BRAVO! German Openness

I’ll admit: the first time I ever saw my ex’s Opa reading the Bild Zeitung, I thought he was a pervert. The topless woman on the front page through me for a loop. Even Playboy in the US is sold without a single breast staring out from the front cover — or at least in my memories of it from seeing it in our smalltown drugstore, it is. Who would’ve thought he was reading the news articles, what with the blondie splashed across the front page like that?

But in Germany, nudity’s all normal. As normal as the silly answers those Page 3 Girls (don’t let the stupid Anglicism mislead — in the Bild these are cover models) give in their interviews: “I love eating Nutella in the morning and fast cars.” In fact, so normal that although most often the naked ladies appear under the fold, it’s not uncommon for them to be staring out at you from the paperbox.

After seven years, I’ve grown used to this in the same way that most German women have. We tsk it under our breaths, try to nonchalantly shield our kids’ eyes from it, and then lament the poor girls who are selling themselves for a penny on these covers (really: I once met a woman who posed for Playboy and got less than 500 Euros for full-nudity. And that’s the creme de la creme, pardon the pun. Those Bild covers probably barely cover a semester’s tuition).

I was shocked — shocked! — then to pick up my teenaged babysitter’s Bravo magazine and see that this nudity is not just limited to the sleaziest of all tabloid newspapers written to a fourth-grade reading level. No sir. The German equivalent of Tiger Beat has no qualms about featuring topless teenaged girls in its pages (though I read that the age minimum for these models is 16, it used to be 14, and well, even on most runways that age minimum isn’t enforced, no matter how much clothing the girls are in so that age minimum is a bit ridiculous).

Just after teen celebrity gossip and wall posters of Justin Bieber are staged photos of teenaged couples copulating. With titles like, “And then she put my Schwanz in her Scheide.”

What in the holy hell is this, I asked my beet-red-cheeked babysitter when I opened it up. She was trying to give me a quiz to find out if my personality was more like Rihanna’s or some celebutante named Ashley (I have no idea) and after about 2 minutes, gave up and handed me the magazine. Which is when I discovered the afore-mentioned tale of lost virginity. Seems this is a very popular section in the magazine, one in which real readers get to send in their stories from their “Erstes mal.” What. the. fuck. (figuratively)

I was going to go and lament the sorry state of today’s voyeuristic narcissistic generation and then I read that this feature’s been around in the magazine forever. Or since shortly after its inception in the 50s. Could you imagine? Don Draper’s America being filled with teens who write about their first times for others to read? I couldn’t even imagine it today and there are things on the internets that would make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Reading this, I got to thinking: how easy will it be for me, in approximately eight years’ time, to invest in sending the Diva to an all-girls’ boarding school run by nuns in the Himalayas? Because as much as I’m trying to be all liberal and give my kid a proper German upbringing, I just don’t think I’m ready for this. But then I flipped the page….

And there was a section called Dr. Sommer. As Wikipedia says, “Many of today’s adults received all of their sexual education from the articles by the Dr.Sommer-team.” Basically, a two-page spread in which you send in your most pressing questions to a team of psychologists and sexperts and doctors and get nice, logical, but not-from-your-parents-or-peers answers. What a great idea, I thought. So much better than the abstinence stuff being taught in American schools. Why, Papa Scott even told me recently that his sixth-grade son learned how to put a gummi on a wooden banana at school and I was beaming at the idea — proud that today’s German kids are being given the knowledge they need to protect themselves if/when the time comes. In America, you get guns for protection. In Germany, condoms. Which is why you end up with shit like “9 Things Everyone Should Know About Sex” on a website for adults that basically explains venereal diseases. Hello? Do we not already know this, ‘Merica?

Then my bipolarity kicked in. Because as much as I love the idea of this open, honest and respectful dialogue with teenagers re: sex, these questions were just too much for me. Take, for example, the 15-year-old who needs advice on how to tell her boyfriend that no, she doesn’t want to do it in a public bathroom like he saw in a p0rno recently. Jesus H. Christ! Or the nice diagram drawn for a girl who was afraid her hymen was no longer in tact, which highlighted six different possible looks it could have, along with a note encouraging all girls to grab a mirror and check theirs out (Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone?).

Oy vey! I’m all for letting someone else tackle the birds and the bees discussion but this was a whole lot more than that. I found myself yearning for the days when the spiky-haired chain-smoking gym teacher told us we were all going to start bleeding soon and could we please write our questions on a blank piece of paper and she’d draw them out of a hat to answer at random.

Let’s just hope that sometime in the next eight years, the magazine goes belly up. Because then I won’t need to worry about getting out my Sharpie and blacking out all the things I don’t want Diva to see. I may be raising a future (half-)German woman, but that stuff can start when she’s 18.

**Dear Google Gods, please do not mess up my reader base with SEOs on this post. I’d like to keep this a somewhat family-friendly site, thanks.

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12 thoughts on “BRAVO! German Openness

  1. San April 8, 2013 / 6:37 am

    Hahaha… I am not surprised you are appalled by the BRAVO openness… but I also think you should ask yourself what the big deal is. I mean, if those questions are printed, they’re probably in the heads of the teenagers and it’s better to be educated about this stuff than NOT know what you’re doing when the time comes 😉

    • Milly April 11, 2013 / 11:05 pm

      I’m all for openness …. and for discussing this with my kid. But for a magazine targeted at 12-15 year olds, it’s a bit much.

  2. Scott Hanson (@papascott) April 8, 2013 / 7:23 am

    Did I mention that, at least in Lower Saxony, sex-ed starts in the 2nd grade, then every 2 years? I’d be checking admissions policies at that Himalayan boarding school right now!

    • Milly April 11, 2013 / 11:03 pm

      Oh I’m all for sex-ed. And for the Diva speaking to me openly about it. But discussions of having sex in public are where I draw the line. They are the reason I’m glad I know how to fire a gun and can frighten the bejeesus out of most German males by telling them so. Hoping it works on her future suitors.

  3. TQE | Adam April 8, 2013 / 8:12 am

    It’s been awhile, but a couple of times I’ve brought Bravo to the States as a gift for friends — but I always made sure that the models in whatever issue I’d selected were at least 18..

    • Milly April 11, 2013 / 11:00 pm

      Wise move, at least according to Wikipedia. Didn’t realize the extent to which US customs cared about German imports. First Kindereggs. Now Bravo.

  4. barbtaub April 8, 2013 / 8:43 am

    Great post! (And a bonus fun part is that you can watch your stats to see the search queries that land people on your site!)

    • Milly April 11, 2013 / 11:01 pm

      Thankfully, the deletion of multiple instances of the word sex seems to have kept the pedos at bay. Wish I could say the same for the Lederhosen fetishists (who, oddly, all seem to live in Southeast Asia). Stats are fun, nonetheless.

  5. Riayn April 8, 2013 / 10:27 am

    Wow. I had no idea that this was in Bravo. I used to buy Bravo when I was around 14 and was travelling through Germany & Switzerland with my extended family. However, since my German was non-existent at that time, my cousins & I used to buy it for the English song lyrics and the pictures (never saw any half naked photos though).

  6. sarahstaebler March 25, 2015 / 10:00 am

    I remember being a bit scandalized at the BILD girls when I first moved here, too. I sent my parents one once and actually cut out those parts so they didn’t have to see them. LOL.

  7. lighteninglou March 26, 2015 / 3:47 am

    I have no idea which system produces the healthiest adults, but I do know that raised with one ideology and moving to another as a 16-22 year old guy this is very odd. I grew up in the very conservative Western US. Right about the time Playboy acknowledged men and women do have genitalilia, I turned 17 and graduated high school. I was dating a girl who was a summer freshman at the close-by University and after she gained enough summer credits and good grades to gain full-time acceptance for the fall semester her parents delivered on a promised trek-thru-Europe trip for Chris and her friend/roommate Ann. We wrote to each other from July 3rd on and she called me every Friday evening at 11pm, 6am for her in Paris or Munich, I suppose to check on me finding out if I was a dreaded two-timer. I was surprised to get a call from Berlin at 9pm, Monday night as I got home from work. Ann had decided to return home early and marry Scott, a guy from Las Vegas. She apparently took the trip to see if she would forget him, it seems she did not, absence did the trick. She here’s the deal, if I took Ann’s place, Chris’s parents would pay for my hotels in Germany and Switzerland along with the air fare from New York, I would only be expected to pay for a college student ticket to New York and meals. Ann was headed to Las Vegas, the same night (July 12th) I was flying from JFK to Berlin.
    In the Berlin airport, I saw for the first time girls my age wearing fish net tops, with NO BRA, and naked women on the front page of newspapers and magazines sold out of clear vending machines. OK, the change was too quick, and I suffered from an embarrassing, “is that a banana in your pants pocket or are you glad to see me?” syndrome. Even if I had been warned, i couldn’t have done anything. The next day Chris and I walked along the wall, visited souvenir shops and a few very large department stores. After lunch it was getting very warm, so we headed back to the hotel, borrowed towels and picked up swimsuits bound for a popular swimming lake in the Tegal airport area. First confession time: I was a virgin, I necked like a a 6’1″, 160 lb racing-hormones vampire, but I had never seen a live breast in range, Biblically I didn’t know Chris other than in dreams, so when we saw lots of men of all ages wearing way too small Speedos and women tiny bikinis, I thought that was wild stuff, but when the cloth came off at the beach, (I knew FKK stood for something) I think my eyes were permanently fixed on the grains of sand in front of my sandals. I did catch my girlfriend who was unseen and untouched by my human hands join the crowd, smiling at me knowing I had developed that nasty little problem again, to laugh out loud at my innocence. Yea she was some expert, she had been here three times (the first two she stayed in the water with her bikini on) yet she set me up, telling me nothing to see how I would respond. Around 45 minutes later I did take my suit off, and I was fine, as long as I looked in the direction of the older fat people.
    I have no problem with nudity now, there is nothing sexual about it, but there was that one time.

  8. Dave May 10, 2015 / 9:12 am

    Yeah, the late sex-ed in America is a big problem. Some states are finally making progress though Utah, Washington and Idaho want to lower the age of consent to 14 and others are expected to follow suite. (hey in Mexico its only 12). Its kind of like the drinking and driving issue. Despite the high number of road deaths you can drive as young as 14 in some states, but not drink until 21. In Europe its the opposite – you cant drive and possibly wreck and injure someone until 18, but you can drink alcohol from the age of 14, so hopefully this can be swapped in the US as well finally.

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