Maria Matienzo Puerto
HAVANA TIMES, March 5 — “S” (I’m not sure if she has a problem with being mentioned by name) sent me an interview (linked here in Spanish) with Monika Krause published in the website “Diario de Cuba.”
In it, Dr. Krause — now retired and living on the shores of the Baltic Sea — talks about her experiences over her years working at the Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex) here in Havana, and her impressions about Cuban society and sexuality.
I wasn’t exactly sure who this woman Monika Krause was, but now I understand that I owe her a few memories from my adolescence. I think I recall reading Piensas ya en el amor (Now think about love) a few times.
Whether it was censored or not, it provided useful information for those young people of my age at that time. I also remember my complicity, along with my girlfriends from high school, when we discovered El hombre y la mujer en la intimidad (Men and Women in Private).
Now I know that these publications were to some extent thanks to her and a very small team of people.
Her interview goes even further. She talks about her insights into in Cuba in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the socialist system that she experienced, UMAP (“Units to Aid Military Production,” labor camps for gays and other non-conformists), and homophobic society of that time. However at times I don’t know if it’s her or the interviewer who loses perspective and speaks as if everything remains the same here.
I liked the points of contact made between Cuba and East Germany; the comparisons she makes are intelligent because she takes into account the context.
However, a few things bothered me, and I wouldn’t want “S” or anyone else to be left with that single impression.
It’s not that we have evolved a great deal in terms of politics and ideology, but we mustn’t forget what Cuban society has gone through regarding the control and ostracism that some have attempted to maintain.
For example, Monika spoke in the interview about orgasms. It’s true that in the ‘60s (note that she arrived in Havana in 1962) many Cuban women had not experienced an orgasm, but I think that at that time the entire female world was discovering what an orgasm was. Wasn’t it the age of free love?
By the 1980’s, as she recalls, this was more difficult to believe.
Although sometimes impartial and wise, her answers are sensationalist. The only thing I could think of was to imagine Cuban women running en masse to the offices of sexologists to find out what an orgasm was.
What was it that threatened them? – the opinions of their stupid husbands? Those things too one could have found in societies as democratic as Germany. Those are the risks involved when ideas are established or disseminated.
Of course, I’m against the impression that everyone here is a sex machine.
It seems paradoxical that on one hand she advocates for “poor little gays” and on the other hand says that Cuba “in the last twenty years has seen a relaxation in ethical and sexual morality.” What is she referring to? What are sexual ethics? Does it mean being disciplined in bed?
How can she talk about the last twenty years in Cuba if she hasn’t been here on the island?
And returning to that previous notion, what does it mean for there to have been “a relaxation of ethical and sexual morality”? …or is she advocating disciplined “sexual freedom” under heterosexual and classist canons? She’s raising this while heterosexuals around the world, not only those in Cuba, are beginning to break out of the corsets of past centuries.
Ten years into the twenty-first century, people know that they can and must begin to be classified according to want they want to be and not according to what those in power decide. This is happening even in Cuba. Perhaps in political and economic terms we’re in the 19th century, but some of us (to not say all of us) are reluctant to enter through that little channel.
Everyone comes out of the closet when they want to and how they want to, giving their body when and how they want, so this would also change the concept of prostitution, especially when there are people who engage in it for pleasure and can’t conceive of their lives outside of that.
Why do we always think that those who do something different are evil or sick? Why do we have to convince people to do the opposite – what we think is right? Comprehensive studies that are carried out only perpetuate myths or establish others that of course leave out certain individualities.
I’ve noted that prostitution is not only experienced by prostitutes, but by police officers, scholars, writers, doctors and even some journalists – who don’t necessarily “do it in the streets.”
These rigid criteria closely resemble certain regimes and only help to perpetuate the image that all of us in Cuba prostitute ourselves in the most primitive manners possible.
I thank “S” for giving me access to this information. The “queen of the condom,” as they called Monika Krause in another epoch, appeared at times wise in her interview. It helped me fill some of the gaps that I still have in the history of Cuba (the 80’s continue to be a gray period in my mind, even grayer than the ‘70s).
Finally, I’m sorry though that I couldn’t keep from noticing a somewhat Eurocentric tone of civilization and barbarism in her words. For my part, though I recommend the interview to everyone, I think that Cuban society has evolved over the last twenty years – at least two rungs.