Sexuality and Gender Roles in Germany: an Intercultural Sensitisation

The seminar “Sexuality and Gender Roles in Germany: an Intercultural Sensitisation” offered the KAAD scholars the opportunity to express and reflect on their own daily experiences with this topic. A historical overview of the understanding of sexuality and gender roles was first given by means of pictures to facilitate the “intercultural sensitisation”. The archaeologist and art historian Gisela Michel gave a lecture under the title “Nude is not Equal to Nude” on the “Pictorial History of the Naked Body in the European Cultural Area” and pointed out that one has to distinguish between a “situational” and a “symbolic” nudity. It became clear that the highly sexualized view often comes to nothing in the encounter with historical examples. A distinction must be made between 1. privacy and publicity in the representation of naked corporeality and 2. its image between taboo and sexual message.

During the seminar taking place from 7th to 11th November 2019 in Münster, led by Dr. Heinrich Geiger and spiritually accompanied by Pater Prof. Thomas Eggensperger OP, it became clear that only a precise analysis could help with the topic of sexuality and gender roles. Only a close analysis renders possible to understand and take a look at the underlying image of man, the respective norms and the relevant social groups and institutions as well as their normative approach to Eros.

The representation of sexuality and gender roles has a long tradition in whose history the concept of taboo has always been a powerful factor. However, taboos are not identical to prohibitions. The latter are largely debatable and rationally justified, mostly in written form. Taboos, on the other hand, are basically unspoken, they are beyond any discussion and have been internalised early with education. They are accompanied by moral or religious shyness. Thus, also the topic of “corporeality, sexuality and church” was discussed in a conversation at the fireplace with Auxiliary Bishop em. Dieter Geerlings from Münster. Interestingly enough, it was precisely in this conversation that an emotionally led discussion took place, dealing with the order of creation and current topics such as homosexuality. The auxiliary bishop also answered critical questions from the circle of the 24 KAAD scholars, who in their eyes represented a traditional position based on the Old Testament.

Thanks to the lecture of psychologist Ada Borkenhagen, it became again clear on the second day of the seminar that in the present age, the exhibition of the human body is also about identity self-expression. The body is more than a physical reality. The main figure of self-representation in the contemporary media public is the person who realises himself in a room in which individuals are and want to be what they represent. The central medium of this self-representation is the body, which is often shown naked. What it represents is an image, an imago, which transcends what it is – and not simply an object of sexual imaginations. The seminar, which also included an excursion to Münster, was very well evaluated by the participants.