Everyone knows that there was no sex in the Soviet Union. Now most people do not remember the origin of this catchphrase. It happened during a televised conference between audiences in the United States and the USSR. A woman when asked about sex in the Soviet media replied, “There is no sex in the USSR....”
Indeed, no one ever discussed how babies were born. My sister believed our dad found her in his vomit. For some reason he thought that was the most suitable explanation. I had a better story. I was purchased by my older sister at a diamond store. It is fun to reminisce about such stories but there is a deeper question to address in the former Soviet Union. How to encourage people to both use contraceptives and to have babies? First of all, schools and families should raise awareness.
My anatomy teacher in ninth grade did not want to deal with students giggling. So for the sake of discipline in class, she skipped chapters that talked about sex and reproduction. Some of us bothered to skim through them on our own. It was the closest we ever got to the topic.
Families do not fill in the gap either. In the local mentality, talking about condoms, sexually transmitted diseases, or birth control is mostly seen as encouragement to get sexually active. So parents pretend their kids are the products of inexplicable miracles, while kids learn anatomy oftentimes the troublesome way.
Abortion remains the top birth-control option not only in Russia but in neighboring countries. The anti-abortion versus pro-choice debates rarely take place. In fact, generally people do not have any opinion on abortion. It is common to hear women in line to see a gynecologist talk about having third or fifth terminated pregnancy. No one would even get an odd look or a simple question, “Have you considered birth-control?”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev thinks that rewarding big families will help improve the demographic situation in his country. Starting this year, such families will get money from the government. However, Medvedev’s generous $1,600 for a family of 17 means a little less than $100 for each family member. Somehow, I do not see this as an effective way to solve the issue.
Perhaps readers in the Western hemisphere could care less about the deteriorating demographic situation in Russia, Ukraine or any other former Soviet republic. But having seen my American friends looking for research or work opportunities in that part of the world, it crossed my mind that if the Soviet mentality is still alive then it will take more than Hollywood movies to educate our people. Sex education can be supplemental to the numerous English as a Second Language volunteer programs out there.
*Z is from a country that made up the Soviet Union, and her writing on cultural and political matters could have a backlash when she returns home from the U.S., so she writes under a pseudonym.
(For other recent posts on the topics of motherhood in our modern culture or abortion, please see: "Octuplets & the Ethics of Fertility," and "Obama: Executive Orders & the Oops Factor.")
(The graphic is a Soviet propaganda poster and is in the public domain.)
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