Debunking a popular myth

Only in the CR

Sign outside a bar in Karlín © Ricky Yates

On my day-off a week last Monday, Sybille and I were exploring the side streets of the Prague suburb of Karlín, when we came across this sign outside a local Czech bar. We both smiled broadly when we saw it and duly took a few photographs. We did then enjoy a quiet drink inside the premises.

A day or two later, I posted this photograph on Facebook with the cryptic comment, ‘Only in the Czech Republic….. 🙂 ‘ It almost immediately got several ‘likes’ and a number of humorous comments. But I was also asked by more than one person, exactly what I was seeking to imply by my comment.

In response I wrote as follows. ‘Whilst acknowledging that sex is widely used by advertisers to sell products, my ‘only in the Czech Republic’ comment, referred to this very blatant example of the use of sex’. I then added, ‘However, it is little more than what you can regularly see here. Only today, whilst having lunch with a member of the congregation, there was a lady across from us in the restaurant, showing a very similar amount of cleavage!’

There followed another comment, from one of my cricket playing friends, who observed that it was very interesting that I was able to make such an accurate comparison. Whilst I know the author was also trying to be humorous, he was reflecting a commonly held belief about the clergy which I’ve regularly heard voiced. It is one I wish to very thoroughly debunk – hence this post!

I wish to assure all the readers of my blog that there is NOT a third asexual gender of the human race called clergy. We are all normal human beings, either male, as in my case – or increasingly, I’m pleased to say, female. We, both men and women, live in the real world and observe and experience things, just like other human beings do.

Unfortunately, what my cricket playing friend was implying, as I’ve already indicated, is nothing new. I have an abiding memory of a pastoral visit I made very soon after I was ordained. I went to visit a young married couple who had asked for the baptism of their first child. When I arrived at the house, the mother and child were at home, together with the fairly young new grandmother – the mother’s mother. Whilst we were waiting for the father to return home, I had a casual conversation with the new grandmother during which I happened to mention in passing, a young lady wearing a rather short skirt. Her immediate response was, “I didn’t think the clergy were meant to notice such things”. 🙂

An associated question which I often get asked – ‘Have you always been a clergyman?’ – may partly explain why so many people think that all clergy must be asexual. Whilst it is nice to be asked about my background, it does seem to me that the implication behind the question is that I was somehow born with a dog collar around my neck. Let me assure my readers of the incorrect nature of that assumption too!

Like the vast majority of clergymen and clergywomen who serve in the Church of England these days, prior to training for ordination, I had a career in the secular world, latterly as Area Sales Manager for a publishing company. Whilst I came to Christian faith at the beginning of my teenage years, I wasn’t ordained until I was thirty-seven years old. It is my firm belief that my experience of working in secular employment over many years, enables me to relate to and hopefully better understand, those people I am now called to minister to as an ordained Anglican priest.

However, ordination has not changed the person who I am, nor my male gender. It doesn’t stop me observing ladies wearing short skirts or showing plenty of cleavage. And as I have previously written under point three of ‘How to be Czech in 10 easy steps‘, there is often a lot of both on view here in the Czech Republic 🙂 I may be called to be a priest in the Church of England, but I am still human and my gender has not changed – honestly!


10 comments to Debunking a popular myth

  • Fergus

    Well said Ricky. It seems often that the laity seek to enforce harsher rules on clergy than vice versa! Have to remember clergy are people too. Especially relevant when one is a young person discerning vocation. The amount of times one has to explain how it isn’t irreconcilable to be called to the priesthood and be a normal young person. In fact the Church would arguably do well to spend more time in nightclubs etc. It’s where most young people are and I’m sure, if one looks for Him, Christ can be too!

    • Ricky

      Thank you Fergus. I concur entirely with the sentiments you express. There is a need to be present where people are. Be reassured that Jesus was often criticised because of those with whom he associated and whose social events he attended.

  • Ricky and Fergus, as the person who made the comment that Ricky has expounded on, I can assure both of you that the purpose behind what I wrote wasn’t ‘to seek to enforce harsher rules on clergy’ Nor was I implying that the clergy are (or should be) ‘a third asexual gender’. Perhaps if I hadn’t used the word “accurate”, then you may be right to make that inference. In fact, the idea that the clergy as a group should not be allowed to make a quantitative comparison between the size of a real woman’s cleavage and that of an artistic image didn’t occur to me at all.

    Of course, there is no contradiction between being a normal young person and being called to the priesthood. I find it disappointing that this has been raised with Fergus a number of times.

    What I found more interesting about your original post on Facebook, Ricky, was that you used the, to me, none too cryptic expression, “Only in the Czech Republic…” If I may be allowed to infer, I took this to mean that “Only in the Czech Republic would you see an image like this to advertise a beer.”

    Sex, though, is used to sell beer (and other alcoholic drinks) throughout the world. I posted a link showing some of the more egregious examples on the thread on Facebook.

    Also, you may not know this but Prazacka is actually a product of the Kazakhstan Beer Company*, though I think it is brewed in the Czech Republic by Bakalar and is mostly sold on the export market in Russia and other former Soviet countries. It’s only been on the Czech market since 2012.

    So, what is happening is that the image is not “Czech” in origin. I’d go further and argue that the dirndl the woman in the image is wearing isn’t really strictly Czech dress. Of course, Prague was a city with a substantial German-identifying minority before 1939 and the image perhaps harks back to this. So, what’s happening is an objectified image of a Czech (or Prague German) woman is being sold back to the Czechs.

    * “In October 2010, the Company decided to launch its own brand of beer, named «Prazacka». It is light unfiltered beer with deep flavor and intense aroma highlighted with notes of hop and malt. Its brewing is made in compliance with an ancient Czech technology.”

    • Ricky

      Thank you David, for this long and detailed comment. I have to say that I don’t think I was the only one who took your original comment on FB that I recounted here, in the manner that I did. I certainly took it as implying that as a Christian Minister, I either couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to make that ‘accurate comparison’.

      However, I’m in full agreement with almost everything else that you write. I too share your disappointment in hearing of what has been said to Fergus on numerous occasions, knowing Fergus as I do. And of course, the Czech Republic isn’t the only place in the world where sex is used to sell beer, as you rightly illustrated with the links you previously posted.

      I also fully take the point that the garment the lady is illustrated wearing is best described as a dirndl, and that as such, one might equally see it worn still in Bavaria and Austria. And I too, have since done some research about Prazacka beer and concur with all the information that you give here.

  • As a priest of the female persuasion, I’ve come across a lot of the same kind of assumptions you refer to, Ricky. Somehow female clergy aren’t supposed to be interested in clothes or other feminine fripperies and of course the idea of a woman parish priest juggling family and work responsibilities doesn’t go down too well with some people. I even had someone in one of my Welsh parishes tell me that I should forego attending my niece’s wedding in favour of being there for the big annual parish fundraiser, even though the wedding had been in my diary when I arrived in the parish!

    • Ricky

      Thank you Perpetua. As a male priest, I mainly get the assumptions about which I wrote, in particular, that I shouldn’t notice ladies in short skirts or revealing a little cleavage. And whilst what I wear is occasionally commented upon, I do know female priests get many more comments on that topic. I much prefer female priests who wear colourful clerical blouses, eye shadow, a dash of lipstick, ear rings that dangle, etc if that’s their normal style, over and against a small number who think they have to look male & dress in black trousers, black clerical blouse & black jacket. And if ordained ladies, especially when off duty, want to wear a short skirt, bikini or whatever, all I can say is ‘Why not?’

      I find it very sad when some parishioners don’t realise that we the clergy, also occasionally have important family commitments. I was most grateful last year, to my Church Council here in Prague, who firmly told me that I should travel & attend my eldest sister’s Golden Wedding celebration , even though it meant I couldn’t be present at St. Clement’s on Palm Sunday.

  • Nicholas Taylor

    Here is further proof, if it were needed, that the clergy are indeed not ‘a third asexual gender’ from the Parish of Knaresborough where I grew up (fortunately unmolested).

  • I don’t understand why you’d say “only in the Czech Republic”, where in the USA it’s quite normal to see sex blatantly being used in music videos and general advertising. So that Czech sign is quite conservative by comparison.

    Have a look at anything by singers such as Miley Cyrus recently – promotion of drugs, sex and so on.

    And then there’s Victoria’s Secret and American Apparel (eg

    And if you’re English, we all know that the British buy the ‘red tops’ every day which have page 3 girls and so on, again which make the Czech Republic look quite conservative.

    • Ricky

      David – Thank you for your comment & welcome to the blog.

      Yes – sex is used to sell a whole variety of products & not just here in the Czech Republic. But I do think you see numerous blatant examples here of which this is one. I’ll make no comment regarding Miley Cyrus or music videos more generally, but the other two American examples you give are at least for ladies underwear. I would contrast them with the advertising billboards I see each time I drive the Prague-Brno motorway, which feature the legs of a lady with an exceeding short skirt & wearing patent red leather stiletto heels – advertising car tyres!!!!!

      Likewise, I would never defend ‘The Sun’ newspaper in the UK – in fact I find it difficult to refer to it as a newspaper! But then, here in the Czech Republic there is ‘Blesk’ which is very little different. In these matters, I would never call the Czech Republic ‘conservative’.