Scotties Toy Box

May 14, 2012

BBC News – Germany united by nudity, divided by attitude

Filed under: News, opinion — Scottie @ 08:03

BBC News – Germany united by nudity, divided by attitude.

Germany united by nudity, divided by attitude

Nudist beach in Ahlbeck

Citizens of the former West and East Germany share many well-established customs, including naturism. But does a relaxed attitude to naked bodies mask some division over the freedom of women?

Sex in Germany, I imagine, is much the same as sex everywhere else.

It was, as we know, invented in the 60s, probably in California, and since then the techniques involved are probably pretty universal.

But attitudes to sex and sexuality and nakedness are not. And in Germany, I have to tell you that I have been surprised.

Not least when I was in the changing room of the gym to which I go.

There I was, naked from the waist down – very naked – wrestling to get a T-shirt off my head, and the T-shirt was wrestling back.

When I finally pulled the thing off, there before me was a woman – a pretty woman – in her 20s pushing her broom at my feet.

From Our Own Correspondent

  • Broadcast on Saturdays at 11:30 BST on BBC Radio 4, and weekdays on BBC World Service

This very real vision was the female cleaner in the male changing-room. Our eyes met. I blushed. She pushed on blithely, unconcerned.

Or when I went into the local sauna bath, which every neighbourhood has.

My German friends told me that nakedness was de rigueur, so into the cabin I went to find two young, naked women. They looked at me. I looked at the ceiling.

Germans – or at least Germans in the non-Catholic north of the country – say that the sight of the nude body is completely normal – natural, as they put it.

Why, they ask, would one wear a dirty, sweaty swimming costume? And, they say, being naked is nothing to do with sex. There is never a stir or a twitch of a sexual nature.

To which I say: hmmm.

My scepticism was shared, by the way, by both the Nazi and Communist regimes.

In East Germany, nude bathing became something of a sign of dissidence, contrary to the exhortation of the Culture Ministry to “protect the eyes of the nation”.

Beate Uhse (centre) and models - fileBeate Uhse is often credited with changing women’s attitudes to sex in 1950s Germany

The Nazis welcomed what Hermann Goering referred to as the “healing power of sun and air” in making a strong nation, but he did disapprove of public nudity which he called a “cultural error” that threatened female modesty.

Both regimes lost the argument. And demographics did the rest. In the rubble after World War II, there were seven million more German women than men.

And in this atmosphere, an industry grew up which was very different from that in other Western countries, one much more aimed at women.

Germany had a well-developed mail-order industry – and it had exactly the right woman to exploit it.

Beate Uhse had been a pilot in the Luftwaffe – as a woman she had not been allowed to fight but she did pilot planes to the front line.

After the war, as the daughter of a doctor, she was beset by friends who wanted to know how not to get pregnant.

Start Quote

My East German female friends tell me that the independence of women continued in the East of the country far more than in the West”

She started providing them with condoms and with advice on how she thought men could be kept happy. It became what is still one of Germany’s most successful businesses.

All this has been described by the historian Elizabeth Heineman, who told me that because the business was mail-order, women were not inhibited from buying.

Particularly in the catholic South, they would not go into a shop but they would order from a catalogue.

Elizabeth told me that German women emerged from the war particularly independent and strong because the absence of men was so stark, but in the west of the country traditional roles were gradually re-asserted.

Not so, though, in East Germany.

Simone Schmollack writes for the Tageszeitung and a magazine – a women’s magazine – called Die Magazin which was founded in 1929 and continued in East Germany throughout the years of Communism.

Tourists look through remaining section of Berlin WallDo cultural differences remain 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell?

She told me that women in the East – and she was one – had genuine economic independence and that gave them a strength in their relations with men.

Now that the Wall is down, cultural frictions are emerging.

Here is the way she put it: “When Western men go out with Eastern women, they – the men – sometimes have problems.

“Eastern women are so cool, the Westerners think. So independent. So free with sex. But then they want them to be stay-at-home, too”.

So speaks an East German woman.

With such a mix of regimes and attitudes and cataclysmic shocks to relationships, there is confusion in the unified Germany over the roles of men and women.

Nowhere more so, I think, than when a sweaty, naked Brit strays into a gym or a sauna bath.

1 Comment »

  1. Hallo Scottie,
    I would like to clarify one point:
    East Germany was dominated by communism: the so-called workers ‘and peasants’ state. All (men and women) are working. The children are raised in nurseries, kindergartens and schools.
    West Germany developed according to the guidelines of the Western occupying forces – capitalism and religion.
    Today, a bill is being discussed, that mothers who stay at home and raising children, should receiving a monthly premium by the State .
    Popularly call’d this premium – Herdprämie – stove-bonus.
    Gruß Nikki

    Thanks Nikki for the information. I am not sure I would agree to that. While keeping a home is a task, it is one performed by those who work also. To pay someone to stay at home would penalize those who work and take care of things at home. Staying out of the work force by choice should be a persons choice, not profession. Hugs

    Like

    Comment by Nikki — May 15, 2012 @ 01:50


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: