have been beaten themselves and “under” 25pct children have witnessed mom get it. A friend with a an insight into the problem believes that half of young women are beaten by their boyfriend – or beat him up. I have even met three danish men up here who had violent greenlandic girl friends, and at least three greenlanders (and a dane) who beat their girlfriend – whom, incidentally, stayed with them at the time. The psychologists believe that almost a third of all young people here suffers from what can be termed Post Traumatic Symptom, which often is seen in soldiers who have been to war – a result of violence, drowning accidents, suicides and other stuff. About 70% of young people can be termed as “reserved”.
See also “Grønland er verdens mest voldelige samfund” og Marianne Krogh Andersen: “Grønland…” side 59, who have similar numbers.)
My students who have read this document, feels strongly that the above is wrong – maybe they have not read the sources, maybe they have not even seen it or know someone who has. I can only tell you what I have seen, heard and read.
See also Politiken: ” Greenland is the world’s most violent societies “and Marianne Krogh Andersen: ”Greenland … ” page 59 , which states that “almost half” of all women has been beaten or threatened – three times more than in Denmark relatively – and that 35% of all mothers had been molested as children. The number is 500% that of Denmark’s. UN stated that in 2006, Greenland would be number 1 on a list of reported acts of violence, per 10.000 citizens – 8 times higher than the average, 3 times higher in terms of murders.
Why it’s a violent society, I would guess is related to not talking so much. It is almost only in the West that people “talk it out” about problems or learn to express emotions – and in Greenland, attempting to adress this sad situation is met with stone walling: people’d rather not talk about it out loud, in news papers.
In Denmark it is seen that immigrants from third world countries much more often are violent, and it is perhaps because they are not valuing dialogue but only dominance: might is right, patriarchalism. As in Greenland, they are not trained to verbalize thoughts and feelings or to “negotiate”. This is slowly changing in recent years, self-help groups and psychologist conversations spreads slowly, but certain male values are still prevalent.
In Greenland, it has historically been the man’s role to hunt, and later to fish, but there are fewer of these kinds of jobs, and the man’s role is now more blurred. However, this is NOT the primary reason, I think. That is perhaps that greenlanders are not used to talking about things – thus rage comes out in stress points as violence, especially when uninhibited due to alcohol. If you disagree with a stranger, You remain silent – if you disagree with Your girlfriend, You beat her. (or if she’s cheating on You, You beat her. )
Maybe some greenlandic men needs to find out how to be a “real man” without dominating his wife? Or at least to enforce his will without the use of violence or threats.
Here I emphasize, of course, that it is far from all who are violent – but I have met it enough times that I see it as a widespread phenomenon. Perhaps skilled psychologists, who are now only in very short supply, can make a difference over time?
Is it possible to see who it is who’s violence and who suffers it? No – I thought I could, until I discovered the opposite. At least not until they verbalize it or show up with bruises – or you wake up hear it through the wall or see it in the street.
In this way, Greenland is similar to many other places on the planet: The same reasons and relationship between domestic violence and alcohol, but to a proportionally larger extent, and much clearer to see in these small communities.
Alcohol and cannabis
“Alcohol is a solvent, and it solves anything but trouble.” (Maria Forberg)
The problems of violence and alcohol, has to do with growing up, of course. From 1950 and especially to mid-1960s, many people moved from tiny settlements to the big cities, and a lot of seasonal danish labourers, primarily craftsmen – Greenland was to be modernized. On one hand this was an enormous change which happened over and above most of the greenlanders – this alone must have made people feel worthless. But the demographic changes led to many single mothers – if one wanted a job, one had to go to the city, and status was through the rich danish craftsmen. All this led to many single mothers – even though those danish workmen perhaps in some cases wanted to acknowledge the children, they could simply not: it was reason for dismissal.
These danish workmen were seasonal workers – some lived here also in winter – and when they were here, they worked very long hours the entire week. A friend of mine has told how he once worked in Paamiut, near the (extraordinarily beautiful) church, drilling into the mountain. Suddenly someone taps him on the shoulder, he turns saround and faces the priest, all dressed up – who asks him to hold working until the sunday church service has ended. My friend hadn’t even noticed it was Sunday! Imagine that – the danes come to the country, persuades everybody to be come christian – by hook or crook – and as soon as that’s done, comes back as a new wave of danes who doesn’t respect christian traditions!
But rootlessness has always been part of the greenlanders’ lives. In the old days they moved around after the animals they hunted or family members died of disease or at sea. The reason has today another reason – if I may say so – and alcohol causes it to show it’s face.
Evil arises always when drinking, alcohol sets loose the demons in all of us. The danes believe that greenlanders drink more than danes do in Denmark per capita – that is wrong and not true. Moreover, the small group of danes in this country, are most certainly able to “drink through”. These things I have with my own eyes observed, but greenlanders are also quick to tell you this – because they are very sorry about the (false) image that prevails in Denmark of greenlanders.
It must be said that drinking is only on weekends, or people who take off on a handful of days of drinking when they are depressed. I have not met anyone who drinks constantly for many months or years, as in Denmark. I think that it is related to when partying, they party 100%: a relic from the old days where you had to eat when there WAS something to eat. In fact, you are seen as a little strange if You go home at 3am (as do i) or decline another beer or even decline to participate in the party.
However, it is important to say that I know several families where alcohol is served at parties, without people going decidedly drunk.
Hash is wide spread and apparently there are many who use it regularly – or else I have simply frequented the wrong places. It costs a lot, but luckily there is nothing stronger than that. The Greenland mafia apparently has a form of moral limit.
Almost everyone has experienced one or more friends or family members who have killed themselves – some can even count up to 5-6. Two of my own students have done it – and a small handful have tried it – and I’ve been told of many others. In the newspapers it’s reported from time to time that a young person has disappeared one evening, and they’re rarely found again. More often it happens that one finds them in a rope at home.
The reasons are several, and they all have a more or less conscious or subconscious effect:
1: It is not traditional to express one’s feelings in general. In the old days you could only challenge each other in a song match, like a modern rap battle, and thus annoy or dominate each other. Many people lived close together and were dependent on each other – it is very much so even today – and therefore one can not afford to have enemies. It is simply very bad behavior to be aggressive and agitated, invoking self awareness, highlight one’s own advantages, or even ask for help.
So many Greenlanders often store their feelings a little bit away.
2: The community is everything, the individual is nothing: people are of course dependent on each other, and the worst that can happen is to be ostracized from society. In the old days you had to leave the community if you did something despicable or if you had to escape – you became a qivittoq: one of the disappointed ones, leaving the community. (The word does not currently have its original roots (West Greenland) and therefore can not be found in this form in the dictionary)
Even today there are some Greenlanders – as in any other society in the world – that flees, some all the way to Denmark. Society can be both the city you live in, but also the family, girlfriend.
3: Death has not been associated with something negative, as in Christianity. This means that even if Greenland is Christian, the past view of death has been pervasive. Death has even sometimes been necessary to ensure the survival of others in extremely tough times.
4: People have lived in the moment and not thought so much about the future. When being dependent on the weather and the migrations of prey animals, there have been no great reason to plan ahead – and when the Danes arrived, it was them who took the initiative and were the masters and naalakkat. So people feel very strongly, consumes what they have today and hope that there will be more tomorrow – but does not always think of next week. (Of course they have conserved food as often as possible, but always known that weather or some incident could destroy the plans) And the present problems are heavily felt, without thought of a better life or changing circumstances in a week, a month.
5: As in most of the world, it was traditionally the first-born male who would succeed his father as the hunter to ensure survival, therefore he was – and still is – spoiled. And when you’ve recieved everything, the first large denial or the first defeat feels insurmountable.
All these things then reappear when drinking, since many prefer not to tell others how sad they are or ask for help, but instead drink themselves senseless, experiencing a wealth of feelings of abandonment and despair or simply hurt pride and hang or drown themselves an early morning: young people who at the age of 16-25 leaving behind friends, family, children.
IngBritt Christiansen writes about Isumaminik, “his own opinion” about the phenomenon in society that one does not interfere in other people’s affairs. It is the dark side of the otherwise wonderful Greenlandic culture trait that anyone can be allowed to be themselves: when you are left alone even if you do not feel like it, but also can not figure out how to ask for help. It leads to people bottling up and being alone with their problems for a long time, and finally feel so desperate that they see no other way out than suicide.
When we have talked about it at school, for example in a circle letting each person open up, it has always had a good effect: people HAVE the need to talk about it – and things like coaching, psychologists and therapy groups are emerging. But if you do not take the initiative, it would be very difficult to discover that people have lost a cousin, a best friend, a brother, a girlfriend, a son.