So, normally I try to bring a personal connection into my WWN articles, but I doubt that when you scrolled to this entry today, you were intent on hearing details of my sex life ;). Instead, let’s look into Russian views of sex and sexuality as they exist today.
Let’s begin with demographics.
Russia, despite being the largest country in the world, is only ninth in population. In fact, population growth rate (rather, its decline) has been an ongoing issue throughout the last century, and even into this one. Among the largest hits occurred in 1914 at the start of WWI, when Russia lost nearly 19% of its population. Over the course of the century, fertility rates have been severely declining, dropping from about 6.7 in the 1920’s to below 2.0 in the 1960’s. Along with this, alcoholism was, and remains, a great hit to society; a recent study blamed nearly 52% of deaths among men 15 to 54 in the 90s on alcohol.
In 1992, Russia’s population began to drop once again. In fact, a government program was instituted by Vladimir Putin, granting mothers who gave birth to a second child 250,000 rubles (a little under $9,400). It’s hard to say whether this program was the cause of the turnaround, but the nation’s population rate began to rise until finally, just last year, it became positive.
Views of sexuality in Russia have changed dramatically throughout the century. During the Soviet Union, sex was a taboo topic. There is a myth that during a teleconference with Boston in the Perestroika, a woman announced “We have no sex in the USSR.” In actuality, this was stated about Soviet television, but the phrase seems to sum up the mindset nonetheless. Sex was more or less banned from media, and any reference to it was either obscene or medical. Though condoms and lubricants were available in pharmacies, asking for them aloud was socially unacceptable.
Indeed, Russia has come a long way since then, to the point where sex seems to be a persistent part of social media. This is the part where I stop referencing articles and give you my personal perception. To start with, even on the streets, it seems that men and women aim to portray themselves as sexually attractive . Women are likely to wear dresses, heels, and makeup, even when going to the grocery store. Men, too, will not often be seen strutting pajama pants. Indeed, one of the most famous girl groups on the Russian stage is called “Via Gra” (they have a lot of great songs though, don’t get me wrong). Revealing clothes seem to have become a social norm on television, and jokes and references to sex are quite common. Nighttime shows discussing sex air on public television. In fact, displays of sexuality seem to have become integrated into the Russian culture. Advertisements are likely to show a girl flaunting voluminous hair or seductively licking a spoonful of yogurt (depending on the product). Sex is quite a common theme of music videos, especially for young artists. Sex has become a much more socially acceptable topic and, for better or for worse, seems to have become an integrated part in Russia’s shifting culture.