Sexuality

Together with the Benelux and the Scandinavian nations, Germans may have the most liberal attitude towards sexuality of all industrialized countries. Although many complain about what they see as the "typical German inhibition" and regard Asian or Latin American societies as more sexually fun loving, this view ignores the fact that actual knowledge about sexuality is very high, while social taboos connected with sexuality hardly exist at all. This is the case not only at the legal level but also in media and everyday lives. While a third of all men and a quarter of all women still have difficulties talking about sex, the majority have no inhibitions. The body, bodily functions, and sexuality are widely seen as "natural" and have positive connotations. However, 80% still say that they prefer to be alone in the bathroom. In contrast with many societies where others prohibit and proscribe sexual partners, there is a high degree of individual decision-making about with whom and when one would like to have sex. However, the main "reason" for having sex is the conviction that one has fallen in love. Differences between the concept of male and female sexuality are diminishing. Neither quality nor quantity are decisive, and only 37% of women say that they would not have sex on a first date, while 36% of them would neglect their conviction if they felt that the right moment had come already. This also shows that there is no longer a negative attitude towards premarital sex; the distinctive factor for sexual activity is falling in love. Nevertheless, fidelity is an important value, which leads to so-called "serial monogamy" or "chain marriage". The main reasons given for breaking up or divorcing are the lack of conversation topics and drifting apart.

Sexual expression during childhood, like touching and fondling the genitals, or so-called "doctor games" (where children discover each other's bodies and sometimes even pretend to have sex with each other), are widely accepted and regarded as "natural" at this early stage of life. Things change in prepubertal and adolescent years; parents seldom realize that children develop sexual interest in their early teenage years, which has resulted in a growing number of teenage pregnancies and abortions due to a lack of sex education by the parents. Parents rely on sex education taught in school. However, teachers have no formal training in sex education beyond the biological facts of life. In informing their children about sex, parents tend to be biased. Sons are usually less well informed than daughters. Morality standards are higher in Catholic regions and in the countryside, especially regarding girls. Adults are more or less free in their sexual activities as long as no sexual harassment takes place.

Only total nudity is still regarded a taboo in public, notwithstanding the fact that nude sunbathing is very popular and legal even in city parks. However, this takes place in special zones, designated for nudism or FKK (Freie Körperkultur—Free Body Culture), which are not regarded as being in the public sphere. Naked breasts are common at the Love Parade and other Techno festivals, as well as Christopher Street Day festivals. Cross-dressing is very popular at these festivities and during the long Carnival season from November 11 to Shrove Tuesday. The extent of expected modesty is gender equal.

Most Germans see themselves as tolerant towards homosexuals. More than 70% of Germans under the age of 40 accept homosexuality and, in a 1996 survey, 49% said they were in favor of a registry office marriage for homosexuals, 93% wanted homosexuals to have the same job opportunities, and two thirds suggested a law to protect homosexuals against discrimination. Austria and the German Federal State of Bavaria, which are the most Catholic regions, are also the most adverse to homosexuality. In 1994, Section 175 of the German Penal Code, which prohibited male homosexual activity (female homosexuality had never been prosecuted), was removed. Since 2001, homosexual couples can enter into a Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft (registered cohabitation). About half of all German homosexuals cohabit and, although not every such couple will decide for an Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft, the legal possibility is widely seen as a good thing. The argument is that all social commitments and responsibilities should be strengthened in a time of progressive social fragmentation. In the Swiss German speaking canton of Zurich a majority of 62% voted for a similar law in 2002; since 1999 the new federal constitution prohibits discrimination because of one's lifestyle. In Austria, homosexuality has not been punishable since 1975.

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