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By Colin Graham

WARSAW, 30 JANUARY 2006 —Forget about Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II and vodka for a moment, Poland’s real claim to fame is that two of its energetic young women were holders of the "World Gang Bang Record" in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Alas,  the mantle then passed to an American, Lisa Sparxxx, whose feat of having sex with 919 men in a matter of hours was achieved in 2004, but as with her Polish predecessors—Klaudia Figura (646 men) and Marianna Rokita (759)—she chose to do her country proud at the Eroticon festival in Warsaw, now about to enter its sixth consecutive year from 16 - 19 February 2006.

Poland and sex have a troubled relationship. The Catholic Church, as is its wont, does its mightiest to rein in the urges of its followers—still legion in Poland—but largely fails, as Ms Figura, Ms Rokita, and their multiple partners have so graphically shown.

The thoroughfare from Warsaw city centre to the suburbs, just a few minutes walk from where I live, is a living testament to just how bizarre this tension between fornication and faith can get. John Paul II Avenue was in April last year a mecca for thousands upon thousands of Poles who came  to light candles on the sidewalks in homage to the first Polish Pope, who had just died. Getting through the somber throng was nigh impossible, as was uttering anything other than the most pious of thoughts, or so it seemed.

Yet lining the scene were (and are) dozens of the dingiest porno stores you will ever see in this part of Europe: as it got dark the clustered candles helped illumine dildos in the shop windows.

Someone must have noticed because the next day tarpaulin obscured the trashy facades of around 70 percent of the outlets—in what were clearly acts of self-censorship, so clumsy were the attempts at concealment. Ss and Xs were visible everywhere as were glimpses of thigh and thong. Where before one took the shops for granted, now eyes were drawn implacably to the sight of censured sex lurking behind the mass mourning for the "Holy Father".

Rarely have I seen anything so vulgar. Let no sanctimonious soul cast aspersions on Ms. Figura and Rokita, for what they have done: light a candle in front of a blacked out sex shop, my friend, and you are damned.

Why didn’t anyone see that within the Catholic vanguard who fought against the Communists, there was another nasty little crowd of censors waiting to crawl out? Last year’s Eroticon—hoping to stage another "World Gang Bang Record"—was rudely interrupted by Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, who threatened to prosecute the organizers—Pink Press—under the charge of "procuring women". The resulting stir gave the festival excellent publicity but it ended up keeping the "Gang Bang Record" under wraps. The event does not feature on this year's program, and now that Kaczynski is the newly-elected President of Poland it seems that the organizers are treading a little more carefully.

Dark clouds are hanging over Poland. The last government—led by the ex-Communists, the SLD (Social Left Democrats)—was riddled by corruption, but they allowed a liberal atmosphere to flourish, with the rights of gays and women firmly respected. Since the September general elections, however, the Right-minded Law and Justice party [PiS] has gained control, promising to root out sleaze—which, to them, means nullifying libidinal excess along with the political.

Law and Justice is perhaps the most enigmatic grouping in European politics, mainly because it is led by identical twins, Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, one of whom is married and the other single. They are middle-aged men and supreme political operators, which is why Lech is president and Jaroslaw the backroom controller of the party. During the election campaign to get Lech into the hot seat, election posters abounded of him, smiles all around, sitting with his family. Jaroslaw’s profile was distinctly lower.

Law and Justice is also avidly anti-gay—prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz described homosexuality as "unnatural" shortly after being appointed. When Warsaw’s mayor Lech Kaczynski banned a gay-rights demonstration one weekend, only to let another—virulently opposed to homosexuality—to go ahead the next, he was condemned across Europe. Poland was that day an inversion of the European ideal of "freedom of speech": it became a nasty blemish on all the post-war efforts to heal the  atrocities of Nazism, let alone Stalinism.

Speech is one thing, the body another. During martial law in 1981 Poles had reproductive sex more than any other European nation, and so was born the first "baby-boomer" generation of the Communist bloc. The curfew saw to that. It now boasts one of the youngest— and by definition—most sexually active populations in the region. "Come fuck with us" is one item on Eroticon 2006’s program. It will be interesting to see how many take up the offer.

Eroticon 2006


A British  journalist based in Warsaw, Colin Graham writes on culture in Central and Eastern Europe.  He last wrote on St. Petersburg: Naked by Night for Culturekiosque.com

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