Photobook Tells History of German Porn

history of german porn

The international publishing house Goliath run by Miki Bunge is one of the most interesting publishing houses consistently turning out titles highlighting the cultural significance and artistic value of porn and adult photography. The »History of German Porn« tells the cultural history of pornography in Germany spanning the time from the first daguerreotypes until the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Germans tend to have a reputation for being a little prude or overly strict. The »History of German Porn« not only proves this stereotype wrong but can serve as an introductory step to dig deeper into the rich history of adult photography and movies produced in Germany. As the book covers a time frame from the 1840s until the second half of the 20th century it also covers a time of cultural upheavals, two world wars, the 20s, the cold war separation into GDR and BRD and the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

The book is richly illustrated with black and white photographies from a private collection called »Gretchen Kraut Collection«. No further explanation about the origin of the collection is given. All articles are bilingual in English and German and additionally, the book comes with a French, Spanish and Italian preface. The contents are grouped thematically.

It opens with a short history of the erotic postcard, a vast field for collectors of erotica. Their history can be traced back to the earliest daguerreotypes because as soon as people were able to take pictures, the world of erotica was changed forever. The creation and distribution were always dangerous of course but the demand was high and so were the profits.

A good portion of the book is dedicated to gay and lesbian erotica. As a preface to these chapters, the book presents the famous Hirschfeld Archive by Magnus Hirschfeld, a German-Jewish physician, widely regarded as one of the first sexologists and homosexual activists. He was the co-founder of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (WhK) in 1897. The WhK was the first organization worldwide fighting to de-criminalize sex between men. Hirschfeld amassed large amounts of data by creating surveys. In 1919 Hirschfeld founded the Institute for Sexology and became an influential sexologist decades before Kinsey. His work was banned under the Nazi regime though and only rediscovered much later.

Two chapters in »History of German Porn« are about »German Nude Culture« and »Ethnographic Nude Photography«, topics connected with the so-called »Lebensreform-Bewegungen« and the colonial perspective in the Wilhelminian Germany around 1900.

An interesting chapter called »Sexuality in the Third Reich« covers pornography under the Nazi regime. For people interested in this particular topic, Goliath offers another title called »Private Pornography in the Third Reich«.

With two further chapters about the interwovenness of porn and politics – one called »Sex and Socialism« and the other »Sexual Revolution« of the 60s « the book makes it abundantly clear that pornography and sex were always a highly political subject.

Chapters about censoring, prostitution and the rise of amateur erotica round off the highly informative and entertaining collection. It goes without saying that a photo book cannot replace a full-fledged cultural history and sometimes the articles seem a little too short. But the source text at the end of the book provides a good start for readers ready to dive in deeper.

As it is the book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the cultural history of porn. It also makes a perfect impulse purchase product and sex shop owners and retailers interested in broadening their product range into books this might be a good test.

»History of German Porn«, Goliath Books, Frankfurt a. M./New York, 272 pages. ISBN 978-3-936709-37-7 $29.95 / €19.90

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