No Sex Please, We’re Russian


General Culture

I had shown this poster in an earlier entry. Elena Kachuro-Rosenberg sent me email and told me the story behind this poster which is so interesting (and amusing) that I’d like to share it.

Elena writes “note that most of the images at the Pitts U. site are of POST-Soviet product labels and posters. The second one - ‘Seksa u nas net / We have no sex [in Russia]’ - must date from sometime in the late 1980s to early 1990s. It’s a pity that no publication references or specifics are provided on the site. Anyhow, most likely, it is a reference to the famous incident that took place in 1987, when the American Phil Donahue co-conducted one of the first TV-‘bridges’ with Russian and American audiences. He had asked the Russian audience a question about sex, and a Russian woman (from somewhere within St. Petersburg’s city gov’t hierarchy) got up and declared ‘U nas v strane seksa net’ (‘In our country there is no sex’). Both audiences laughed and the phrase became an infinite source of puns for years to come, and in general, became immensely popular as well as applicable. There are reasons to believe that along with other developments, it propelled the proliferation of sex-talk and sexualization of the public sphere in Russia, in the 1990s. Incidentally, recently, while visiting some relatives here in the US who receive Russian TV via satellite, I saw this woman appear on a program commemorating St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary. She was asked to elaborate on what she meant by her phrase in 1987, to which she responded that she merely implied that in Russia a more elevated and refined form of human interaction is practiced, that of romantic love. :o) Whatever the intention, the original statement clearly reflected not so much the individual prudishness (x ridiculousness) but the unspoken gap between public and private spheres that existed in pre-perestroika days. During the 1990s this catch-phrase was used and abused to amuse and enlighten innumerable times. Scholarly studies on contemporary pop culture, and on public health and sex education developments have utilized it as well.

“Regarding the above image — the neutered couple’s facial features evoke a combination of generic faces in the depictions of ‘average’ Russians in Soviet-era poster art. For examples, see this poster or this one (‘Come, comrade, to our collective farm!’)”