This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in the leading German daily Die Welt.
Germany's ongoing struggle with integration, usually carried out with a grim zeal and intellectual debates, experienced a surprisingly sensual turn last week.
The appearance of Turkish-German actress Sila Sahin's attractive, naked body in the May issue of Playboy magazine shows how young women with immigrant backgrounds can rid themselves of religious and cultural constraints, without needing to cite statistics or elaborate arguments provided by integration experts.
It's usually no longer a big deal when a celebrity or starlet takes off her clothes for the men's magazine. The unrelenting overexposure to sexually explicit images in the media, advertisements and the Internet has made public nudity so socially acceptable that we barely take notice.
But the 25-year-old Sahin, who plays Ayala in the RTL German soap opera Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times), managed to link her public exposure to the debate over a central sociopolitical issue: that young Muslim in this case, Turkish women are not allowed to make the same kind of decisions over their own lives and bodies that the daughters of the sexually revealing majority have been able to make for some time.
"For me, these pictures are an act of liberation from the cultural constraints of my childhood," says Sahin. "I have tried to please everybody for too long. With these images I want to show young Turkish women that it is O.K. to live the way they are, that it is not cheap to show skin, that you should pursue your goals instead of bowing down to others."
Playboy Could Use the P.R.
It may very well be that the first appearance of a Turkish woman on the cover of the German Playboy is most of all a welcome opportunity for the glossy magazine, which could use the immigration debate to boost its somewhat out-of-date image.
And the still relatively unknown Sahin was admittedly presented with a p.r. opportunity to stick out among the daily host of nudes by fashioning herself as a brave trailblazer for emancipation.
Still, her interview in the magazine opens a window to the patronizing situations that young Muslim girls and women have to deal with on a daily basis.
Growing up "with a father who is an actor and a very conservative mother, I am not speaking for everyone, but in my case, things were black or white. Sex before marriage was bad, you have to pray every Friday and so on." For a long time she "thought I have to do what the man says."
Purists of female emancipation and cultural critics may sniff at the fact that Sahin sees an act of liberation in posing naked for men who are not primarily interested in intellectual discourse. But the tastefully shot nude photos of the young Turkish woman remind us that the reviled commercialization of the female body that seems just like an unavoidable part of everyday life today has played an important role in the history of female emancipation in the Western world.
With Sahin's nude pictures framed as a contribution to the debate over emancipation of young Muslim women, the German Playboy builds on the historical tradition of the American original.
Its first edition, published in 1953 with a Marilyn Monroe centerfold, was undeniably the journalistic spearhead of a then still dormant sexual openness in a strictly puritan America.