STOCKHOLM • When a politician in a small town in northern Sweden recently suggested that it subsidise one-hour sex breaks for local employees, Swedes - and many people around the world - reacted with astonishment, glee or derision.
Mr Per-Erik Muskos, 42, a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, said his proposal could help lift the town's birth rate. And sexologists argued that such state-funded sexual interludes could spice up marriages.
The scenic town of Overtornea was suddenly portrayed as the latest emblem of Scandinavia's liberal values and generous welfare states.
But the town's 31-member council this week overwhelmingly disagreed, on the grounds that if sexual intercourse should be subsidised, then so should other personal activities, such as gardening or cleaning. In fact, the proposal suggested including a sex break in an hour of the workweek already devoted to fitness activities.
The council also rejected Mr Muskos' argument that sexual excursions during working hours would encourage couples to have more children. It said Overtornea's dwindling population was actually the result of young people leaving the town in search of opportunity.
Mr Muskos said he was unhappy that his idea was rejected, but not surprised. He remained convinced that it would have benefited relationships and busy couples with children, and empowered women by giving them time to ensure they were sexually satisfied.