Agnieszka Koscianska and Wieslaw Sokoluk – Instrukataz nadmierny [An Excessive Instruction]

CRUSEV Poland’s Agnieszka Koscianska introduces her new book – a book long conversation with the sex educator and youth therapist Wieslaw Sokoluk, in which Sokoluk tells the story of sex education handbook he co-authored in 1987.

Crusev Poland’s Agnieszka Koscianska introduces her new book, Instrukataz nadmierny, published this summer:

Instrukataz nadmierny (An Excessive Instruction, published by Wydawnictwo Czarne, based in Wolowiec, Poland) is a book long conversation with the sex educator and youth therapist Wieslaw Sokoluk. In the book, Sokoluk tells the story of sex education handbook he co-authored in 1987. Although sex education has been offered in Polish schools since the late 1960s, initially there was no handbook. It was only in September 1987, when a handbook finally appeared. The handbook turned out to be remarkably progressive. It caused many controversies and was banned from schools after two months. It went further than any available sex and marriage manual for adults, which on the one hand affirmed sexuality, but on the other were rather conservative in their description of gender roles, placing sex in marriage. The handbook was also significantly more progressive than earlier sex education publications addressed to young people. While these publications explained in detail issues such as development, the physiological and psychological problems of adolescence or the physiology of reproduction, they were vague about sexuality and pathologized everything other than procreative marital intercourse. The 1987 handbook was explicit about teen sexuality and affirmed its various manifestations. It did not pathologize masturbation and it discussed issues like sexual techniques and sexual pleasure. It also called homosexual relationships “analogues” to heterosexual ones.

Sokoluk based the handbook on his experience in youth counselling and education. Since the late 1970s, he travelled from school to school throughout Poland and answered students’ questions. He also operated the youth telephone hotline and collaborated with youth magazines; in both cases he answered sexuality related questions. Moreover, he ran the youth advisory centre at the Planned Parenthood Association in Warsaw, which consisted of a walk-in clinic and a mail counselling service. As he told me, while writing the handbook he had all his students’, clients’ and correspondents’ questions and letters in mind.

Finally, the book consists a chapter on changing therapeutic and educational approaches towards homosexuality in late state socialist Poland. Sokoluk talks about letters he received from his homosexual correspondents and how he responded to them.

You can read more about the book, in Polish, by clicking here.

Hanging out in Derek Jarman’s warehouse

In this essay commissioned with LUX, Crusev’s Glyn Davis addresses Derek Jarman’s use of the warehouse as a film-making space.

Glyn Davis
6 Sep 2017

In 1994, an episode of the BBC television documentary strand Arena focused on the queer English filmmaker Derek Jarman. It served as the premiere of Glitterbug, a compilation of Jarman’s Super-8 films, created in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Glitterbug was preceded by a brief contextualising introduction that included an interview with Jarman, in which he discussed the experience of making and screening his films in warehouse spaces in London in the 1970s: “It was a really amusing thing to do”, he said, “because everyone came to watch them. So I used to hold these parties, wonderful parties. And everyone would come. Nobody paid any attention to the films whatsoever. They were all there, they all brought cushions and lay on the floor. We showed a proper film – 16mm, something, you know, a proper feature film, and then we would end up with the Super 8.”[1] This anecdote is often repeated, in slightly varied iterations, in histories of Jarman’s 1970s era – many of those repetitions admittedly authored by Jarman himself – recurring and sealing into lore a distinctive sense of a space and supportive queer group conducive to innovative creative practice.

Read the essay in full at LUX.

Glyn Davis is Reader in Screen Studies at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. He is the Project Leader of the three-year HERA-funded ‘Cruising the 1970s: Unearthing Pre-HIV/AIDS Queer Sexual Cultures’ project. Recent publications include the co-edited Warhol in Ten Takes (BFI, 2013) and the co-authored Film Studies: A Global Introduction (Routledge, 2015), as well as contributions to the journals AnikiCinema JournalMIRAJ, and Screen. Glyn is currently completing a book manuscript entitled The Exhausted Screen: Cinema, Boredom, Stasis.

Image: Derek Jarman at Bankside

Off the Streets, Into the Toilets!

Mark Siegal discusses artist’s memorialisations of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Klappensex in the second essay commissioned in partnership with Lux

Marc Siegel
15 Aug 2017
German writer Martin Arz recently initiated a project to memorialize Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Freddie Mercury with a decorated pissoir on Holzplatz in the Glockenbachviertel of Munich, a queer area of town. This is a historic pissoir that Fassbinder and Mercury apparently used – maybe even at the same time.[1] The idea of commemorating Fassbinder with a urinal of his own is not such a misguided or isolated gesture.

In 2008 the Swedish techno DJ and producer, Jesper Dahlbäck collaborated with Canadian DJ/producer, The Dove (aka Tiga Sontag) on the music project called Rainer Werner Bassfinder. Stills from Fassbinder’s Faustrecht der Freiheit (Fox and His Friends, 1975) adorned the record covers. In an interview in 2007, actor and Fassbinder’s former wife, Ingrid Caven was asked to recount the time when the two of them decided to get married. “Oh, it was really moving. He always went to the tearoom and afterwards we walked around the neighborhood. Then one evening we slept together.” [2]

Klappensex, tearoom sex or cottaging – call it what you will – was obviously a part of Fassbinder’s life and, as I will suggest here, a continuous presence in his films as well. And why shouldn’t it have been? Men have been having sex in public comfort stations since the first pissoirs were installed in Paris in the mid-19th century. But the indisputable fact of men seeking sex with other men in public toilets has long been a thorn in the side of a gay political movement and gay and lesbian organizations seeking social acceptance and political rights. Aside from its questionable legality, the promiscuous pursuit of sexual pleasure with a variety of nameless men in the seedy spaces of public toilets hasn’t seemed to jell with the ideals of a movement that privileges a proud assertion of sexual identity and the restriction of sexual acts to the privatized – preferably state certified – form of the couple. The operative strategy of the lesbian and gay liberation movements, in Germany as elsewhere, was coming out , a belief in the positive psychological, social and political effects of assuming and proudly asserting a public, visible identity as gay or lesbian. Facilitating this act of coming out was a narrative of leaving behind the spaces and practices thought to be associated with shame and compulsion, the spaces, which collected together, form the so-called closet. If we take Rosa von Praunheim’s seminal film Nicht der Homosexuelle ist pervers, sondern die Situation in der er lebt (It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives, 1971) as a reference, it would appear that the key physical space associated with the metaphorical closet was the public toilet.

Read the rest at Lux.

Marc Siegel is currently Professor of Film Studies at the Freie Universität in Berlin and a Senior Researcher in the Research Training Program “Configurations of Film” at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. He is the author of numerous articles in the areas of queer studies and experimental film. His book A Gossip of Images is forthcoming from Duke University Press.

Image: Cover of Rainer Werner Bassfinder LP (2008); Image from Fox and His Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975).

Did it even happen? Cruising hidden desire through camera lens in Piotr Majdrowicz’s Misunderstanding (1978)

In the first of a series of essays commissioned in partnership with LUX, Aleksandra Gajowy discusses relations between the norms and homosexual desire in Misunderstanding, an unprecedented work from communist Poland

Aleksandra Gajowy
1 Aug 2017

Et maintenant par la grâce de l’imaginaire, bon voyage!
– Guy Hocquenghem, Le Gay Voyage

Picture a scene: young sportsmen at the end of a running competition. Their muscles flexed in the last effort to make it to the finishing line. Then, the race complete, they let their bodies soften, relax. They stroll slowly off the track, shaking hands, chatting lazily. This is where Piotr Majdrowicz’s 1978 film, Nieporozumienie (Misunderstanding), begins.

This first scene itself wouldn’t, perhaps, be worthy of a particular attention. To a Polish viewer especially, it resembles an all-too-familiar format of the Polish Film Chronicle, a series of short propaganda documentaries shown before cinema screenings between 1944 and 1995, and often replayed by the public television today for entertainment.[1] The videos, particularly pre-1989, portrayed prosperous daily life in communist Poland, as well as significant events, such as celebrations of national holidays or sporting events. The material was accompanied by a light-hearted commentary praising the quality of life under communism. At first glance, then, the scene described above could well be an outtake from a Chronicle, emphasising agility and commendable sporting spirit of Polish youth; and yet, a sense of confusion appears. The background music – a slow piano tune – seems ill-synchronised, disrupting the dynamism of the scene. Gradually, it transpires that the camera gaze fixates on one runner in particular, in a transition so subtle it only becomes evident on a close inspection. Then, we see a series of photographs of the same athlete, carefully handled by someone’s hands. A short shot of a melancholic young man’s face – presumably the photographer – is interrupted by the opening credits. What are we witnessing? What is the dynamic at play?

Read the essay in full at LUX.


Aleksandra Gajowy
is a PhD researcher in Art History at Newcastle University. Her doctoral project focuses on representations and ontology of queer body in performance and body art in Poland since the 1970s until present, with particular focus on censorship, Catholic Church, and HIV/AIDS narratives. Her research is funded by the Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership, the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She has presented parts of this research at international annual conferences such as Association of Art Historians (Edinburgh, 2016; Loughborough, 2017) and College Art Association (New York, 2017). She will chair a session on queer spaces in visual arts at the Universities Art Association of Canada annual conference (Banff, 2017) and is currently working on a journal article which will be published in Art Margins later this year.

Image: Piotr Majdrowicz, Misunderstanding (1978). Film still.

Agnieszka Koscianska – Zobaczyc losia / To See a Moose. The History of Polish Sex Education from the First Lesson to the Internet

The new book by Crusev’s Agnieszka Koscianska guides readers through developments in the field of sex education in Poland throughout the 20th century.

Crusev’s Agnieszka Koscianska has recently published Zobaczyc losia. Historia polskiej edukacji seksualnej od pierwszej lekcji do internetu  / To See a Moose. The History of Polish Sex Education from the First Lesson to the Internet. The book is published by Czarne, based in Wolowiec, Poland. The blurb of the book in English is below.

This history of struggles against ignorance and double standards starts towards the end of the 19th century, when men learned sex from prostitutes, and when the prevalence of shameful diseases was an open secret. Koscianska guides readers through developments in the field of sex education throughout the 20th century. How did it come to be, that at the beginning of this new age storks suddenly ceased to deliver babies and stories about the birds and the bees no longer satisfied curious girls and boys? What does intercourse have to do with spotting moose? How was sex described in a school textbook scrapped by the communists for fear of offending religious sentiment? Finally, could folk songs convey more information than progressive self-help books? Among Koscianska’s protagonists are women and men who had the courage to change how sex was written about. Yet readers will be urged to keep their critical hats on in assessing the contributions of the cult figures of Polish sexology. This work is the first to critically examine Polish sex education in the 20th century.

The book contains an extensive chapter on changing attitudes towards homosexuality and transsexuality in Polish sex education, sexual counselling and sexology in the 20th century, with a special focus on the 1970s. In this chapter, the author draws on various sources to reconstruct those changes: interviews with sexologists, sexual educators, and LGBTQ persons who remember the 1970s, as well as letters sent to sexologists, sex columns in the popular press, and sex education manuals. She argues that the long 1970s were a crucial decade that set the stage for the development of LGBTQ politics and self-organization in the late 1980s and in the 1990s. By reconstructing the dialogue between sexologists and their patients/readers on sexual orientation and gender identity, the book shows the processes that contributed to the formation of today’s debate over LGBTQ rights, politics and identity.

For further details, and to order the book in Polish, click here.