Before Porn Was LegalThe Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse

Before Porn Was LegalThe Erotica Empire of Beate Uhse

Elizabeth Heineman

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226325217

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Struggling to survive in post-World War II Germany, Beate Uhse-Rotermund (1919–2001)—a former Luftwaffe pilot, war widow, and young mother—turned to selling goods on the black market. A self-penned guide to the rhythm method found eager buyers and started Uhse-Rotermund on her path to becoming the world's largest erotica entrepreneur. Battling restrictive legislation, powerful churches, and conservative social mores, she built a mail-order business in the 1950s that sold condoms, sex aids, self-help books, and more. The following decades brought the world's first erotica shop, the legalization of pornography, the expansion of Uhse-Rotermund's business into eastern Germany, and web-based commerce. Uhse-Rotermund was only one of many erotica entrepreneurs who played a role in the social and sexual revolution accompanying Germany's transition from Nazism to liberal democracy. Tracing the activities of entrepreneurs, customers, government officials, and citizen-activists, this book examines the profound social, legal, and cultural changes that attended the growth of the erotica sector. Readings of governmental and industry records, oral histories, and the erotica industry's products uncover the roots of today's sexual marketplace and the ways in which sexual expression and consumption have become intertwined.