Most of us think of the world as clearly split into two parts. There are those poor, backward places where peasants still haul water in woolly mammoth skins, and then there are the fortunate modern countries that are one short step away from British-accented hologram butlers. But reality is never that simple; a lot of places that we think of as "modern" are still trailing stray bits of old-school technology, like a Van Halen cassette whose magnetic tape has gotten caught in the back wheel of a flying car. For example ...
#4. French Doctors Still Practice Freudian Psychoanalysis
Back in the 1950s and '60s, things weren't so great for people with autism. Doctors at the time explained the condition using the theory of the "refrigerator mother": a cold, unloving maternal figure who unconsciously hates her own child. This repressed hatred causes the child to shut down like an angry spouse after a drunken Thanksgiving dinner incident, and voila! Autism.
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"We have also determined that your child's heart condition is caused by your stupid hair."
Obviously, that theory is dumb, and doctors have known that it's dumb for decades now. Today, autism is recognized as a neurobiological problem that has nothing to do with repressed parental emotions, and this view is shared by the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Society for Well Duh. It is not, however, shared by France.
French psychiatry has views on autism that make Jenny McCarthy look like Bill Nye. Many French psychiatrists still follow the teachings of Jacques Lacan, a Freudian psychoanalyst who believed that autism was caused by a mother viewing her child as a replacement for her own missing penis (no, I'm not making that up). For some bizarre reason, Mom Penis Lacan never made it big in the English-speaking world, but he remains a hit in France. So even in recent years, French mothers of autistic children were commonly interrogated about things like whether they'd really wanted a baby, and what sort of dreams they'd had while pregnant.
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"I did have this weird dream about strangling a guy in a white coat."
The penis-mom attitude has started to change in the last couple of years, but this doesn't help most of the current generation of autistic French people. While most First World countries now treat autism with behavioral therapy designed to help patients cope better with their daily lives, French people with autism are more likely to receive Freudian talk therapy, or maybe a charming practice called "le packing," in which patients are wrapped in cold, damp cloths in order to rid them of their "pathological defense mechanisms," because apparently dressing up as an ice mummy is the best way to do that. These treatments work about as well as you'd expect, which is probably why France has 17 times fewer autistic people studying at university than the United Kingdom. It's almost like it's not wise to treat a neurological condition with unproven theories about missing penises. And speaking of penises ...
#3. Japan Really Doesn't Like Modern Contraception
Japan is the closest thing the world has to a science fiction utopia. When it comes to sex technology, though, the inventors of the robot dog and the 45 mph elevator are disappointingly low tech. Less than 5 percent of Japanese women use the pill for contraception, and this isn't because Japan has developed another way to prevent pregnancy, like maybe some type of nanobot that implants itself into your genitals while you're sitting on one of their futuristic supertoilets. Nope, around 80 percent of Japanese people use good old dick sheaths as their prophylactic of choice, and most of the others use the even more traditional "pull out at the end" method.
The situation makes a little more sense when you realize that the contraceptive pill was only legalized in Japan in 1999, after decades of stonewalling by male politicians who predicted that female-controlled contraception would crush traditional Japanese society like ... I don't know, some kind of giant lizard monster or something. The pill is also difficult to get: Contraceptive pills are not covered by Japanese health insurance and usually require a non-renewable monthly prescription, meaning that the rest of your sexually active life will be an endless stream of visits to inform your doctor that, yes, you're still playing Hide the Shinkansen with your partner of choice.
"Yep, looks like your vagina is still there. I guess we'll have to continue treatment for another month."