In Hungary, such as in most of the countries, talking openly about sex was extremely unfashionable for a very long time, though the youth really would have needed proper sex education back then. Porn used to be a big NO, but at least a sort of education was allowed in a Youth Magazine.
As we wrote it recently, discussing sex today does not count as taboo as it used to be 50-60 years ago. Intimacy is everywhere; not necessarily directly in the bedroom, but in films, posters advertising their products with half-naked women, and even porn can be accessed by almost anyone through the internet. Though all this material did not use to be this accessible, erotica did play an important role in the lives of youngsters of those times, despite being less talked about – as writes femina.hu.
In order to understand better the sexual life of the so-called Kádár-era of the ‘60s and ‘70s, we have to take a quick detour to the ‘50s, to the Ratkó-era. The 1950-1960s period was named after Anna Ratkó, the Cabinet Minister of health, who tried to motivate couples to have kids by using several measures. One of these decisions was to
illegalise abortion and to introduce a “childless tax” which was similar to China’s old one-child policy,
meaning that those couples or individuals who turned a certain age needed to pay higher taxes if they did not have children. Naturally, the population of the country increased significantly after this decade. Nevertheless, behind the back of the authorities still a lot of women decided to end their unwanted pregnancy for their personal reasons, which in many cases led to the death of the woman due to the unfavourable circumstances in which they needed to have the operation.
The revolution of 1956 ended the Ratkó-era and legalised abortion again, but still, women needed to go through a very humiliating process to grant the acceptance of terminating the pregnancy. They needed to stand in front of a commission asking to get the procedure.
It seemed like the issue of unwanted pregnancies was solved with lifting the ban on abortions, but actually, quite the opposite happened.
As young people had the option for the operation again, and with the lack of sexual education the “pull-out method” being left as the only safe way for sexual intercourse, women and young females entered the door after one another to face the commission mentioned above.
Based on the book of Eszter Zsófia Tóth and András Murai: “Sex in socialism”,
it was not uncommon that a woman would go through 10-15 abortions during her life, leading to the fact that at the end of the ‘50s and the beginning of the ‘60as more of these procedures were performed in Hungary than actual childbirth.
Although the first hormonal contraceptives of the United States needed some time to reach our country, the government recognised the problem, and in 1968 the first of these products could be sold.
Those children born in the Ratkó-era entered puberty during the education of the 1960s and started to discover their sexuality. Thanks to the new and safe possibilities for birth control, they could have a more free space to experiment, but still many of them were not entirely sure how to do it. This was because it was considered taboo even at home; they did not talk about it at school, sex was not shown in the films, and it took the Western world’s sexual revolution quite some time to reach Hungary.
The government back then had a very bright idea to sort the situation out. The idea was that the youth should rather talk about sex than politics, so in 1965 the Ifjúság Magazin – Youth Magazine was issued where adolescents could get all the answers covering sexual education they needed, under controlled circumstances, of course. As the years went by, not only articles were written in the subject, but a particular column was introduced to discuss sex. Here well-known professionals answered letters written by readers.
Finally, in 1973, sexual education was introduced in schools as well, shining a new light on intimacy.
As the regime loosened up a bit, the magazine started to open up, as well, and in the 1980s old pornographic cassettes and magazines were brought into Hungary, mostly from Vienna. More and more nude beaches opened up in the country; furthermore, nudity became more emphasised in movies, but porn was still considered somewhat a taboo issue. An interesting fact is that in 1985 they organised the Miss Hungary beauty pageant again, after several decades of excluding it from the country. Still, finally, a healthy image of the female body and sexuality itself gained some spotlight.
It is not a surprise that apart from the exclusion of porn, there was no place for group sex or homosexuality, even though everybody knew they existed. Traditional values were represented by the love of a man and a woman, anything beyond that had to be hidden. There was even a list at the police station containing the names of homosexuals in order to know who to find first in case they felt like the regime was having issues. Towards the last years of socialism in the ‘80s, the influence of the West could be felt already, and the change of the regime in 1989 brought a complete change for sexuality in Hungary as well.