I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a woman and all that entails. More specifically, what it means to be a woman in Germany vs. in the US. Because there are differences, of this I am certain. What those differences are, though, are as individual as the people in those cultures. In any case, while trying to pin down some sort of scientific research on what those differences might be, I stumbled across an article in the Guardian that professed to be a thorough at-a-glance guide to Germany. Given the number of corrections to the piece, I’d guess there wasn’t much fact-checking done here, but as a follow-up to Getting Past Hello (still working on it), thought I’d share why this whole “Love and sex” element of Germany worries me:
Love and sex
To understand why Germans are so confident about sex, just look at the top-selling teenage magazine, Bravo. Each week, two young readers (one girl, one boy) are photographed in the buff and interviewed about their love lives, depilatory regime, etc. There is also a legendary agony uncle, Dr Sommer, who answers letters with headlines such as “I’m circumcised and ashamed!” and “My mum caught me masturbating”. As a result, sex is not taboo, and the TV presenter Charlotte Roche – who last year offered to sleep with the German president if he didn’t sign a law extending nuclear power stations’ life – was able to bring out a bestselling novel, Wet Lands, about a teenage girl preoccupied with masturbating with an avocado stone. Brits are often surprised to discover that Germans do not appear to require alcohol to sleep with each other for the first time. German women are legendarily feisty and tend to call the shots in the bedroom. Think the title character in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, who, the morning after sleeping with her boss, tells him: “I don’t care what people think. I do care what you think. And you’re not having an affair with me. I’m having an affair with you.” This anything-goes attitude has consequences: apparently Aids/HIV has doubled in the last 10 years.
Reading this, I’m struck by two things. 1.) That’s a horrible transition, that last sentence, leaving the implication that women-in-charge has doubled the Aids/HIV rate here (which is, in fact, not true, as the rate has declined, but whatevs. Facts don’t matter here) and 2.) There’s an epidemic of single-over-30s in my group of friends and the singles are always single-by-choice-not-desire. What’s this say about German men, then?
Well, as one astute friend pointed out, the character in Fassbinder’s film is, of course, a character, a woman created by a man, so it’s likely that this example is showing that German men want women to be in charge but this is a domination fantasy not necessarily specific to Germany. That interpretation was naysayed by my friend at lunch last week, but I suppose it doesn’t matter now, does it? Whoever’s in charge is in charge.
What’s more worth a second look is the statement “I’m circumcised and I’m ashamed!” Now THAT is a cultural difference if ever I saw one. More than half of US males (56%) were circumcised, but only 11% of Germans!?! But that’s a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother blog post.
Until then, I’m curious: what are your stereotypes of German (and/or American) women? What would you put in your How-To-Understand guide to the opposite sex in your country?