We Have No Sex Here

“There’s No Sex Here!

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.

Intergirl with english subtitles

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.


9 thoughts on “We Have No Sex Here

  1. Bree, I really liked how you treated the connection between women’s bodies and the glory and morality of a country. The issue of prostitution in Russia certainly angered many as they viewed it as shameful for the country, but they never really considered why masses of women had to turn to prostitution in the first place.


  2. Your post was very interesting! Do you see any similarities between the prostitution situation in the Soviet Union and the prostitution situation in the United States? Are the reasons that these women turn to prostitution the same or different in both situations?


  3. I second the questions Dalton is asking. There are a myriad of reasons that women choose to go into prostitution but I am interested to know if it is different for the Soviet Union. I like your point that their use of the word “sex” in “we have no sex here” shows how removed people were from understanding the topic at hand. Great post!


  4. Yes sexual revolution! I love how you chose this topic because this has been going on in a lot of Western countries starting around this time and still going on. it’s nice to see that it happened in the Soviet Union as well. Also did you see anything in your research about how they wanted to make prostitution safer for the females or if they wanted to unionize it?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a fascinating and important topic! Can you fix the link to the Current Digest article (use the stable URL for the citation)? Where does the debate about “female sexuality” in general, and prostitution in particular, leave men?


  6. Wow, I can see how glasnost really affected women following Gorbachev’s rule. Although I understand that women were drawn to the glorification of prostitution, I’m sure there was a contrast in perception between the generations of women. Did you find anything about this in your research?


  7. Prostitution is always an interesting topic to me, there’s always this focus on the woman who is the prostitute. Usually they try to depict the prostitute as immoral, or trapped in her position, or simply as an object. While it’s true that prostitutes are being paid for sex, men keep paying them, and if it’s immoral to have sex for money why isn’t it immoral to give money for sex? Most of these men who write against the “evils” of prostitution tend to ignore that whole side of the issue.


  8. Bree i really enjoyed this post! If anyone is in anyway interested in this topic I would highly recommend watching Inter Girl. It focuses on this topic of female sexuality.


  9. Bree, one of my favorite subjects of research and posts this semester was women in Soviet Russia and I really appreciated reading this post to wrap up the 20th century in Russia for women. It seems like women in Soviet Russia often faced conflicting ideals/thoughts on feminism. Previously it had been having to be a worker, but also a domestic and supportive wife and mother. Here in your post you discuss how in some ways women were supposed to support prostitution /understand it because women were taking ownership of their bodies or if they had to for money. But Russian women also sometimes felt revealing their bodies was a degradation of themselves and the state and that there were men who felt this way too. I think this article was a great representation of modern ideals clashing with traditional Russian values and how that impacted Soviet women.


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