When we were writing "Planet Germany," we realized just how little Germans know about their own country. So I wrote down the most unusual questions about language, culture, statehood, politics, history, moral, cliches, identity and misunderstandings and went looking for answers. Including some questions my friends cautioned me not to ask.
|This is one question from the book.|
Was the Sex Better in East Germany?
A) Better than what?
B) Yes, but there was state-sponsored doping involved.
C) No - that is a popular myth.
D) It sure was - but it's all over now, brother.
For several years after the Berlin Wall came down in ‘89, there was a lot of talk going around about the differences between East and West Germans: the East Germans needed less personal space, the West Germans were louder and more aggressive. But only one difference really mattered to me:
Were East German women better in bed?Just walking up to any East German woman and asking her about it didn’t work. I know, because I tried. Who knew that women could be so sensitive? But years later I was still curious about the question when I heard about Kurt Starke, a prominent East German sex researcher who since the ‘70s had enjoyed the rare privilege of talking professionally to East German women about sex.
I just straight out asked him: "Are East German women better in bed?”
To be truthful, I half-expected him to stop the conversation right there. Instead, he smirked and said, "As a scientist, I can’t make generalized claims like that. On the other hand, as man I can: Of course they are! And not only that: Women from Saxony are the most beautiful women in the world!”
Here was a man who stood up for what he believed in. I asked him to explain about sex and the East German woman.
"First, you have to understand this,” he warned me. "In about two thirds of all aspects of sexual research we can find no differences whatsoever between behavior in East and West. For example, men and women in East are just as faithful or promiscuous as men and women in the West, statistically speaking.”
I had heard otherwise – mainly from West men. I was beginning to think this was going to be a disappointing conversation.
"But in about a third of the aspects of research, we find differences. For example, East women start having sex earlier than West women.”
"Now you’re talking,” I said.
"In the 70’s and 80’s, researchers in East and West conducted interviews among young people and asked them when they had sex for the first time. Those interviews indicate a hierarchy of sexual early adapters: East Woman start youngest, then East men. Only then did the West women start, and West men started last. Sorry to have to say that.”
"Okay, so East German started out having sex earlier,” I said. "But that doesn’t mean they had more fun doing it, does it?”
Apparently, it does.
In the 80’s, one of the questions Starke would ask was: Could they achieve orgasm? Among 20-year-olds, 98% answered "Yes” – either with a partner or alone. That was unusual.
"We got surprising numbers that were not comparable at all with the numbers in the literature of sex research up to then,” Starke said. "In most countries, thirty to forty percent of women are categorized as ‘frigid.’ Not in East Germany.” Starke cautioned that there is a gray area: The studies in East and West were different and could not be reliably compared with each other. But he was confident that the numbers for East Germany were reliable.
Then I asked the question that has been on the tip of my tongue the whole time: "So, these women with their orgasmic superpowers – they were easy, right?”
That’s a question, by the way, that a lot of West German men were asking in the early days after the Wall fell. It’s funny, our priorities: With that event, the whole world changed, but the first question that came to mind for many of us men was: What are my chances?
"There is good news and bad news,” said Starke. First, East women really did have more sex than West women. But not only the women: The men also had more sex. That’s the bad news for West men looking for easy East women: Most sex happened in a committed relationship. I had always thought that "more sex” was the same as "promiscuity,” but it’s not. They had more sex, but always with the same partner.
"It’s really the same here as it is there,” said Starke. "Singles simply have less sex than people in committed relationships. Singles in general lead quite dull sex lives, and the percentage of singles in the West was higher than in the East. East Germans were quicker to commit to a relationship. And once you’re in a committed relationship, the frequency of sex goes right up. That’s why it’s possible to say that the East really did have more sex than the West.”
So my mother was right after all: It’s better to be a stay-at-home conservative square.
In the West, singles are always talking about being "afraid of commitment.” Apparently, the East didn’t have that problem. I asked Starke why.
It was impossible to say for sure, but he had one theory:
"The East Germans had no feminism era. There was never any need for it. The relationship between the sexes was understood differently.” While feminists in the West flocked to the barricades to flee from their subservient roles as stay-at-home mothers and housewives, women in the East merrily kept having babies without ever thinking of staying at home or dropping out of school. The state provided for daycare and guaranteed that mothers could continue to study and work. Even today, 93% of all East women over 45 years of age working in academic professions have children, while in the West only 53% of those women are mothers.
"In East Germany there was never a question that a woman would keep working, just as a man would,” said Starke. "In the 80’s it was perfectly normal for young mothers to attend university. Nearly half the female students had children. And they didn’t have to be married to manage it. Even today, the number of children born out of wedlock (that doesn’t mean "single moms,” just moms without rings) in the East is around 50%, in the West it’s 16%. You didn’t have to rush to the Justice of the Peace if you were pregnant: Single mothers were not discriminated against. Just the opposite: They got more support from the state than married mothers. In East Germany the man had no choice but to recognize women as equals – they had the same factual rights and opportunities.”
That changed everything.
"For example, I know of no other country where nude beaches – we called it ‘FKK’ – were a mass movement,” Starke added. The famous and ubiquitous East German FKK clubs were one of the reasons men in the West thought East women were easy. "The catalysts of the FKK movement were not voyeuristic men, but the women. That says a lot about the position of women in society, in marriage, in the family. It’s about female self-esteem. The sovereignty over one’s own body in private translated to sovereignty in public and vice versa.”
D. Yes, East women were more fun in bed. Now I understood what East Germans mean when they talk about the disintegration and fall of their old Communist heimat and wistfully say, "It wasn’t all bad, you know.”
|Some notes on "German Quiz."|
This was also a bestseller.
The book is written in the form of a quiz with multiple answers and I put on a quiz show in bookstores around Germany.
The publishers had a little portable roulette table made up and quiz candidates would turn the wheel to determine what sections I would read and I gave the winner who guessed the most answers a lei at the end. Those were the funnest readings I ever did.
Buy the book.
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