With the start of Perestroika and the policy of Glasnost created by Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1980s, many women in the Soviet Union started to feel open about themselves, more exclusively, their bodies. A sexual revolution was on the rise, women were starting to feel more in control of their bodies, and as such, they wanted to show off their new found strength. A rise in liberation and prostitution lead to many changes in Soviet discourse. The policy of Glasnost “made women the object, and sometimes of the agent of a public debate whose ultimate goal was liberation” (Female Sexuality).
The first public scene of female sexuality came with the topic of prostitution and its associated criminality. On the rise at the time were films about prostitution, more specifically, films about prostitution involving foreign currency. In a documentary titled “Khau Du Yu Du?” the viewer follows multiple young prostitutes who are interviewed about their work. One young woman stated that she was happy as a prostitute, “And why don’t I have a right to be happy?” Another individual was asked if she was ashamed of her practice and she responded, “Ashamed? What’s shameful about it? Everyone does it, from snot-nosed vocational-technical-school girls to candidates of science!” In response to this documentary, author G. Porshneva wrote an article about what he saw. Disgusted by the film, he wrote, “To what purpose is this film? I tried to imagine how this phenomenon is perceived by the young people who see the film. I think that this film is capable of pushing some of them precisely onto this path.” He then went on to say that there was no negative commentary in the entire film. His response, like many others, was that prostitution is not a positive industry and that it should not be glorified as such. Many individuals felt that people were not understanding the severity of the impacts of glorifying prostitution.
Another film, Intergirl (1987), was also about prostitutes that were involved with foreign currency. The main character, Tatyana, “is a beautiful Russian nurse who is underpaid at her hospital job, so she turns a prostitute catering to international tourists.” Having the main character act as someone who is struggling to make ends meet with her first job, allowed many women to relate to her as they were also struggling in the same way. After her clients tell her about other amazing foreign countries, Tatyana accepts a marriage proposal to “escape from the grim Soviet reality.” In response to this film, Soviets who opposed it, could only say “We have no sex here!” They used the English word “Sex” to symbolize that they were far removed from the topic and that they had no concept for it in their own language.
Though many women at the time felt they had achieved a victory over their own bodies and had gained much freedom, many others felt quite the opposite. For many individuals, “revealing the female body spoke also of degradation, and degraded female body served many as an allegory for a degraded Russia” (Female Sexuality). In a 1989 film, “Little Vera,” a young woman finds no freedom or happiness when she chose to reveal her body in a feature film. There were multiple films shedding light at the time on both sides of prostitution, convincing many individuals that they wanted nothing to do with the industry and wished to remain as far from the sexual liberation taking place as possible. On the opposing side, many women were proud of their work and the efforts they are taking towards control of their own minds and bodies.