Let’s talk about sex.
OK, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s actually talk about sex and how it is perceived in the U.S. and in Germany.
In the U.S., sex is way more taboo than it should be. Sex will get you in serious trouble; sex will get you crucified.
Not so in Germany. Though Germans, lord knows, don’t have everything figured out, they kinda get sex right.
What I mean is, nakedness is not that taboo in Germany (or at least in northern Germany, where I live). If a man sees a woman naked in a locker room, OK, well, yeah, he sees her naked. Oftentimes, there ain’t that much of a partition between the men’s and women’s locker room: sometimes you can actually have a peep into the ladies’ locker room and see a few women naked if they happen to be passing by the area that is visible to the public at that moment. Germans also often go naked into unisex saunas together; babies at lakes often run naked; mothers sometimes breast-feed in public.
It’s just not that crazy.
And to drive home just how relaxed Germans are about sex and nudity and just how different their attitudes are, I’ve posted the photo above.
It’s the “Bild Girl.”
Bild is a newspaper here in Germany that ain’t a bad newspaper. It’s the people’s newspaper, in a way. It’s the paper that’s sold by the cash register at McDonald’s, the paper you often see blue-collar workers reading, the paper you can guarantee is at every newsstand.
I’m hesitant to compare Bild to any U.S. newspaper, but if I had to, I’d probably say it’s akin to the New York Post, even though I think the Post is a little more esteemed.
In any event, every day, Bild featuers a pin-up girl called the “Bild Girl.” The Bild Girl, which has been around since the early 1980s, is always topless and there is always a little interview with her along with her photo. The Bild Girl can be found on Page 3 of Bild, but up until a few years ago, she was on Page 1.
Talk about differences in cultures, huh?
Could you imagine opening up the Pocono Record every morning to see a topless pin-up girl in its pages? Sure, you might find it offensive or shocking. And you know what, as an American, the thought sorta shocks me, too.
But, really, why? (And please indulge me here.)
Why does the idea of a topless pin-up girl in a newspaper have to seem so lurid, so terrible? Yes, many people in Germany including my girlfriend do not like the Bild Girl and think the whole idea is gratuitous and tasteless.
But in a way, again please be indulgent, the Bild Girl is not all that bad because it actually normalizes and embraces something that is often suppressed in the United States — human sexuality. The Bild Girl also helps remove the stigma that is often attached to women who are in touch with and unapologetic about their sexuality. It does all this, I think, by presenting the women in a light that is erotic, yes, but also kinda mundane.
For example: the text that accompanies the photo tells us where the Bild Girl is from, how old she is, what her profession is. The Bild Girl seen above, Marie-Christin, happens to be a housewife, but Bild Girls have been lawyers, veterinarians, fashion designers, etc. The newspaper also mentions if the Bild Girl has children and if so how many. All the info mentioned about the Bild Girl is info that is highly relatable.
Granted, even though I seem to be rallying in the name of sexual freedom and woman power with this blog post, it would still be easy to think that I’m all for the Bild Girl and what the Bild Girl may or may not represent because, well, I’m a man and in the end, female nudity is something I’m hard-wired to enjoy.
But I think at very least, at the end of the day, whatever your opinion is, we can all agree on this: The fact that the Bild Girl exists proves that a society that doesn’t suppress sexuality or stigmatize people for being sexual can function and function just fine.