Meet Charlotte Roche, Germany's Erica Jong for the aughts. The former TV presenter's new novel, Wetlands, is causing causing quite the hubbub in Germany for its frank discussion of scatology and anatomy from the mouth of its 18-year-old narrator, Helen Memel. Roche, a self-proclaimed feminist, was inspired to write Wetlands when perusing the douche aisle of her local store, according to the New York Times. She was struck by the number of products telling women that their natural odors and growths were enemies, meant to be eliminated and perfumed. "[Wetlands] is not feminist in a political sense, but instead feminism of the body, that has to do with anxiety and repression and the fear that you stink, and this for me is clearly feminist, that one builds confidence with your own body," Roche told the Times. "Ever since I could think, I've had hemorrhoids," Wetlands begins with an, erm, blast.
You see, Helen is in the hospital because of the accidental damage she's done to her precious lady flower with a razor while attempting to achieve a hairless poon. And according to the Times, Wetlands "only gains momentum from there, eventually reaching avocado pits as objects of female sexual satisfaction and - here is where the debate kicks in - just possibly female empowerment."
The novel has sold more that 680,000 copies, and according to the Times it has "has struck a nerve [in Germany], catching a wave of popular interest in renewing the debate over women's roles and image in society." But critics — and with a novel so taboo that women have fainted at local readings, there are many — say that the explicit sex in Wetlands obscures and muddles a real debate over things like equal pay for equal work. German women currently earn 22% less than German men, the third worst disparity in all of Europe (behind only Estonia and Cyprus). As the Times puts it, because of Wetlands, " A debate that might more profitably center on career counselors and day care is instead mired in old questions about sexual liberation."
Of course, it brings up great questions for American women as well. Does "empowerment" even mean anything anymore when women claim to be "empowered" by pole dancing lessons and Botox? Where is the intersection of sexual liberation and societal progress for women? I imagine we'll be discussing these questions long after 18-year-old Helen Meyer takes her place in the literary "slut" pantheon with Isadora Wing and Emma Bovary.