|Sex Files||Dec 22 2017|
We recently showcased Berlin based art publishers Goliath's latest release Photographia Erotica Historia, a collection of erotica in a unique mini book format, and over the years we've talked about four other releases by the company. Today, in the while-we're-at-it category, we wanted to take a quick look at Goliath's 2016 compendium History of German Porn. Culled from the Gretchen Kraut Archives, the book is more than 200 black and white photos and drawings with explanatory text, and in size is like a thick paperback novel. Where Goliath's 2014 collection Private Pornography in the Third Reich dealt with German sexual culture from around 1920 until the end of World War II, this subsequent collection starts in the 1800s, squeezes Third Reich porn into a chapter, and continues until the 1960s. Along the way it looks at parlor photography, gay/lesbian erotica, ethnographic nudes, amateur erotica, naturism, and more.
It's a lot of material, much of it highly explicit, and it could serve as a launching point for any number of discussions. But for us, as an art history site, we're reminded once again that nothing is really new. Whatever the particular kink, photographic evidence proves that people the age of your grandparents have already done it, and we can safely assume all the practices go back for centuries. Every variation, every position, every combination, already done. Consider the sexual imagery on Greek urns, and in the Kama Sutra. There's nothing new. Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus observed way back in the first century that Germans were a tough and wild folk, perfectly content to roam naked through the wilderness, but not particularly lustful. The images in History of German Porn cast doubt upon Tacitus' assessment. They suggest that the German reputation for sexual coolness doesn't quite fit.
Having spent some time in Germany, we don't think it fits either. Consider the fact that freikoerperkultur, or nudism, is more embedded in German culture than that of other western nations. There are parks in Berlin where one can lounge naked. German cities have brothels the size of malls. Sexual decadence, though mostly underground, was a hallmark of the Third Reich years. Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg were notorious for their exclusive erotic stage shows. So perhaps what History of German Porn teaches us is merely that overt sexual expression in Germany is pushed more toward private realms such as naturist retreats and sex clubs. Or maybe it teaches us that sexual reputations are misleading, and all of us respond to the same stimuli. But ultimately, there's no need to probe that deeply into the implications of History of German Porn. As pure art, as photographs of nude young bodies, as tableaux merely to regard and enjoy, the images are more than worthwhile.