Reading is Sexy: Elizabeth Heineman talks erotica and scandal in post-WWII Germany [Books]

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There is no room on my shelves for puritans (stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller do not count).  Worldviews that stifle a woman’s concept of her own sexuality and seek to demonize what should be pleasurable, are best relegated to the tinderbox, in my opinion.  But this is the 21st century, sex now sells us everything from diet soda to paper towels – for good or evil; worldwide, both women and men are taking ownership of their bodies and embracing sexuality as an act of personal satisfaction and empowerment.  I can rest easier knowing I am free to purchase as many French Ticklers as I like.  But what dark roads has modern sexual expression traveled to reach the light?  How did the contemporary sexual marketplace overcome centuries of doom, gloom and repression?  Enter German widow, mother and pioneering erotic entrepreneur, Beate Uhse. 

A former Luftwaffe pilot struggling to survive in the rubble of post-Nazi Germany, Beate Uhse delved underground to the black market for sustenance.  Offering a self-penned guide to the rhythm method, Uhse’s first endeavor found consumers eager for relief from restrictive legislation; her career as the world’s largest erotica entrepreneur was born.  As one of many pioneers of the erotic marketplace, Uhse battled government restrictions, powerful churches and the conservative societal paragons of her time to establish a mail-order business that offered condoms, sex aids, and self-help books to a public engulfed in 1950s Puritanism.  In her book, Before Porn Was Legal: The Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse (University of Chicago Press), author and Professor, Elizabeth Heineman explores Uhse’s profound role in the social and sexual revolution that formed the roots for the legalization of pornography and today’s modern sexual commerce.

Currently a Professor at the University of Iowa, Elizabeth Heineman specializes in research examining gender, war and memory in Germany, as well as sexuality and the significance of marital status for women.  Heineman’s studies have produced other publications concerning gender and sexual identity such as "Sexuality and Nazism: The Doubly Unspeakable?" (Journal of the History of Sexuality 2002) and "The Hour of Women: Memories of Germany's 'Crisis Years' and West German National Identity" (American Historical Review 1996).  She holds a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the 2010 recipient of the AICGS/DAAD Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in German and European Studies.

Join Heineman at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Avenue, this Thursday, September 22nd for an eye-opening look at the history of erotica and the woman who challenged centuries of sexual repression, boundaries and constipated bedrooms.  Beginning at 7pm Heineman will read selections from Before Porn Was Legal and pen signatures; copies of Before Porn Was Legal: The Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse are available in hardcover at Carmichael’s for $35.00.  Grab a copy and drum up an appetite for scandal.  Prudish constitutions should be checked at the door.

Carmichael’s Bookstore has two area locations                     1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Avenue

For more information about Elizabeth Heineman and this event, visit her event page on the Carmichael’s website or call 896-6950

Photo: Courtesy of University of Chicago Press website www.press.uchicago.edu                                    

About Erin Day
I currently spend most of my days sequestered in a dark and secret room projecting IMAX films for an adoring public. In my spare time I read books (a lot) and contemplate ever more devious ways to become a professional Blacksmith. I love words, paper, fashion, trees, Charlie Chaplin, useless knick-knacks and my beloved turquoise 1994 Ford Ranger - Daniel. I totally believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Books are culture; my goal is to tell you a story.
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