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Beate Uhse-Rotermund – Owner of the First Sex Shop

by Beth Divine 18 Oct 2018

Beate’s mother was one of the first five female doctors in Germany, and this meant that Beate was raised with a sensible understanding of the differences between men and women from a very young age. Her parents also ensured that the children received solid sex education from a very young age – something that is not guaranteed to all children in even civilised countries these days! – as well as encouraging their wild child daughter in her ambitions.

Having heard the story of Icarus at the age of eight, Beate was so desperate to fly that she tried to make wings out of chicken feathers and glue, jumping off a roof to try out her invention.

Her dreams of flying took a practical bent when she was older, and she earned her pilot’s licence when she was 18 years old. She took part in several flying stunt shows, and then found jobs, first as a test pilot and then as a delivery pilot, respectively. Word of this fearless female flyer spread and she was invited to perform some stunts for the German film industry. She thoroughly enjoyed her time as a stunt pilot, and this was enhanced when she fell in love with her stunt instructor Hans-Jurgen Uhse. He proposed marriage several times and she refused, saying that she would never give up flying for a man. Societal expectations of the time would have assumed that any woman would give up her job in order to look after the marital home and her husband, and in respectably short order, any children that might come along.

When he insisted that he would never expect her to stop flying, she agreed to marry him, only for her father to refuse to agree to the match. He held out for a whole year, finally giving consent and permitting the wedding to be arranged for October 1939. Unfortunately, the outbreak of WWII occurred and the wedding had to be cancelled, with the couple having a hasty ceremony on the 28th of September, a mere four hours before Hans-Jurgen was deployed.

Obviously unable to fly stunts during the war, Beate felt claustrophobic on the ground, and accepted a position with the Luftwaffe, delivering fighter planes to where they were needed. In this way, she was able to fly the latest planes, those that she would never otherwise been permitted anywhere near. Her husband was killed in the last year of the war, leaving her a widow with a small child at the age of 24. When Berlin was besieged by Soviet troops, she gathered her son and his nanny, rendezvousing at the airport, where she expected to meet up with her unit, but she found they had already gone. She managed to commandeer a small plane, packed her dependents into it and flew away, to capture by the British, which was preferable to the alternative.

Post-war, former members of Luftwaffe were not permitted to fly, and Beate’s long love affair with flight was over. She spent some time trying to eke out a living on the black market, and selling things door-to-door. This latter job brought her into contact with many other women, housewives who were being made pregnant by their recently returned husbands, with the resulting pinch on income having a deleterious effect on them, their lives and their marriages – not to mention their health, both physical and mental. There was a corresponding rise in abortions from unqualified persons, which was an enormous risk.

Recalling her open-minded mother’s lectures on sexual health, contraception and sexuality, Beate put together a pamphlet detailing the basics of the rhythm method of birth control. People were desperate for the straight facts and Beate’s little pamphlet soon made her enough money that she could afford to invest in premises, and stock.

She sold ‘marital guides’, books on sexual hygiene and items like condoms, and trade was good, keeping her earning a good income, even when the shop was raided for inciting ‘lustful practices’.

Beate never lost her sense of adventure, learning to dive at the age of 75 and opening an erotic museum in Berlin in 1996.