Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Building a Sex Empire for Women

Kate is a political writer from Pennsylvania. Her favorite topics are feminist-focused, but she writes on a wide variety of social and cultural issues. If you enjoy her work, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

For too long, women’s sexual desires weren’t discussed or really taken into consideration. The remnants of those stereotypes and repression continue today. In America, we’ve been fed a tale of men’s sexual desires being the primary focus, with people like Hugh Hefner hijacking the women’s sexual liberation movement and taking center stage on our country’s view of sex and sexuality.
But in Germany, things were much different. Their sexual empire wasn’t built by a man parading girls half his age around in skimpy bunny outfits. It was built by a woman named Beate Uhse, and she made an empire that empowered women instead.

The Beginnings

Uhse was pioneering already with her first career as a WWII pilot. After the war was over, families were struggling with having enough food to eat and a place to stay. Money was tight, and unwanted pregnancies were an issue when families couldn’t afford to have another mouth to feed.
Uhse distributed a pamphlet about natural contraception methods for women, and it grew shortly after to a full mail-order business with a variety of products.

The Female Focus

Beate Uhse’s products and information focused on a healthy sex life in marriages, with extra attention paid to women and their desires. Making sure both parties in the relationship were sexually fulfilled was important.
Uhse knew women’s problems when it came to sex, and she helped communicate those issues to men who had no idea they existed. This advice then led to Beate Uhse providing products that were intended as solutions. She understood her business and made sure it was profitable, while still giving couples the advice and knowledge they needed to ensure both parties’ satisfaction.

The Hefner Issue

Hugh Hefner’s take, on the other hand, was focused on the objectification of women, serving them up as playthings to fulfill men’s wild desires. Playboy bunnies had strict rules they had to follow regarding appearances and personality while working at the mansion. They had to constantly be at the perfection level men expected them to be at. The Playboy mansion wasn’t a place to have an off day.
While Hefner defenders will say that Playboy featured articles by some quality authors and discussed some bigger issues, there were always pictures of naked women that he knew sold magazines. His reputation for romancing multiple younger women is also prominent, as is his reputation for being controlling and demanding over the women in his care.
Both Uhse and Hefner represented the audience their businesses catered to. Hefner was always the literal playboy, smoking a cigar in a mansion while surrounded by women. He’s seen as having it all, the ultimate men’s dream life. Uhse, however, was a married mother, who included her husband in the business. She reflected the reality of committed sexual relationships instead of the male fantasy.

The Legacy

In Germany and throughout Europe, the Uhse name is known. Her business grew into sex shops that catered toward women. The stores featured feminine fixtures and signage to showcase that they were truly shops for women. The Beate Uhse name is synonymous with sexual revolution.
While Hefner’s name is of course widely known as well, his legacy is a bit different. It’s tainted with his actions toward women and accusations that he was abusive with his Playmates. When you build your business on objectifying women, it’s hard to fully move past that shadow.
Beate Uhse is the one we should be looking up to as a pioneer of sexual revolution and liberation for all parties. Both battled for sexual liberation, but only one of them has a legacy of promoting a realistic and healthy view of what liberated sex for women looks like.

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