Women, sex, socialism and Slavenka Drakulić’s How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.

Published in 1992.

When I saw the NYT article (below) last week about the sex lives of Eastern European women during communism, it immediately brought to mind a book I read a very long time ago.

Her Life Through Their Eyes, by Cathy Young (New York Times)


 … One does not have to embrace stereotypes about some uniquely female sensibility attuned to the personal (as if men never write about the personal!) to acknowledge the particular burdens that scarcity in Eastern Europe has imposed on women. Not surprisingly, Ms. Drakulić concentrates primarily on women’s lives. Her perspective is that of a feminist, but the Eastern European experience gives her feminism a special edge. She is acutely aware of a larger helplessness that unites women and men: “It’s hard to see . . . men as a gender. . . . Perhaps because everyone’s identity is denied, we want to see them as persons, not as a group, or a category, or a mass.”

For more on the author:

To some, Slavenka Drakulić (4 July 1949–) may not seem like a particularly remarkable figure in European history. She is not often proclaimed to be a hero who might inspire all people; nor was she, arguably, a particularly explosive dissident. However, in reading Drakulić’s own accounts of her life under Communism in former-Yugoslavia, we may see that Drakulić herself places great value in what others may deem “the boring parts of the revolution.”

Now last week’s article about female sexual pleasure in a time of Marxism-Leninism.

Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism, by Kristen R. Ghodsee (New York Times)

When Americans think of Communism in Eastern Europe, they imagine travel restrictions, bleak landscapes of gray concrete, miserable men and women languishing in long lines to shop in empty markets and security services snooping on the private lives of citizens. While much of this was true, our collective stereotype of Communist life does not tell the whole story.

Some might remember that Eastern bloc women enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time, including major state investments in their education and training, their full incorporation into the labor force, generous maternity leave allowances and guaranteed free child care. But there’s one advantage that has received little attention: Women under Communism enjoyed more sexual pleasure.

A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women. Researchers marveled at this disparity in reported sexual satisfaction, especially since East German women suffered from the notorious double burden of formal employment and housework. In contrast, postwar West German women had stayed home and enjoyed all the labor-saving devices produced by the roaring capitalist economy. But they had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper …