Josephine Mutzenbacher

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Josephine Mutzenbacher
Title page from 1906.
Author Anon. (attributed to Felix Salten)
Original title Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt
Country Austria
Language German
Genre Erotica
Published 1906
Media type Print
Pages 326
OCLC 757734607

Josephine Mutzenbacher – The Life Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself (German: Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt) is an erotic novel first published anonymously in Vienna, Austria in 1906. The novel is famous[1][2][3] in the German-speaking world, having been in print in both German and English for over 100 years and sold over 3 million copies,[4][5] becoming an erotic bestseller.[6][7][8][9]

Although no author claimed responsibility for the work, it was originally attributed to either Felix Salten (see Bambi) or Arthur Schnitzler by the librarians at the University of Vienna.[10] Today, critics, scholars, academics and the Austrian Government designate Salten as the sole author of the "pornographic classic", Josephine Mutzenbacher.[11][12][13] The original novel uses the specific local dialect of Vienna of that time in dialogues and is therefore used as a rare source of this dialect for linguists. It also describes, to some extent, the social and economical conditions of the lower class of that time. The novel has been translated into English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Hebrew, Dutch, Japanese, Swedish and Finnish, 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 title, almost 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. 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 resemblance 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 and rape to child prostitution, group sex and fellatio.

The Mutzenbacher Decision[edit]

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 (de) (indexing). The "Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien" (BPjM) ("Federal testing department for media harmful to youths") 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 anyone under 18.

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 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 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". 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.

The history[edit]

In the 1960s, two separate 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" (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 exclusive subject matter, and promoted these activities as positive, insignificant, and even humorous behaviors 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[edit]

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 referring 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 the German Grundgesetz (constitution) chapter about Kunstfreiheit (Freedom of art) the novel Josephine Mutzenbacher was both pornography and art, and that the former is not necessary and sufficient to deny the latter. In plain English, even though the contents of Josephine Mutzenbacher are pornographic, they are still considered art and in the process of "indexing" the book, the aspect of freedom of art has to be considered. The court's ruling forced the BPjM to temporarily remove the Rowohlt edition of Josephine Mutzenbacher from its "list of youth-endangering media". This edition was added to the list again in 1992 in a new decision of the BPjM which considered the aspect of freedom of art, but deemed the aspect of protecting children to be more important. Later editions of the book by other publishers were not added to the list.

Further reading[edit]

Derivative works[edit]



Volume 2: Meine 365 Liebhaber. First edition (1925)

Two novels, also written anonymously, which present a continuation of the original Josephine Mutzenbacher, have been written. However, they are not generally ascribed to Felix Salten.

  • Josefine Mutzenbacher: Meine 365 Liebhaber – (Josephine Mutzenbacher: My 365 Lovers) Published by Area (Oktober 2004) ISBN 3-89996-276-1
  • Peperl Mutzenbacher – Tochter der Josefine Mutzenbacher (Peperl Mutzenbacher – Daughter of Josefine Mutzenbacher) Published by Tosa (2003) ISBN 3-85492-843-2.

Works influenced by Josephine Mutzenbacher[edit]

In 2000 the Austrian writer Franzobel published the novel "Scala Santa oder Josefine Wurznbachers Höhepunkt" (Scala Santa or Josefine Wurznbacher's Climax). The title's similarity to Josephine Mutzenbacher, being only two letters different, is a play on words that is not just coincidence.[15] The book's content is derivative as well, telling the story of the character "Pepi Wurznbacher" and her first sexual experience at age six.[16][17] The name "Pepi Wurznbacher" is directly taken from the pages of Josephine Mutzenbacher; "Pepi" was Josephine Mutzenbacher's nickname in the early chapters.[18][19] Franzobel has commented that he wanted his novel to be a retelling of the Josephine Mutzenbacher story set in modern day.[20][21] He simply took the characters, plot elements and setting from Josephine Mutzenbacher and reworked them into a thoroughly modernized version that occurs in the 1990s.[22] He was inspired to write the novel after being astounded at both the prevalence of child abuse stories in the German Press and having read Josephine Mutzenbacher's blatantly unapologetic depiction of the same.[23]


Josephine Mutzenbacher has been included in several university courses and symposium.[24]


Year German Title Translation Runtime Country Notes/English Title
1970 Josefine Mutzenbacher Josephine Mutzenbacher 89min West Germany Naughty Knickers (UK)
1971 Josefine Mutzenbacher II – Meine 365 Liebhaber Josephine Mutzenbacher II – My 365 Lovers 90min West Germany Don't Get your Knickers in a Twist (UK)
1972 Ferdinand und die Mutzenbacherin Ferdinand and the Mutzenbacher Girl 81min West Germany The Games Schoolgirls Play (USA)
1976 Josefine Mutzenbacher- Wie sie wirklich war 1 Josephine Mutzenbacher- The Way She Really Was 94min West Germany Sensational Janine (USA)
1978 Die Beichte der Josefine Mutzenbacher The Confession of Josephine Mutzenbacher 94min West Germany Studio Tabu, Dir. Hans Billian
1981 Aus dem Tagebuch der Josefine Mutzenbacher From the Diary of Josephine Mutzenbacher 93min West Germany Professional Janine (USA)
1984 Josefine Mutzenbacher – Mein Leben für die Liebe Josephine Mutzenbacher – My Life for Love 100min West Germany The Way She Was (USA)
1987 Das Lustschloss der Josefine Mutzenbacher The Pleasure Palace of Josephine Mutzenbacher 85min Germany Insatiable Janine (USA)
1990 Josefine Mutzenbacher – Manche mögen's heiß! Josephine Mutzenbacher – Some Like it Hot! 90min Germany Studio EMS GmbH, Dir. Jürgen Enz
1991 Josefine Mutzenbacher – Die Hure von Wien Josephine Mutzenbacher – The Whore of Vienna 90min Germany Trimax Studio, Dir. Hans Billian
1994 Heidi heida! Josefine Mutzenbackers Enkelin lässt grüßen Heidi heida! Let's Say Hello to Josephine Mutzenbacher's Granddaughter 90min Germany Studio KSM GmbH


The Viennese a cappella quartet 4she regularly performs a cabaret musical theatre production based on Josephine Mutzenbacher called "The 7 Songs of Josefine Mutzenbacher" ("Die 7 Lieder der Josefine Mutzenbacher"). The show is a raunchy, humorous parody of the novel, set in a brothel, that runs approximately 75 minutes.[2][25][26][27][28][29][30]

In 2002 the German actor Jürgen Tarrach and the jazz group CB-funk performed a live rendition of the texts of Josephine Mutzenbacher and Shakespeare set to modern music composed by Bernd Weißig and arranged by the Pianist Detlef Bielke of the Günther-Fischer-Quintett at the Kalkscheune (de) in Berlin.[31][32][33]

In January 2005, Austrian actress Ulrike Beimpold gave several comedy cabaret live performances of the text of Josephine Mutzenbacher at the Auersperg15-Theater in Vienna, Austria.[34]

In an event organized by the Jazzclub Regensburg, Werner Steinmassl held a live musical reading of Josephine Mutzenbacher, accompanied by Andreas Rüsing, at the Leeren Beutel Concert Hall in Ratisbon, Bavaria, Germany called "Werner Steinmassl reads Josefine Mutzenbacher" on 3 September 2005.[35][36]

Audio adaptations[edit]

Both the original Josephine Mutzenbacher and the two "sequels" are available as spoken word audio CDs read by Austrian actress Ulrike Beimpold:

  • Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt. Random House Audio 2006. ISBN 3-86604-253-1.
  • Josefine Mutzenbacher und ihre 365 Liebhaber. Audio CD. Götz Fritsch. Der Audio Verlag 2006. ISBN 3-89813-484-9.

In 1997 Helmut Qualtinger released "Fifi Mutzenbacher", a parody on audio CD:

  • Fifi Mutzenbacher (Eine Porno-Parodie). Helmut Qualtinger (reader). Audio CD. Preiser Records (Naxos) 1997.


The Jewish Museum of Vienna displayed an exhibit at the Palais Eskeles called "Felix Salten: From Josephine Mutzenbacher to Bambi" where the life and work of Felix Salten was on display, which ran from December 2006 to March 2007. Austrian State Parliament Delegate Elisabeth Vitouch appeared for the opening of the exhibit at Jewish Museum Vienna and declared: "Everyone knows Bambi and Josefine Mutzenbacher even today, but the author Felix Salten is today to a large extent forgotten".[12][37][38]

Editions in English[edit]

  • Memoirs of Josefine Mutzenbacher. Illustrated by Mahlon Blaine. Paris [i.e. New York], 1931.
  • The Memoirs of Josephine Mutzenbacher. Translated by Rudolf Schleifer [Hilary E. Holt]. Introduction by Hilary E. Holt, Ph.D. North Hollywood, Brandon House 1967.
  • Oh! Oh! Josephine 1–2. London, King’s Road Publishing, 1973. ISBN 0-284-98498-1 (vol. 1), ISBN 0-284-98499-X (vol. 2)


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