Inevitably, the subject turns to sex and marriage. I'll never forget asking one group what they thought of marriage in a country where most educated young people (and half go to university) don't get married or bear children until they are well over 30. A young woman gave me a thoughtful answer and so I asked her, "What are you looking for in a husband?" Without batting an eye or pausing for thought, she answered: "Three things. One, he must be good in bed. Two, he must be a good father. Three, when we divorce, he mustn't be bitter."
These three answers aren't all that surprising. Sweden has taken the ideal of individual autonomy further than most other countries. The Swedish girl is basically following the state ideology: she is saying that her future husband must follow the rules of autonomy.
The Swedes decided decades ago that the traditional male career role was the privileged autonomous one. Therefore, they set themselves the aim of overthrowing traditional gender roles. Women were to follow a traditional male career path and men were to spend just as much time as women mothering children.
The result was that women no longer needed men as protectors and providers. They would be kept secure by the social welfare state and for the short time they spent at home with their children they would be supported by a paid maternity leave scheme.
But if men are no longer required as protectors and providers then what are they good for? Well, there is still the sex drive to connect men and women. The sex drive by itself doesn't really lead on to marriage (but rather to promiscuous relationships) so it's not surprising to learn that Swedes marry very late if at all.
Nonetheless, sex is still permissible under the rules of autonomy, so it's still there on the Swedish woman's list of what men are good for.
So is fatherhood, but understood the Swedish way. A "good father" means a father who takes over half of the traditional female role. That is why Jonathan Power notes that,
most Swedish men push the pram, do the nappies, get up in the night and help clean the house. Many, too, take at least six months off to look after the baby while the woman goes back to work.
Again, a man who agrees to this is acting in line with the state policy of autonomy, in which gender roles are abolished in favour of a single unisex role.
Finally, for women to be autonomous they have to be able to determine, without impediment, whom they will live with. They must, therefore, be able to freely divorce. If you agree freely to your wife divorcing you, you are acting according to the rules of autonomy. So, again, it makes sense that our Swedish woman should have, as a test of a future husband, the idea that he would divorce without bitterness.
So our young Swedish woman is strongly influenced by state policy, enough to give voice to it spontaneously in her responses. But I very much doubt that this is the end of the story.
Most women are attracted to masculine qualities in a man. When monogamy begins to break down, and women revert even more strongly to hypergamy - to a desire to be with a rare "alpha" male - the emphasis on masculine qualities in a man will be even greater.
So our Swedish woman is likely to want contradictory things. At one level, she wants to follow the system and so insists that her future husband accept an androgynous role. It is most probable, though, that she will be attracted to men who show some kind of masculine drive or strength of principle or who have demonstrated some kind of effectiveness in the world.
It must be a difficult game to play for Swedish men. You would have to genuflect to one ideal, whilst carrying through with another. Presumably it all creates a certain level of confusion and discontent.