Josephine Mutzenbacher  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Josephine Mutzenbacher is a 1906 German language erotic novel that graphically depicts the sexual activities of a Viennese girl from ages 5-12.

Josephine Mutzenbacher - The Life Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself (German: Josefine Mutzenbacher - Die Lebensgeschichte Einer Wienerischen Dirne, Von Ihr Selbst Erzählt) is an fake erotic memoir first published anonymously in Vienna, Austria in 1906. The novel is famous in the German-speaking world, having been in print in both German and English for over 100 years and sold over 3 million copies, becoming an erotic bestseller.

Although no author claimed responsibility for the work, it was originally attributed to either Felix Salten or Arthur Schnitzler by the Librarians at the University of Vienna. Today, critics, scholars, academics and the Austrian Government designate Felix Salten, author of the book "Bambi, A Life in the Woods" (which Walt Disney purchased in 1942 and made into the world famous animated cartoon "Bambi") as the sole author of the "pornographic classic" Josephine Mutzenbacher. The novel has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Hungarian and Japanese, and been the subject of numerous films, theater productions, parodies, and university courses, as well as two sequels.



The plot device employed in Josephine Mutzenbacher is that of first-person narrative, structured in the format of a memoir. The story is told from the point of view of an accomplished aging 50-year-old Viennese courtesan who is looking back upon the sexual escapades she enjoyed during her unbridled youth in Vienna. Contrary to the what the title indicates, the entirety of the book takes place when Josephine is between the ages of 5-12 years old, before she actually becomes a licensed prostitute in the brothels of Vienna. The book begins when she is five years old and ends when she is twelve years old and about to enter professional service in a brothel. Although the book makes use of many "euphemisms" for human anatomy and sexual behavior that seem quaint today, its content is entirely pornographic and unmistakably deviant in nature. The actual progression of events amounts to little more than a graphic, unapologetic description of the reckless sexuality exhibited by the heroine, all before reaching her 13th year. The style bears more than a passing resemblence to the Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom in its unabashed "laundry list" cataloging of all manner of taboo sexual antics from incest, rape and homosexuality to child prostitution, group sex and fellatio.

The Mutzenbacher Decision

The Mutzenbacher Decision (Case #BVerfGE 83,130) was a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany on 27 November 1990 concerning whether or not the novel Josephine Mutzenbacher should be placed on a list of youth-restricted media. However, the significance of the case came to eclipse Josephine Mutzenbacher as an individual work, because it set a precedent as to which has a larger weight in German Law: Freedom of Expression or The Protection of the Youth.


"Pornography and Art are not Mutually Exclusive"


In Germany there is a process known as Indizierung (indexing). The "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien's" (BPjM) ("Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons") collates books, movies, video games and music that could be harmful to young people because they contain violence, pornography, Nazism, hate speech or similar dangerous content. The items are placed on the "Liste jugendgefährdender Medien" ("list of youth-endangering media"). Items that are "indexed" (placed on the list) cannot be bought by young people.

When an item is placed on the list it is not allowed to be sold at regular bookstores or retailers that young people have access to, nor is it allowed to be sold through mail order or to be advertised in any manner. An item that is placed on the list becomes very difficult for adults to access as a result of these restrictions. The issue underlying the The Mutzenbacher Decision is not whether the book is legal for adults to buy, own, read, and sell - that is not disputed. The case concerns whether the intrinsic merit of the book as a work of art supersedes the potential harm its controversial contents could have on the impressionable minds of minors and whether or not it should be "indexed". Any piece of media that is "indexed" becomes very difficult even for adults to obtain, and effectively drops out of the commercial marketplace. However, an important distinction needs to be made. A piece of media that has been "indexed" has not been banned, censored or denied to adult consumers in any official way, but in practice the ramifications of being placed on the "index list" are such that the piece of media is in essence removed from the German speaking marketplace.

The history

In the 1960s, two seperate publishing houses made reprints of the original 1906 Josephine Mutzenbacher. In 1965 Dehli Publishers of Copenhagen, Denmark published a two volume edition, and in 1969 the German publisher Rogner and Bernhard printed another edition. The "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien's" (BPjM) ("Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons") placed Josephine Mutzenbacher on its "Liste jugendgefährdender Medien" ("list of youth-endangering media"), commonly called "the index", after two criminal courts declared the pornographic contents of book obscene. The BPJM maintained that the book was pornographic and dangerous to minors because it contained explicit descriptions of sexual promiscuity, child prostitution, and incest as its exlusive subject matter, and promoted these activities as positive, insigificant, and even humorous behaivors in a manner devoid of any artistic value. The BPjM stated that the contents of the book justified it being placed on the "list of youth-endangering media" so that its availability to minors would be restricted. In 1978 a third publishing house attempted to issue a new version of Josephine Mutzenbacher that included a foreword and omitted the "glossary of Viennese Prostitution Terms" from the original 1906 version. The BPjM again placed Josephine Mutzenbacher on its "list of youth-endangering media" and the Rowohlt Publishing house filed an appeal with The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court of Germany) on the grounds that Josephine Mutzenbacher was a work of art that minors should not be restricted from reading.

The decision

On 27 November 1990 The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court of Germany) made what is now known as "The Mutzenbacher Decision". The Court prefaced their verdict by refrerring to two other seminal freedom of expression cases from previous German Case Law, the Mephisto Decision and the Anachronistischer Decision. The court ruled that under German Grundgesetz (Consitutional Law) of Kunstfreiheit (Freedom of art) the novel Josephine Mutzenbacher was both pornography and art, and that the former is not neccesary and sufficient to deny the latter. In plain English, even though the contents of Josephine Mutzenbacher are pornographic they are still considered art and can not be restricted in readership. The court's ruling forced the BPjM to remove Josephine Mutzenbacher from its "list of youth-endangering media" and it released a statement wherein it called Josephine Mutzenbacher an exception to its normal policy in the name of Kunstfreiheit (Freedom of art) which can viewed at the Official BPjM website here(German). As such, Josephine Mutzenbacher is no longer on the BPjM's "list of youth-endangering media" and is saleable to anyone without age restriction.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Josephine Mutzenbacher" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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