In The Reader (2008) Hanna Schmitz had an affair with a 15 year old Michael Berg. During the course of their affair they had sex.

Why was Hanna not afraid of being impregnated by a 15 year old Michael?

Surely that would had lead to an embarrassing situation to justify to the boy's parents. Michael was underage at the time which could had lead to potential legal repercussions.

So, exactly on what grounds was this issue so nonchalantly swept under the carpet in both the book as well as in the movie? And why do you think Michael just went along and never brought this up to Hanna?


Most likely, because she has used contraception

I don't remember exactly when the affair takes place (except that it was shortly after WWII, so around 1950s-1960s), but even then there were quite reliable contraception methods:

  • The Intrauterine device (IUD) is known since 1800
  • The cervical cap is known since 1838
  • Latex condom is known since 1928 (ones made from other materials are even older)
  • Diaphragm is known since 1880
  • The hormone pill has been invented in 1950 (but it wasn't widely available until 1960s, so most likely Hanna wasn't using it)
  • There is the natural (although bit unreliable unless not followed closely) Fertility awareness method (often known as "the calendar" method) and the (very unreliable but still widely used) "pull out" (no ejaculation inside the vagina) method.

Hanna is a single woman who isn't looking for serious relationships, but most likely she occasionally has sex (and definitely had in the past), so she wouldn't be a stranger to contraception. Most of them were widely available in post-war Germany, especially the "barrier" methods (like diaphragm and condom), that were protecting from the rampant plague of STI in that time.

Last but not least, there is always abortion - judging by Hanna's past, she wouldn't have many moral issues with that step.

  • You may be right in saying she used contraception at some point, but the first time the two had sex she almost definitely didn't. Devices like IUDs and cervical caps can only be fitted by a doctor, and unless she happened to have condoms on hand that particular time I doubt Michael strapped one on off-camera. Also, one of the deleted scenes shows Hanna and Michael tearing off their clothes and having unprotected sex on the second day of their relationship, suggesting she was not too concerned about contraception to begin with. – Kingda Ka Feb 2 at 23:27
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    @KingdaKa IUD you have to insert only once and it will last you (almost) forever so Hanna could have one implanted years before she has met Michael. She could also know that it is her infertile day or even simply believe that in the worst case, she can have an abortion (and I doubt that she would have moral problems about it, judging by her past). – Yasskier Feb 2 at 23:38

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