SEX AND POLITICS: THE CASE OF THE GDR
J. H. Reid
On 9 November 1993 BBC television broadcast a documentary programme on the 'sexual liberation' of Russia. Extraordinary footage was shown of striptease schools and what appeared to be stage orgies of the kind that Kenneth Tynan was propagating in England in the 1960s. Comparable developments took place in Spain following the death of Franco. Totalitarian regimes, whether of the left or of the right, have tended to be prudish in sexual matters; their collapse has generally been followed by a pendulum swing in the other direction.
As it happens, the programme on Russia was shown on the fourth anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall. The GDR, however, was always different from the Soviet Union, largely because of the omnipresence of the West German media, which broadcast liberal programmes into East German homes; even printed material from West Germany was relatively easy to smuggle in, especially before 1961 and later in the 1980s, when the number of visits from and to the West escalated. The difference is alluded to in Irmtraud Morgner story 'Gute Botschaft der Valeska in 73 Strophen'. On a visit to the Soviet Union the title figure finds Moscow 'eine deutliche Stadt'; Berlin was 'verschwommener'. When she and her Russian friend Shenja attempt to go to the 'Peking' restaurant, they are turned back at the door: 'Weil Peking ein anständiges Lokal wäre.'1 Whether they are, not unjustifiably, suspected of being lesbians or, quite unjustifiably, prostitutes looking for customers is not made clear. At any rate, one of the many provocations of Morgner's story is the implication that the GDR might be, however slightly, ahead of its Big Brother in terms of the emancipation of women, 'verschwommener' in the