My Sex (2014)

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In 2014 the Moscow-based Lena Uzhinova (b. 1967), writing as Alyona Kamyshevskaya, published My Sex, a graphic memoir which strips the veil off Soviet-era sexual mores, in the author’s trademark tragicomic style. Uzhinova is a leading voice in Russian comics today; still, her publisher Boomkniga took a risk in releasing such material. Sure enough, it sparked a backlash from mostly male readers who denounced its “pornographic” depiction of late-Soviet sexual realia, such as inadequate sex education; the lack of women’s hygiene products and contraceptives; and rape culture. Nothing like it had ever appeared in Russian comics before, certainly not a longform work.     My Sex did the Russian comics industry a tremendous service, by proving that comics don’t have to be funny (though parts of Uzhinova’s work are hilarious, in a cringe-inducing way), and they don’t have to be for kids. In short, My Sex, part of a new wave of graphic memoir, offered Russian readers a new platform for discussions of previously taboo topics and of the Soviet past, at the same time breaking new ground for the expressive potential of comics in a country that long resisted the form as semi-literate trash.