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Joined: 11/25/2011

Teen magazine with nude pics? Yes, in Germany
By Elisa Ung

The Philadelphia Inquirer

BERLIN — Sandra, 16, looks coyly up from the magazine, wearing a black choker and nothing else. Boyfriend Elias, 18, grins from the opposite page, also pictured fully in his natural state.

"Tell me, why do you love each other?" reads the headline. And the young couple tells why — and, explicitly, how.

Sell this in America, and risk a long sentence for child pornography.

But this is nothing illicit.

It's Bravo, the most popular teenage magazine in Germany and one of the most widely read general-interest youth publications in Europe. Target reader age: 10 and older.

Sandra's parents gave permission for her to pose nude. Her spread comes in the same issue as a free sheet of fake tattoos, a feature about Harry Potter and an exclusive report on the German boy band currently making girls swoon.

Bravo's editors say the full-frontal pictures are intended not to be lewd, but to be instructive and reassuring to teenagers just learning about the birds and the bees.

This is the work of "Dr. Sommer," a pseudonymous column in Bravo that has become an institution, guiding generations of German teenagers through the everyday angst of young life, love, piercings, broken friendships and yes, sex.

Nudity is common on European newsstands. But in a teenage magazine?

"We take this very seriously," said Bravo's deputy editor-in-chief, Alex Gernandt. "It is not pornography. It deals with naked people, but in a very sensitive way. We try to portray young people to tell readers, 'You are not too fat, not too thin. You are OK the way you are.' "

The column highlights a basic cultural divide between much of Europe and the United States when it comes to sex.

And Gernandt points to Germany's lower teenage pregnancy rate as proof of which approach is better.

About 85 of 1,000 U.S. young people ages 15 to 19 become pregnant, compared with 16 out of every 1,000 in Germany.

"We are more liberated," he says. "We try to deal with [sex] as something normal."

The column started in 1969, and in the early years, many German parents were known to ban it from the house or glue the Dr. Sommer pages together.

Eveline von Arx, who has been writing the Dr. Sommer column for three years, credits it with helping Germans speak more openly about sex.

When it began, "Dr. Sommer really broke taboos, and it was really spectacular to do something like that," von Arx said. "It's not that spectacular anymore. People are used to it. Everybody knows it.

"I am often asked if it's even necessary. People think our society is very sexualized, and naked bodies and sex are everywhere, and young people should know everything. But they don't know anything sometimes."

Each weekly issue of Bravo now features photos of two nude teenagers — male and female, generally between the ages of 16 and 20. The feature is called "That's Me," and the pictured teenagers talk about their bodies and their experiences with love and sex.

They are paid a little more than $500 to pose, and many report a self-esteem boost from the experience, von Arx said.

Weekly letters to Dr. Sommer may range from "Everybody's had sex, only I haven't" to "My boyfriend is once again interested in his former girlfriend."

Sample answer: "Nowhere does it say that youth have to have sex by a certain time. ... Talk to your boyfriend about it. Tell him what you feel."

The Dr. Sommer staff also has live chats with worried teenagers on Bravo's Web site, alongside explicit picture galleries that in the United States would surely inspire an uproar.

Unlike the United States, "there seems to be a consensus in a lot of Europe, including Germany, that older teenagers are going to have sex, it's part of life, it's a healthy aspect of growing up and you need to have info about it — the more the better," said Vanderbilt University sociology professor Laura Carpenter. She was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania when a flight attendant friend working a Frankfurt route began bringing her back copies of Bravo.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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Posted 6 years ago
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Ah the differences between european and american cultures....here we go:

Please be very careful trivializing this article, Europe does not support child pornography anymore than the US does, Western Europe is and has been for sometime, however, quite open-minded in regards to education.
Eastern Europe was not quite that open but you have to look at the cultures, at the government and at the practices before you jump on the bandwagon. Here are random facts to consider:

1. Family structures in Europe are much more closely knit and disciplined.

2. Education in Europe considerably more advanced.

3. Eastern Europe, religion not considered, so educationally God didn't enter the classrooms to decide what we would and would not be taught. More BS about our governments and politics than about real life. At least up to when I was there which was 1985 and yes things have changed drastically, and believe me the freedom our new generations are experiencing is not as embraced as people think "american" values of freedom and independence should be.
a. This means I grew up fully naked on the beaches of the Black Sea...where men who might have been pedophiles came to salivate, but I knew no one was allowed to touch me and openly told my mother in front of the adult who decided to touch not my privates but my belly on the elevator.
b. This also means that things DID happen and it DID mess people up, but, if anyone got caught, they dissapeared...not sure I will ever crucify the "communists" for exterminating, criminals, alcholics, drug abusers etc. Yes the men could hit their wives, no, men could not molest children...it was an odd divide between what was ok and what wasn't.
c. I saw my first adult male genitalia when I was probably 6 or 7? The guy was peeing, I happened upon him and he simply said: "Don't be scared, it's just a dick." I think I have always had that attitude of it's just a dick, but when you know what you are dealing with, you're not naive enough to be manipulated, or talked into doing things your parents told you you should not be doing. Nevermind the fact that we didn't want to get punished for doing the wrong thing so it was so much easier not to allow certain things to happen.
Bottom line: It was the family's responsibility to educate ethics and right and wrong to the kids not society's...it wasn't a perfect system by any stretch, but Europe is also much smaller and it is easier to keep an eye out on its society/criminals/kids...futur e.

4. Western Europe has always been sexually charged, being an older civilization, also means we've been around a bit longer and therefore had more time to experiment, test, fail, succeed with our societal practices. Ironically, with all their "openess", they are more educated, social organizations for health and education are better and overall people have ethics, manners and education (yes sex included) than we have here. The first porn magazine I ever saw was german...and yes it was common for older teenage boys to bring the stuff around in an attempt to get girls to do stuff...guess what, I was more afraid of my mom's punishment with the belt to go along with what they were asking me to do. BTW, pregnancy in Europe in teenage unmarried girls is not viewed lightly, so yeah, we didn't screw around if we knew what was right for us. AGAIN goes back to the family....and how you were raised, knowledge and good upbringing trumped the access to sexual information.

5. Like with anything, when you have access to stuff it is no longer new and exciting. I am going to use alcohol in this example because it destroys as many young lives here as sex...I was 12 when we came here, my sister was 7. I had gone to school, tasted alcohol, knew about sex, and precocious me I had already masturbated...odd I know..but some of us are more advanced than others. When we came here we continued our practices of drinking: shot of hard liquor before dinner to activate appetite, wine or beer...not by the case a glass or two. Red wine is good for us anyway, we always had it with dinner. When I came here eveybody wanted to get drunk and I did not understand it...so I asked my parents why was it ok for us: My mom said, if I was curious I would find a way to get to it...that way, she would rather let me try it in her presence. She said with the hard stuff kids don't usually like it but since it is not forbidden she would not be afraid of finding me dead of alcohol poisoning because my curiosity got the better of me when she wasn't around. My sister did not benefit from as much socializing as I did, she was 3 when my dad left, and mom had to deal in a communist country with a husband that was a member of the party and defected, so, my sister is for all intents and purposes "american". Her drug use and alcoholism controlled her life from the age of 13 (that I know of), till well in her 20's. What saved her? My practice of informing family (my mom) of what was going on and an extremely alert but non-oppressive attitude towards watching my sister. She woke up on her own, but we were silently watching fully aware and ready to catch her just before she went too far. My concern was that if we push she would run, and we would find her dead in a gutter, this way, she didn't feel enough pressure to want to rebel to that level...so we saved her. I think to some extent same attitudes can be applied to sex. If you keep it secret, and a taboo curiousity will win and problems will arise. BTW, I educated my sister about sex and put her on birth control at the age of 14...much to my mother's dismay who didn't realize I was practicing european parenting...I informed, educated, and took preemptive actions. We managed to adjust to this culture, somewhat unscathed...no one was pregnant or died of any overdoses.

6. Bad things about Europe when it comes to child porn is that the majority of the men who find themselves searching for satisfaction in countries that practice child sex slavery, are european. So even though we know, when it comes to pedophilia it is still a disease and it is frowned upon and prosecuted, but the kids are better informed of how to protect themselves.

7. Having called pedophilia a disease, yet fully acknowldging that it has been around since ancient times. NO I AM IN NO WAY CONDONING IT!! Yes even in ancient times there were rules about age etc. So even though we shutter at the thought we do display ancient vases, depicting adult male, prepubescent young boy sexual behavior. There doesn't seem to be much of the Man/little girl depicted, but I am sure things were happening. Things to consider: A lot of people got married at prepubescent ages 12-13...lifespans were much shorter so life was different and when a 25-35 adult male was touching a 12-13 yr old boy, it was more accepted. In ancient time they dealt with ages right before or at puberty...the age of sexual discovery, not 3, 4, 5, yr olds. Like I said, there were rules, and people were prosecuted. As a society, we've evolved, we live longer, childhood innocence years have been extended and through our very practices of lack of education, naive children who become prey are in more abundance.

8. The article above is 6 yrs old...but its point (I think) is about education and not about crucifying the US's child porn laws, but by showing that there is health associated with knowledge. Not only body image, self-esteem, but also lower cases of adverse effects caused by not knowing about sex. You know kids are going to experiment, play, discover, touch...if you are on top of it (don't make this sick) as a parent, you can help your child develop naturally and in a healthy safe way. If you bury it they will find out that fire burns when they touch the actual fire....and some things should be learned through experience but others have long term effects and/or become life and death situations.

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Posted 6 years ago
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Joined: 11/25/2011

Reply to: Ah the differences between european and american cultures....here we go: Pleas...
Thank you, lianapet, for this wonderful explanation and education.

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Posted 6 years ago
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