Where Sex Reigns, Young Adults Become More Conservative

Growing up under a democracy leads to fewer sex partners and less cheating

By Lauren Holter

Lenka Treglova’s parents got divorced when she was three years old due to her father’s infidelity. In her class at school, there were only a few children with parents who were still married.

“I grew up in a divorce favoring environment,” Treglova, a 42-year-old Czech native and editor of the Czech women’s magazine Ona Dnes, said. “I know from my mother, that there were many people at work, who had a steady lover in her office. It was a kind of fashion.”

The Czech Republic, known for being socially liberal and sexually tolerant, has had high percentages of infidelity for decades. However, there has been a dramatic decrease in cases of infidelity in the country among the now middle-aged Czechs that hit adulthood right at the fall of communism and the young adults that grew up under a democracy.

Prague Wandering Summer 2013 Issue Number 3 Infidelity

Young couple at Club Radost FX.
Photo by Marcia Caceres

“According to our research, the number of sex partners a person has had in the last 12 months is decreasing,” Petr Weiss, one of the Czech Republic’s leading sexologists, said. “We think the younger generation is more conservative, so we suppose infidelity will lower too.”

Weiss has conducted a survey every five years, beginning in 1993, about Czechs’ sexual behavior and opinions. In the most recent survey conducted in 2008, 25 percent of Czech women and 37 percent of Czech men admitted to having an extramarital affair, but all four of the completed surveys show a steady decrease over the years. From 1993 to 2008 extramarital affairs dropped by 15 percent among women and 16 percent among men.

The new generation of twenty-somethings in the Czech Republic, often referred to as Havel’s Children, was born just as Vaclav Havel developed a democracy for the newly post-communist country and has moral values untouched by the corruption of the communist regime. Under communism, the personal ethics of individuals were diluted by the unethical behavior of the regime. With a government that constantly lies and cheats, the people eventually lose some sense of their morals because they are surrounded by corruption their entire lives.

“In general the idea of cheating was familiar because the regime always cheated,” Kristyna Cermakova, a 21-year-old student at Prague’s University of Economics, said. “People didn’t worry about rules of any sort because they were nonsense.”

During communism, the family structure played an important role in Czech’s lives because there were few people that could be trusted outside of one’s family. In order to preserve this comfort, affairs were often overlooked.

“My grandmother’s generation tolerated infidelity, because it was no reason to destroy a family,” Treglova said. “There was an old saying, that a woman should cover all the extramarital problems with her apron.”

Foreigners living in Prague often find the openness about infidelity difficult to get used to. British citizen Rob Cameron, who has lived in the Czech capital of Prague for 20 years, recalled being shocked when walking with his Czech girlfriend and her mother as they calmly pointed out a woman on the street that her father was having an affair with.

“They were both laughing and pointing at her, openly, as if it was a source of great amusement,” Cameron said. “That was many years ago now. I’m not sure they’d be so blasé today.”

“In general, the idea of cheating was familiar because the regime always cheated,’ Kristyna Cermakova, a 21-year-old student at Prague’s University of Economics, said. ‘People didn’t worry about rules of any sort because they were nonsense.”

Czechs don’t have a higher divorce rate than Americans, but the society is much more open about extramarital relationships. It’s common for Czech politicians to have mistresses that the public knows about and even national hero Vaclav Havel was said to have had extramarital affairs.

“One important difference between the Czech Republic and the U.S. is that all politicians have mistresses that later switch to their wives. It’s almost like a cool thing,” Vanda Thorne, New York University professor in Prague who studied gender and culture, said. “Clinton lost his office for much less.”

Prague Wandering Summer 2013 Issue Number 3 Infidelity

Czechs don’t have a higher divorce rate than Americans, but the society is much more open about extramarital relationships.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Czech twenty-somethings grew up under a democracy with more of a focus on fairness, a characteristic becoming more deeply engrained in the society. With the fall of the iron curtain, young Czechs had the opportunity to travel and pursue their own interests, foreign concepts to their parents and grandparents.

“In communism, there was nothing to do but drink and make love because they were the only areas where communism didn’t interfere,” Weiss said.

With more opportunities available to them, Czechs began marrying later than previous generations. According to experts, Central and Eastern European countries retained the lowest mean age of marriage for women in Europe through the early 1990s and then began to increase.

“We were 18 in time of the Velvet Revolution,” Treglova said of her generation now in their 40s. “We immediately started to travel and postponed weddings for later.”

Getting married at an older age allows young Czechs to date and have multiple partners before marriage, making it less likely for them to cheat later in life.

“Before marriage the relationships are loose because you are trying it out. Once they are married, they try to stay with whom they are with,” Cermakova said of her peers.

Lauren Holter is in the NYU Class of 2015, majoring in Journalism and Metropolitan Studies. Her hometown is Denver, Colorado.

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Categories: Culture, Summer 2013 Issue Number 3

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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