• Germany's news in English
 

East Germans nostalgic for sex as it was before the Wall fell

Published: 19 Oct 2009 08:08 GMT+02:00

"Sex at last" or "Pleasure without borders," claimed West German headlines aimed at East Germans who thronged to Western sex shops after the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago this November.

"It was curiosity born of great innocence," recalled Kurt Starke, 70, a sociologist and sex expert in Leipzig, eastern Germany. "Couples went to sex shops, sometimes with grandmothers holding a child by the hand. We wanted to discover everything the West had to offer."

Under the totalitarian state in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), as communist East Germany was known, pornography and prostitution were serious taboos.

"The sex trade in West Germany was considered by the regime as bourgeois decadence," Starke remembers.

But "people were drawn by pornography, we could have sold it non-stop," said Wolfgang Foerster, 55, who sold X-rated videos under the counter and then started one of the first striptease clubs in Dresden, eastern Germany.

Seeing a gap in the market, Western entrepreneurs jumped in as early as 1990 when the country unified.

Caravans of prostitutes parked outside dilapidated eastern cities and downmarket sex shops opened their doors, although their legal status was still uncertain.

"The girls liked East German guys because they were gentle and timid, but complained about Westerners who thought their money could buy anything," said Foerster, whose club was located near one of the mobile brothels.

"When regulations were established, many of the operations shut down and the pioneers disappeared. Many were amateurs who had not managed to make it in the West," he said.

Sex businesses took over, the West German giant Beate Uhse in the lead. But once the curiosity for vibrators, dildos and other sex toys waned, eastern demand dropped off.

The lack of money had something to do with it. Reunification was harder than many expected and unemployment in eastern German states is still much higher than in the west.

Beate Uhse still makes most of its money in more prosperous western German states.

But in the intervening years, a nostalgia for "love as it was before" has risen in the east.

Back then, "men and women depended on their own imagination. That made sex less stressful," said Berlin writer Jutta Resch-Treuwerth, 67, who wrote for a lonely-hearts column for young Easterners for some 20 years.

"In a rigid state that wanted to control everything, citizens were more emancipated with respect to their sex life, women in particular," Professor Starke added.

Better access to higher education and jobs along with free abortion and contraception and generous family policies favoured a less traditional role for women in the East than in the West at the time.

And in bed, women took the initiative more often and reached orgasm more often than their Western counterparts, at least according to polls taken then.

"Eastern women did not talk about their orgasm for hours, they just let themselves go," Starke said.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
EU investigates Germany over airport security
Photo: DPA

EU investigates Germany over airport security

The European Commission said on Thursday that it had referred Germany to the EU Court of Justice for failing to regularly check up on its airport security measures at some airports. READ  

Germans want to keep their hands on cash
Germans still trust cash over other forms of payment. Photo: DPA

Germans want to keep their hands on cash

Confirming conservative stereotypes, Germans have come out strongly in favour of sticking to hard cash in conducting transactions, a survey published on Thursday showed. READ  

This week in history
Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible
Rainer Fassbinder on set in 1977. Photo: DPA

Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible

On Sunday May 31st, Rainer Weiner Fassbinder, one of the most influential German film directors, would have turned 70 - had it not been for his death at the age of 37 in 1982. The Local takes a look back at the life and work of the enfant terrible of New German Cinema. READ  

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo
Photo: DPA

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo

German scientists are trialling a special scalp-cooling cap which helps reduce hair loss for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. READ  

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy
A man assembling food processors in a Wuppertal factory. Photo: DPA

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy

The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warned on Thursday that a fresh burst of economic confidence might be unfounded, even as they raised their growth projections for 2015. READ  

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic
A Eurofighter jet stopped up traffic on Thursday because it was so wide. Photo: DPA.

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic

A damaged Eurofighter plane being pulled by a truck along the autobahn was so wide that it blocked three lanes of traffic on its way to being repaired in Bavaria on Thursday, drawing the ire of fellow drivers. READ  

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack

Frauke Petry, co-leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD), was attacked by masked assailants while eating in a restaurant on Wednesday evening. READ  

Court rejects case against US drone strikes
An American MQ-9 "Reaper" unmanned drone. Photo: U.S. Air Force/Paul Ridgeway/dpa

Court rejects case against US drone strikes

A German court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by three Yemenis demanding that Berlin bar Washington from using a US base on its territory to operate deadly drones. READ  

Gay marriage: Germany still says 'No'
A gay couple in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

Gay marriage: Germany still says 'No'

Germany's cabinet on Wednesday approved a raft of draft measures to extend the rights of same-sex couples, but faced criticism for allowing only civil unions, not full gay marriage. READ  

Spectre of Greece haunts G7 Dresden meeting
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble welcomes his G7 colleagues to Dresden. Photo: DPA

Spectre of Greece haunts G7 Dresden meeting

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven wealthiest nations gathered in Dresden Thursday to discuss the global economy and tax evasion, but the Greek crisis was also high on everyone's minds. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,698
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd