We’ve written about the more dreadful aspects of birth control measures under Communism in Romania in part 1 of this series. Part 2 is going to be lighter. Despite the heavy propaganda centered on family building and despite sex being taboo in Communist times, people still managed to smuggle in pornography, either in the form of magazines or VHS tapes. Video recorders were so rare that they were considered a privilege, which meant that anyone who owned such a device would be instantly popular with friends and family. Mind you, the only television channel in Communist Romania would only broadcast two hours per day, mostly propaganda movies, and watching a foreign TV channel could easily get citizens into trouble with the secret police. As such, it was not uncommon to have impromptu “movies nights”, where illegally copied or smuggled video tapes would be watched by a larger group of friends or neighbors. Of course, these would normally be Western action films, occasionally followed by 1 or 2 porn movies, who would be watched together (kind of a “porn cinema”, if you wish). “Porn” is probably too harsh of a word here; “sexy” would probably characterize such movies better, as Communist censorship from the more relaxed countries in the Eastern Bloc would still interfere with the content. Sometimes, the whole VCR would be rented out to acquaintances for close to 100 lei (roughly, the equivalent of $5).
Besides porn tapes, citizens from Western Romania would be able to illegally intercept TV channels from neighboring Hungary and Yugoslavia, which had a more relaxed editorial policy, to say the least. Additionally, Playboy magazine was available in Hungary, and would be occasionally smuggled into Romania. Generally speaking, movies, magazines, and music were a bit more “liberal” in neighboring Yugoslavia and Hungary, thus making valuable black market products. For example, the disc cover of one of the albums of Serbian band Bijelo Dugme created quite some excitement among Romanians, as well:
Another route to smuggle in porn and other goods was through the port of Constanta, where sailors would bring it from Western countries. This was considered to be better (or better said, more “hardcore”), as Communist censorship hadn’t interfered with it. In the 80s, truck drivers from Poland or even employees of the state television would sell sex tapes to their friends and relatives. Despite this, Romanian society remained largely reserved about the subject, and sex was portrayed as a “necessary evil” for family foundation, or otherwise decadent when performed outside family boundaries.
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