Sources for my New York Times Op-Ed - "Why Women had Better Sex Under Socialism"

Okay, so there has been a lot of blow back from my Red Century essay in the New York Times last weekend: "Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism."  First of all, I did not come up with the headline nor did I choose the photo to accompany the piece. Both of those decisions were made by the New York Times editor.  Second, it is almost impossible to squeeze a scholarly argument into a 1300-word Op-Ed, so of course the essay made broader generalizations than I would have made in a 10,000-word journal article.  Third, the essay emerges from many years of research and writing about women's rights under socialism, and the sex part is only part of a much larger story.  Finally, I obviously could not include a bibliography with the Op-Ed so I am posting it here, in case anyone is keen to read the emerging scholarship on this topic.  I am greatly indebted to the work of scholars like Paul Betts, Dagmar Herzog, and Josie McClellan for their insights and I want to acknowldge them here.

The original study done in German is: Ulrich Clement and Kurt Starke, “Sexualverhalten und Einstellungen zur Sexualität bei Studenten in der DRD und in der DDR,” Zitschrift für Sexualforschung 1 (1988) 

[Updated in 2018]: Actually, there were many studies done on this topic in the German context. These include:

  • Dagmar Herzog, "East Germany’s Sexual Evolution” in Socialist Modern: East German Everyday Culture and Politics. Katherine Pence and Paul Betts (eds.) University of Michigan Press, 2008
  • Ingrid Sharp, “The Sexual Unification of Germany.” Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 13, No. 3, July 2004: 348-365
  • Kurt Starke and Walter Friedrich, Liebe und Sexalität bis 30, Berlin: Deutcher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1984.
  • Werne rHabermehl. Sexualverhalten der Deutschen. Aktuelle Daten – intime Wahrheiten. Munich: Heyne, 1993.
  • Werner Habermehl, “Zur Sexualität Jugendlicher in der BRD und DDR,” in Sexualität BDR/DDR im Verhleich, 20-40
  • Kurt Starke and Konrad Weller, “Differences in Sexual Conduct between East and West German Adolescents before Unification,” paper presented at the Annual Conference of the International Academy of Sex Research (Prague 1992)

Other scholarly sources on sexuality under socialism in Poland, GDR, and Czechoslovakia:

  • Betts, Paul. Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Herzog, Dagmar. “Post Coitum Triste Est . . . ? Sexual Politics and Culture in Postunification Germany.” German Politics and Society 94, no. 28 (spring 2010).
  • Herzog, Dagmar. Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Herzog, Dagmar. Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Kościańska, Agnieszka. “Beyond Viagra: Sex Therapy in Poland.” Czech Sociological Review 20, no. 6 (2014): 919–938.
  • Kościańska, Agnieszka. “Sex on equal terms? Polish sexology on women’s emancipation and ‘good sex’ from the 1970s to the present.” Sexualities, (2016) 19,1-2: 236-256.
  • Lišková, Kateřina. “Sex under Socialism: From Emancipation of Women to Normalized Families in Czechoslovakia.” Sexualities 19, nos. 1/2 (2016): 211–235.
  • Lišková, Kateřina. Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–89. Forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2018
  • McLellan, Josie. Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • McLellan, Josie. "Did Communists Have Better Sex? Sex and the Body in German Unification." Remembering the German Democratic Republic: Divided Memory in a United Germany.  Editors: David Clarke, Ute Wölfel, ISBN: 978-1-349-32486-6 (Print) 978-0-230-34969-8 (Online) Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2011: pp 119-130 (
  • Sharp, Ingrid. "The Sexual Unification of Germany." Journal of the History of Sexuality Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, July 2004: 348-365.
  • Temkina, Anna and Elena Zdravomyslova, "The Sexual Scripts and Identity of Middle-Class Russian Women." Sexuality & Culture, Vol. 19, 2015: 297-320.


  • Tuller, David. Cracks in the Iron Closet: Travels in Gay and Lesbian Russia. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1996

Please note that I deliberately recognized the exceptions of Albania, Romania, and the USSR under Stalin.

A great piece about democratic socialism and sexuality in Denmark: “Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Denmark,” Katie J.M. Baker, Fall 2013