‘No sex in the Soviet Union’, Rich Mix 17 February

Picture from Dash Arts Twitter feed

Picture from Dash Arts Twitter feed


Not very good weather for the latest edition of Dash Cafe, which is my excuse for losing my flyer with the details of the discussants in the storm outside.

The first thing to notice was the audience, with I think rather more girls and gays and rather fewer lads squiring lasses than the normal.

So we had some stills and clips courtesy of Obskura (including Little Vera, which I remembered more as a lorry in the rain), after which Tim Supple tried tom start a discussion of sex and sexuality in the Soviet Union and after, and ran into some resistance especially from Irina Brown, who felt that in the conditions of the Soviet Union sex was part of the web of social and economic relations rather than something on its own.  Also the various demographic catastrophes–civil war, gulag, war–that killed more men than women had their effect.

Peter Pomerantsev, somewhat in opposition, felt that sex nowadays was healthily instrumental in Moscow like in Los Angeles, it was the British who had got it all wrong.

As often happens, discussion of sex turned into discussion of the position of women.  Olga from Leeds U [apologies!] was keen to point out that there was not and never had been feminism in the Soviet Union (Russia…) in the sense of women acquiring rights for themselves by concerted action.  There Bolshevik Revolution had given women the possibility of working for a living and of producing new citizens and receiving support without the need for a man, but that had been a loss for men rather than a gai for women.

That led to some discussion of damaged masculinity compensated by exaggerated machismo–Putin barechested on a bear–and linked with fear of anal rape in prison or the Army, becoming the lowest of the low as a passive homosexual.

Peter Pomerantsev was keen to point out that Putin’s culture war with the LGBT community as represented by Pussy Riot, and on a State-run TV channel near you, hadn’t helped his popularity but of course annexing Crimea had done the trick.  I think that Susan Larsen made the same point about the culture wars lacking traction.

Somebody–it may have been Irina Brown–made the point about needing to have bee married by the age of 20 if you wanted to be anybody as a woman.  A female speaker from the floor had a story about sharing a flat in Moscow with another (male) English student and when she went away for the weekend a local girl moved in on him, but she didn’t mind because the native girl did the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning.

Men of course never needed to be liberated from domestic labour because they’d never done any…

At the end, sad agreement on the self-mutilation of a society and a people, something magnificent going to waste.

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