How justified is premarital sex


"The 'healthy sensuality' of the National Socialists was followed by the influence of the Americans":

Sexuality and the media from National Socialism to the Sexual Revolution [1]


In the German-speaking area, there was already a 'positive' sexualization and prosexual stimulation through discourses and medializations in the 1940s to early 1960s - despite the generally sex-repressive public opinion. This development was prepared by the pronatalistic orientation of the National Socialist sexual ideology. In the heterosexual desire or its care and satisfaction among 'Aryans', the Nazi regime saw a potential for political pacification, for stabilizing the family and for the everyday realization of Nazi social ideology and the gender difference that permeates it. In the 1950s, eroticism and sex were seen as the epitome of the (albeit still future) better life, as an easily available experience and promise of the “American way of life” as well as the approaching consumer society based on the Western model. Despite the Christian conservative family norm and a sexual morality tailored to marital coitus, men and women had access to erotic and sexual information and suggestions for the eroticization of marriage without major difficulties. This also applied to contraceptives, erotic literature and photos that reached millions of households through mail order. The progressive sexualization of consumption, the popularization of the Kinsey reports by newspapers and magazines and the eroticization of marriage counseling literature made sex a hot topic even before the so-called "sexual revolution". The spread of the pill and the first educational films also contributed to its positive 'image'. From the mid-1960s onwards, sexual liberalization and, at the same time, controlled generation and marketing of sexual needs quickly mutated into a 'sex wave'. The "sexual revolution" of the late 1960s and 1970s was (also) the subsequent liberalization of a sexual order that had "revolutionized" itself in the behavior and attitudes of many people for years.


The decades between the Second World War and the so-called "Sexual Revolution" are still a little explored territory in terms of sexuality history In the post-war period in Germany and Austria, a conservative family and sexual morality was introduced, which was swept away within a few years from the mid-1960s by the sex wave and the politicization of the sexual. Recently, however, there has been increasing criticism of this view. [3] On the one hand, it concerns the transmission of the idea of ​​the sexual repression or hostility of National Socialism, which originally came from the left-wing 'liberation discourse', and its projection onto the years of reconstruction and the economic boom. On the other hand, it became clear that, as early as the 1940s to 1960s, sexual practice had moved quite far away from the normative love and sexual morality propagated by churches and conservative parties, and that the post-war period in particular was marked by an erosion of the conservative sexual ideal.


In the following article, this critical position is taken up and expanded to include a media-historical dimension. The central thesis is that in the German-speaking countries in the 1940s to early 1960s there was a 'positive' sexualization in the sense of Foucault and a prosexual stimulation through discourses and medializations. Even before the Sexual Revolution - which actually represented a subsequent sexual liberalization - in large parts of the population, both of these led to a fundamentally sex-affirmative attitude. This applies despite all, from today's point of view, sexophobic and restrictive measures, for example against prostitutes and homosexuals during the Nazi era or against premarital and extramarital sex during the 1950s.


This investigation is based on a media concept that includes language and written media as well as image and mass media. [4] The media do not represent 'simple' means of transmission (according to the input / output scheme), but form the "reason for enabling and determining factor of cultural manifestations and practices". [5] In this way, linguistic, discursive and the social practices that embed them are just as focused as the visual, technical and mass media representations of the sexual and their social and cultural context.

'Positive' sexualization under National Socialism (1933/38 to 1945)


The Nazi regime was by no means as hostile to sex as the history of sexuality in the wake of the "sexual revolution" claimed. [6] On the contrary, the sexual played an important positive role, especially in pronatalistic politics. As long as eroticism, sexual stimulation and satisfaction encouraged the heterosexual desire of the so-called Aryans, they were most welcome, and this also before and outside of marriage - as for example the promotion measures for single women or (during the war) state-organized prostitution showed. [7] In the heterosexual desire or its care and satisfaction one saw a potential for the political pacification of the people, for the stabilization of the Aryan family and for the everyday realization of the Nazi social ideology as well as the gender difference that permeates it. The sexual reform (movement) of the Weimar Republic, on the other hand, was regarded as twisted, sultry and degenerate. NS sex, on the other hand, should be natural, health-promoting and physical, an expression of the new standard of living such as the "Strength through Joy" program, which also offered new consumption and leisure opportunities or at least corresponding images. [8] The importance of sexual politics in the fight against church values ​​and the influence of the clergy should not be underestimated: Christian sexual morality is primarily aimed at reproduction, but not sexual pleasure, and the prohibition of premarital intercourse is simply out of date. In contrast to the church sermon and its promises of salvation, which are oriented towards the other side, the Nazi culture should enable positive physical experience and sexual fulfillment. In place of Christian transcendence, there was participation in the sacred and divine in nature. In return, the alleged antipodes of Aryan were sexualized and at the same time pathologized: Jews and blacks were by nature particularly horny and exposed to their sexual urges, prostitutes allegedly tended to their trade due to an innate moral defect, and homosexuals would become due to their pathological and perverse lusts represent a permanent danger for the sexually unstable youth. [9]


The measures for the selective promotion or prevention of sexuality ranged from symbolic gratuities such as the mother's cross to hundreds of thousands of forced sterilizations, from the establishment of Lebensborn homes for single mothers to terror against men who desire same sex. [10] A diverse media repertoire was used for diffusion and implementation: For example, oral and written surveys on hereditary health for those willing to marry or information brochures in which it was learned that sterilization does not automatically lead to loss of sexual pleasure. [11] When visiting the brothel, Wehrmacht soldiers received detailed written instructions for safe sexual intercourse and condoms to prevent venereal infection. [12] 'Classical' sex counseling literature has been distributed in tens of thousands and at affordable prices. In books like Hugo Hertwig's "Das Liebesleben des Menschen" (1940) one could read the following about the importance of the sexual in heterosexual relationships:


"It must no longer be kept silent about sexual matters that mean the future of our people. But it is also of no use superficial clarification. We have to grasp the love and sex life in all its depth. (...) It is not only necessary that both spouses are informed about the entire love and sex life, about its ups and downs, before marriage, they must not hide or fool one another in marriage, they must be open and honest to one another in all sexual matters. " How this should be done in practice was also learned: "The partners have to try to coordinate their orgasm, which occurs at different times. For many men this will not be possible at the beginning, as earlier experiences and frequent sexual intercourse make them much faster are subject to high sexual tension with a rapidly following discharge than the woman who has not yet had sexual intercourse. (...) On the other hand, there are also women, famous examples can be cited, who experience no sexual arousal at all if they have not been given tender loving care beforehand Caressing the skin or certain genitals (clitoris) have become irritated. " [13] Many of the sex guides published during the Nazi era were in no way inferior to the classics of the interwar period - such as the bestsellers by Theodor van de Velde and Max Hodann - in their sex-friendly manner and clear language. [14] Unlike in the 1920s, however, there was no longer a great gap between sex education and the ideology of the political regime.


This is also the reason why the Nazi authors were able to reach broad sections of the population. Her writings were even available in remote rural areas - some of them still in peddler shops. In 1943, for example, a 17-year-old woman from Lower Austria was able to 'procure' a corresponding guide herself in a remote Waldviertel village: "A peddler went around there and she sold a book and I was at home alone at the time. And she persuaded me to she said: 'I have a book there that was written by a doctor and it contains all the diseases of the children and adults, including pregnancy and childbirth and everything related to it.' I said: 'I want to see this' and she had one to look at and I just flipped through it at high speed and thought to myself, I must have it. There was the delivery in color images and in different stages and even conception from the first month, how it develops and how it continues. And then I thought to myself, I would get the book, I had so much money and I bought the book. I then hid it. But that I studied books, actually studied them. And from that day on, of course, I was already fully informed, then everything was already together. " [15]


The text strategies of these media - such as fictional doctor-patient dialogues, mnemonics and commandments - drew on decades, sometimes centuries-old traditions. [16] A more recent building block for 'positive' sexualization was the world of images that became visible in some of these publications. In accordance with the objectives of the Nazi biopower, the visualizations primarily pursued performative and incorporative strategies. Wilm Burghardt saw in them in his work "Sieg der Körperfreude" (1940) a counterpart to church spirituality: "Sieg der Körperfreude. The exclamation (...) is unequivocal. It relates to this life. Joy to that life on the other side has been preached for millennia. The exclamation (...) represents a demand on a life principle. " In contrast to the anti-body Christian tradition, physical pleasure would now encompass the entire physical and mental relationship to the environment. "This attitude determines the attitude, is already determined by the language of the body. Even personal hygiene, which includes washing, bathing, drybrushing and physical exercises such as sport, games and gymnastics, the body is taught a certain language, if it is not physical pleasure is even more, is impulse, is laughter, recovery, commitment to strength, health and beauty. That is why the term physical pleasure is closely related to the naked body. " [17]

Fig. 1

Fig. 2


The Nazi image and body language and its coding of nudity was interpreted in many ways, including as allegories of childbirth and violence, as an expression of sexual repression, as disguised body kitsch and anti-erotic pose, or as a continuation of the image repertoire of the nudist and nudist movement of the interwar period . [18] Another aspect should be emphasized here: Just as important as the (photographic) representation of the naked, Aryan staged body was that these images now appear in a sexual context by default and could be received without moral indignation. The view of the body image was even politically desirable, the nudity an ideological requirement. Whereby the eroticization of the cold pose was sometimes only driven by an erotic-sexual reading of the context. This is how simulacras and fantasies arose that were intended to prepare and stimulate sexual (experience) life with the partner. Detached from sexuality in partnership, they probably also promoted autoerotic activity.


Erotic and pornographic photos have been available in many places since the medium was invented. [19] Particularly in the interwar period, corresponding images were also found in relevant magazines and club magazines. During the Nazi era, however, they appeared in publications that conveyed state ideology, and there was no longer any reason to sell them under the counter. Integration was now also possible because one no longer exposed oneself to the suspicion of pornography - even 'dirty' and 'degenerate' images could be used as a deterrent and for propaganda purposes. The forbidden images included, for example, the body language of Josephine Baker, classified as animal, or the orgiastically rapt facial expression of Hedy Lamarr in "Ekstase" (Ö / CS 1933, Gustav Machatý). The reproduction and distribution of American pinups was also seen as a greedy, horny business with eroticization or even as a step backwards in civilization. [20] After 1945, however, precisely these images were to appear more and more in magazines, sex guides and reform papers.

Shame Crisis (1945 to the early 1950s)


The post-war years in Austria and Germany were marked by a profound crisis in heterosexual, marriage-oriented sex life. [21] The social and cultural framework conditions for this are known: on the men’s side, the experiences of war (including sexual experiences in brothels or with comrades), the conflict-laden, often belated return home, the competition with the victorious occupiers and their sexual successes contributed to this local women to sometimes massive psychological problems (including impotence), to great difficulties in re-entering family and professional life, to difficult-to-resolve conflicts over patriarchal privileges with the independent rubble women and much more. Women experienced the upheavals even more dramatically: Hundreds of thousands were victims of rape at the end of the war, younger women in particular had short-term sexual relationships with occupation soldiers, unwanted pregnancies and abortions were the order of the day, safe contraceptives were difficult to obtain. Especially in the first post-war years, many young couples did not even dare to get engaged, let alone start a family, due to the unstable economic situation. [22]


The consequence was correspondingly high rates of illegitimacy, abortion and divorce, as well as a large number of people with venereal diseases. In Vienna, for example, the number of divorces between 1945 (2,300 annually) and 1948 almost tripled (6,700) and then fell rapidly - in 1953 only 4,400 divorces were recorded. [23] The illegality rates developed similarly:

Table 1: Illegitimacy rates in Vienna 1939-1965 [24]


Share of illegitimate births (in%)













The spread of venereal diseases already increased during the war, peaking in 1945 with 70,100 newly registered cases of gonorrhea and a year later with 12,900 new cases of syphilis. [25]


In the opinion of some contemporaries, these numbers were an expression of a disastrous treatment of one's own body and sexual feelings. Even doctors like Heinz Delsberg could not avoid pointing out the mental problems in their medical writings and especially thinking of younger women: "The general misery after the war, the housing shortage, the desire of young people to finally 'have something out of life' , and last but not least, the presence of foreign troops in Austria leads thousands of young girls and women into morally dubious and economically hopeless relationships, which after a short period of pleasure put them in an even more miserable position.In addition, one often encounters the astonishing indifference of young women towards their own bodies, a frivolous gift of oneself to the next best. The tearing up of families by the war, the fear of annihilation and misery also had a demoralizing effect on men and women: the uncertainty about tomorrow gave rise to the striving to enjoy the moment - no matter what comes after. "[26] Accidental, thoughtless sexual experiences detached from love and marriage were considered the epitome of post-war emotional turmoil.


In view of this everyday horizon of experience of many people, even the guidebook authors could not avoid the burning questions and had to approach the explosive topics as calmly as possible. On the tiresome question of masturbation one could read from Arthur Schütz, for example: "Parents should be aware of the hopelessness of the fight against a natural instinct and simply ignore the masturbation of their children. That is the only means that does not allow masturbation into the realm of 'forbidden fruits 'Instead of reducing it to a reasonable level. As with eating, drinking and smoking, masturbation only depends on the dose, because what is harmless in itself can also have a harmful effect through exaggeration, at least temporarily. " [27] Other sensitive issues were dealt with in a similarly pragmatic manner: for example, abortion, which, although prohibited by law, was practiced everywhere in view of the many rapes and unwanted pregnancies. The other media also discussed premarital sex, practicable contraceptive methods (especially the temperature method and condoms), the shortage of men and sexually transmitted diseases.


In the guidebook literature there is a struggle to find positive norms, which on the one hand were placed beyond the Nazi nature and racial metaphysics, but on the other hand were also supposed to get by without the conservative Christian sexual morality, which in view of the living conditions appears unfamiliar. The authors chose forms of communication that became an important engine of "sexual scripts" in the following decades. This also included graphic representations of the sexual, as van de Velde had already brought to the people in the interwar period. In his work "The Perfect Marriage", which continued to be sold in countless editions after 1945 and was one of the first products that Beate Uhse brought to the public by mail, readers could find symbolic depictions of sexual intercourse and orgasm, for example. After 1945 numerous modifications of these images followed.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5


One could then apply one's own experiences to these graphics and make the symbolic norm the yardstick for future sexual activities. Coitus curves had great interpretative potential: Here one could read the imperative of simultaneous orgasm as well as the different arousal speed and sensitivity of women and men. Perhaps the viewers also asked themselves what a jagged or smooth curve had to mean, why they were drawn in a wave or similar upward and downward shape, why one of the lines in the woman no longer subsided? Who actually brought these curves into harmony, who actually acted here? Without many words, a coitus and orgasm symbolism emerged that could be inscribed in scripts, fantasies and regulations. It was similar with anatomical drawings and graphics, which illustrated the position of the female and male genitalia in different coitus techniques and also drew from a very old repertoire of images and images. [28]


At the end of the forties, two more powerful media forms were added, the "statistics" and the "survey". The first major survey carried out by the German Institute for Demography in 1949 as well as a survey among the readers of "Constanze", the forerunner of the illustrated magazine "Brigitte" (also 1949) should be mentioned here.

Table 2: Sexual attitudes and practices (Germany 1949) [29]




Did you have an intimate (heterosexual) relationship with a man / woman before marriage?

with different partners



with a partner



only with the future spouse



no premarital relationships



Had sexual relationships alongside marriage







Are intimate relationships necessary for happiness in life?




can do without






Are you for or against birth control?




On the other hand






What should happen to § 218 (abortion)?













No opinion



How do you feel about male homosexuality?







natural thing




Do you think masturbation is widespread among men?







Do you think that masturbation is widespread among women?







Have you ever had any experience with prostitutes?





More often



Even if the representativeness of this survey is questionable, it at least tends to reflect a departure from purely marriage-related love and sexual morality. Premarital intercourse was just as widespread among the respondents as contraceptives and methods, [30] "intimate relationships" were considered an important part of (married) life. The strict punishment of abortion no longer seemed justified to many. Numerous men have had experiences with prostitutes and admitted to masturbating frequently. Overall, women had less sexual experience, be it in premarital and extramarital relationships or during masturbation. For most people, however, their sex life remained oriented towards a love relationship and (future) marriage, with women more often restricting premarital sexual contacts to the later spouse. It was also made clear that the Nazi regime had done a great job in matters of "homosexuality" - same-sex contacts were strictly rejected, an attitude that also emerged in the massive waves of research and trials in Austria and Germany around 1950. [31]


One of the questions concerned the assessment of particularly stimulating "opportunities". "Magazines with photographs and pictures" (46% women, 11% women) were named first, followed by dance (24% women, 27% women) and literature (15% women, 16% women). [32] The sexualization of the public and in particular the publicly accessible world of images was one of the hot topics of these years. According to Austrian criminal law, the old provisions on causing public nuisance continued to apply until 1950. It sanctioned those pictorial representations and indecent acts that violated morality or modesty publicly and in a publicly annoying way. If this was done by means of printed matter, a sentence of six months to one year of detention was provided. As in the case of abortion, however, the implementation of the legal provisions was handled relatively laxly, so that the newspaper kiosks had plenty of illustrated magazines and magazines with relevant content.

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Fig. 8


Such pictures and images were not only found in relevant magazines such as "Mephisto. Illustrated magazine for problems of eroticism, love and sexual life for progressive lifestyle and nudism", but also in average leisure illustrated magazines such as "Wiener Melange" or "Wiener Illustrierte ". There they were placed between crossword puzzles, serial novels, caricatures, piquant stories and travel stories. Unlike in the writings of the Nazi era, however, one could only admire female objects whose body language alternated between natural pose, pin-up girl, bikini bomb and provocative vamp. [33] Here, too, the context often dictated how the erotic or sexual reading should take place - and what its social and cultural context was. Eroticism and sex were mostly regarded as the epitome of the (albeit still future) better life, as a close experience and distant promise of the "American way of life" as well as the approaching consumer society based on the western model. The sexualization of consumption emerged quite delicately in the images; conversely, sex only slowly mutated into a consumer product.

Fig. 9

Fig. 10


The sexual context of the soap advertisement shown became understandable for contemporaries through the first major film scandal of the post-war period. In "Die Sünderin" (FRG 1951, Willi Forst) Hildegard Knef portrayed a prostitute who sacrificed herself out of love for a terminally ill man and was seen naked on the screen for a few seconds. The churches, in particular, called for a boycott of the film, a demonstration ban was demanded, and the magazines were full of reports on the "premiere of the year". [34] In addition to the nude scene, there was indignation above all about the allegedly inconsiderate portrayal of the commercial aspects of the sexual, the lust and lust for life of the central figure Marina and about the fact that this woman - in the form of an 'inner monologue' from the off, who brought out the 'true feelings' of the erotic main character - proved to be deeply moral and emotional lovers.


Nude scenes in films, erotic magazines at the kiosk, revealing educational pamphlets, classics of erotic literature in bookstores, contraceptives in the mail order business - between 1945 and 1950 there was a first, if only a 'small', multi-media 'sex wave'. [35] At the same time, sexualization in the media was one of the reasons why, at the end of the 1940s, more and more people voted for a conservative turnaround, which was implemented step by step in the early 1950s.

"Marilyn Monroe Doctrine" and New / Old Family Morals (early 1950s to mid 1960s)


The central driving force behind this development is the Catholic and - albeit to a lesser extent - Protestant Church, whose influence on the population, politics and public discourse increased steadily in the late 1940s and was evident in the dirt and trash discussion around 1950 came into play. [36] For the project of re-Christianization, the new sexual morality was of outstanding importance: On the one hand, the church representatives turned against the Nazi sexual ideology, above all against its secularization of marriage and against direct state interference in sex life (such as eugenic Sterilization and (forced) abortion). The physical and pleasure-friendly this-sidedness of the "strength through joy" ideology stood in the way of the mental (re) denominationalization. In the phenomena of marital and sexual life in the post-war years, the allegedly low status of marriage and Christian child-rearing, the lax handling of premarital and extramarital sexual contacts, the tolerance of abortion, contraception and masturbation, the alleged hedonism of many people, the lack deep and constant love feelings and relationships as well as the flourishing prostitution including venereal diseases. Or as the Catholic sexual ethicist Franz Xaver Arnold put it: "The aberrations that falsify and miss the meaning of human sexuality, as well as their frightening encroachment, are not least due to the fight against the basic truths of marriage in one part, which is carried out with the means of modern mass propaganda by the press and literature, film and radio, in which virtue and lifelong marriage are ridiculed as backward, sexual degeneration, adultery and divorce are recognized and played down as normal or even glorified under the guise of 'science' as achievements of the modern spirit. " [37]


The fact that Christian conservative attitudes became more and more prevalent in the early 1950s was not only due to the agitation of the churches, but also the result of general economic and social developments. The economic consolidation after currency reform, wage-price negotiations, the successes of modernization through the Marshall Plan / ERP aid, the establishment of a consensus policy based on social partnerships, the pushing back of women from the labor market, etc. should be mentioned. [38] In the climate of economic recovery, the family appeared including the traditional distribution of roles as a guarantee for social stability and the implementation of values ​​such as consistency, diligence and (for the time being) renunciation. Family unity was seen as a prerequisite for the establishment of the productivity and consumption spiral of Fordism: "Work to consume and consume (including family) so that jobs are secured" - that was the imperative that underlay the social system from the 1950s onwards and it stabilized until the crisis of this mode of production in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The spiral was set in motion quickly and successfully thanks to Western, but above all US, economic aid. [39] For the implementation of Fordism it was also necessary that the values ​​of the western lifestyle including its consumer orientation were transported and built into the future visions and life plans by the population. [40] Regardless of whether this process is called Westernization, "Coca-Colonization" [41] or the policy of the "Marilyn Monroe Doctrine" [42], it has long been shown to be more powerful than any financial economic aid.


For the church around 1950, it was primarily about the Christian upbringing of the first post-war generation - those young people who were born during the war, but now reached sexually mature age. This generation should be taught a sexual morality beyond Nazi ideology and post-war chaos. [43] De facto, however, the propagated sexual norm differed little from the positions that the pastoral had already assumed in the first decades of the 20th century. Unaffected, the Christian marriage community, including the order to reproduce, was the only natural sexual activity in the foreground. Premarital and extramarital sex, on the other hand, was supposed to bring people health, emotionally and spiritually into the difficulties that the Nazi and post-war years had brought about.


The sexual difference between the sexes was an integral part of the new / old family reform. In the words of pastoral medicine specialist Albert Niedermeyer, it should be founded as follows: "The man's sex drive awakens spontaneously and expresses itself stormily and aggressively. In women, the actual sex drive, the libido sexualis, is not so closely related to the onset of puberty; Libido is normally latent, unconscious and dormant at first, and first needs to be awakened by the man. — This also expresses the opposition between activity and passivity, between aggression and expectation. Once awakened, however, the woman's libido is at least available Time of ovulation, not after that of the man. The libido is usually only awakened through the first more intimate sexual relationship. This is therefore an extremely decisive experience for the woman as a whole, which usually remains decisive for her whole life. The woman remains mostly lifelong tied to the first man who consciously awakened their sexuality. This also explains some of the disorders that result from a premarital bond in later life. In addition to getting used to inadequate sexual stimuli and sexual abuse, there is hardly a more common cause of later sensory disturbances in married life than the pre-marital psychological bond. "[44] Accordingly, women had to offer resistance until the marital port was reached - at least that was the case the motto that was suggested to young people in the 1950s and early 1960s. [45] In an educational book for children and young people in 1953, this objective was formulated in a fictional letter from a mother to her 15-year-old daughter: "You see It is very wisely arranged by nature that the real sexual instinct in the girl awakens later, when she has reached maturity. (...) A woman of normal disposition at the age of fifteen has no desire for sexual satisfaction. Most of the time, she only gives in to her partner's desire without actually feeling any real pleasure during sexual intercourse. So much the worse for them if there are undesirable consequences if a pregnancy occurs, which now means a terrible embarrassment that must be cleared out of the way. "[46]