Policing and Revolutionising Sex in East Germany

Dr. Markus Wahl: Policing and Revolutionising Sex in East Germany

When envisioning East German culture, many people also think of emancipated women at the workplace, the legalisation of abortion, and the free body culture (FKK) on the beaches of the Baltic Sea. In a (n)ostalgic way, some claim that sex was more natural, more intimate, and even more adventurous than in capitalist countries. In the last session of the series “Forming Sex and Gender in Central Europe”, the focus will be laid on the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which tried to stylise itself as the truly “antifascist” German nation. By demarcating itself from the Third Reich but at the same time also from the capitalist counterpart—the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG)—, East German officials proclaimed in line with the socialist ideology to overcome the bias in gender policies and open up the job market for women. Furthermore, not least as a reaction of the skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the postwar era, numerous public awareness campaigns, advisory books, and TV clips were supposed to educate the people about sexual health—and contribute to the social-engineering project of the “socialist citizen”. The downside of these procedures was that all “deviance” to the “normal” behaviour was policed and stigmatised. Even if the gender bias in the policies to curb sexually transmitted diseases was officially lifted, the local authorities and communities remained persistent in their mentalities. Women with STDs quickly received the stamp of being “promiscuous” and experienced the harsh reality of a state who tried to be involved in every private matter of its citizens. This session will include not only text sources, but also pictures, posters, and videos, which will encourage a broader discussion of sexual mores and the status of women and men—masculinity and femininity—under a socialist regime like the GDR.

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