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Konrad Werner: Sexual neuroses

The reunification of Germany was basically the rape of the GDR by the FRG. We all know that. But how far can we extend the metaphor? Very. A new study is claiming the West German press took a deeply sexual view of East German women.

Have you ever seen the movie The Legend of Paul and Paula? It’s absolutely filthy. I say this without having really understood many elements – not just the GDR in-jokes and 1960s cultural references and things I used to call “tropes” in more foolish, more misguided, more passionate days.

I didn’t actually understand some of the plot either. Paul is in the Stasi, apparently, and this is really obvious to an Ossi. But I did gain one vital insight from this essential work of East German Kino: East Germans were very often at it. They had plenty of rolls in the hay. It wasn’t hay, it should be said, so much as a garage, but they definitely rolled in it a lot.

Anyway, a new paper on GDR sexuality has just sprung from the sparkling spring of academia, been caught by reporters and flopped onto the beach of the media. And it is a juicy fish.

Some lovely quotes: “While the traditional behavior of conquering armies (killing the men and raping the women) was obviously inappropriate for Western men after the collapse of Communism, something very similar seemed to be happening on a metaphorical level… The context was the ideological battle between East and West, the Cold War being slogged out in the arena of sexuality, with orgasmic potential replacing nuclear capacity.”

Following the big concrete-bashing slap-up, the West German tabloids, according to the academic Ingrid Sharp, had a field day speculating about the sexuality of these dusky new native girls: “GDR women were represented as products for the fantasies of Western men, while the East German men were dismissed as both socially and sexually inadequate.”

And the crowning misapprehension: “West Germans saw the GDR as backward, repressed and non-erotic, while people in the GDR associated Western capitalism with exploitative, consumer-oriented attitudes toward sex that were outdated and damaging.”

Boy, the West German finger certainly was not on the pulse. The Bild Redakteurs should have watched Paul and Paula thrashing about that garage and having those mad, river-boat-based hallucinations. Then they would’ve thought again.