July 01, 2016

Birds and Bees

Birds and Bees

Way back in the late 1980s, talk show hosts Vladimir Pozner and Phil Donahue did a series of television space bridges that allowed live audiences in the US and the USSR to talk to each other. In a “woman’s show” filmed in Leningrad and Boston, a Soviet woman uttered the phrase: “В СССР секса нет!” (“There’s no sex in the USSR!”)

This has gone down in history as an emblem of the officially prudish attitude towards sexual matters in the late Soviet Union. Actually she was answering a question from a Bostonian about the use of sexual images in advertisements, and the end of the poor woman’s sentence was cut off: “…секса нет в рекламах» (there’s no sex in ads).

But this episode highlighted a problem: talking about sex in Russian in those years was not easy. And you know what? It’s still not easy.

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