Photo courtesy of Bend Over
If Paris is the city of love, Berlin is the land of fuck. With its many underground sex clubs and 'nights' for every persuasion, Berlin is a mecca of sex as you've never experienced it before...
Tonight, behind the heavy black door of the Urbanstraße club Ficken 3000 (“Fuck 3000”) BE_CUNT, a “lesbetrans” sex night, is in progress. “Because sexuality is communication and we want to communicate, and because there’s desire and intimacy outside the bedroom,” says Ficken 3000’s website. “Come get your orgasm at the bar,” says a poster inside.
With nights for all sexual persuasions and no entrance fee, Ficken 3000 is the alternative sex club in Neukölln. “I couldn’t believe it when I first came here,” says David, the French barman. “I thought it would be hidden away on the top floor of a Hinterhof, but it’s right out on the street, with the name in big letters above the door.”
The diner-style booths form an arena around the dance floor. The throng draws back to reveal a threesome of girls touching and kissing shyly; a tattooed couple pass by holding hands, heading in the direction of the downstairs “darkrooms”. Sex is expressly allowed on the dance floor, but these dungeon compartments, illuminated only by fixtures made out of rubber ducks, offer a certain measure of privacy.
Katrin, a sensibly-dressed, mousey-haired thirty-something, started BE_CUNT two years ago with a group of other women. “We wanted to create an environment where sex could occur outside of the ordinary [way]: if people meet in a club, they’re passionate and in the moment. They don’t want to go home. Some only want to have sex in public. It’s not just the thrill - it’s because it’s less intimate than at home. They can leave their personal lives there.”
Katrin’s friend Aline - a trendy, dark-haired woman in her forties - came to Berlin from Paris a year ago. She loves the city’s public sex vibe. “There’s nothing like this for women in Paris, though there is for gay men. But here, even transsexuals are welcome”
Indeed. As the clock hand slides over the belly of midnight, Rofi circles a dancing pole on a tiny chequered podium, kissing a diminutive shaven-headed girl. S/he is tall, with the tight, muscular, brown body of a 17-year-old boy and the breasts of a 35-year-old woman. “When I met Rofi at a queer party, he was naked. I asked my friend if it was a man or a woman. I was naïve,” says David. “Here, gay men play with lesbians, and straight couples with transsexuals. In Berlin, it’s normal!”
The city also exports its grungy pan-sexuality to more conservative domains. Bend Over is a twice-yearly “lesbetrans” night at LUX, an industrial garden shed near the Oberbaumbrücke. It also makes occasional stops at other cities, including Zurich and Barcelona, and last month, DJ Rosa Lux visited from Copenhagen. The atmosphere is heady: a punk burlesque dancer in platform heels grind-dances on a scaffolding; the resident DJ wears hotpants and duct tape braces that cover her nipples. An usherette patrols the room in a French maid’s outfit, selling safe sex supplies. She pauses to make out with another woman.
Adventures in BDSM
Rush Hour, a shiny, non-stop strip bar on Schöneberg‘s Trauentenstraße is a different proposition. It oozes criminality and money. Bored, athletic strippers panhandle at the tables for "dollars”, the club’s currency. Entry costs €20 and glasses of champagne, €25.
Raena is here to decide whether or not to become a stripper. She’s 32 and a professional dancer and choreographer, but that doesn’t make much money. Wearing no make-up, she’s a tall natural beauty with a full mouth who radiates sexuality and warmth. The anti-erotic vibe is pissing her off. She wants to disrupt it. Before long, she’s flirting with a stripper. Wearing only a G-string, she sits in her lap. Caressing the stripper’s hips, she holds her gaze and pushes a dollar bill between her breasts with her mouth.
Raena is a “switch” who “tops” both men and women. Domination, bondage, inflicting and receiving pain, sex in public: she does it all. It depends on her mood. “I have quite an extreme pain kink. I enjoy other people seeing how much pain I can take while my boyfriend’s whipping the shit out of me.” It’s not about actual sadism, she says, but power and surrender. “The sickos who really want to harm people get rejected pretty quickly, but they are out there.” So she and her partner Bryon personally initiate their friends into BDSM. “It’s an intense emotional experience, so aftercare is important.” Has this caused jealousy? “Yes, but it’s worth it.” Raena and Bryon invite potential “play partners” to their suitably-equipped homes, or take them out to BDSM clubs or Erlebnis 47 in Mariendorf, a porn cinema aimed at couples that boasts “playrooms”.
Ordinary swinger and sex-club scenes bore her. “They’re about money and fetish - expensive leather and latex suits.” She and Bryon complement their BDSM wardrobe with costumes they make out of recycled bicycle tyres. “Hundreds of people sucking and fucking is not arousing. I rarely have sex in SM clubs. And I hate seeing and hearing people having sex there! Go home if you want to do that! Bodies alone are not that interesting.”
Sex for art's sake
Raena was introduced to BDSM through a bondage performance at the experimental Wedding dance space Schwelle 7. Experimental eroticism informs her work: last year, she choreographed an interactive performance at Kastanienallee’s Dock 11 dance studios. The set was designed to look like a house with a bedroom and a TV room, the dramatic occasion was a dinner party - and the audience was invited to touch the dancers’ exposed skin. “There were erotics and intimacy,” Raena says, “but it was also about power dynamics, about charging the atmosphere between performers and audience.”
At 4am in Trommel, Kastanienallee’s kicker bar, Iannis - a long-haired, studious-looking Greek artist - is looking for someone to play with. He taps into the erotic current that exists outside the ‘official’ sex scene. When he moved to Berlin last year, he let his apartment and stayed in a different flat each night for 40 nights as part of a project about crowds and loneliness. Sex introduced itself naturally: he found himself in bed with most of his hosts and having sex with several of them. “I had sex in a graveyard, and I’ve begged strangers to sleep with me.”
He’s started presenting his findings at art shows – and analysing their significance. “There’s something magical about being a stranger here. People in Berlin are chasing instability. Even if it means destroying what they have in their homes or their home countries, it’s important. I was breaking into the patterns of people’s secure lives and opening them up to strange occurrences. They welcomed that.”
But Berlin’s sexual gregariousness turns some people off - and not necessarily who you might think. Nattily-dressed John is reclining on a chaise-lounge in his well-appointed Mitte apartment. A professor of philosophy, he’s travelled the world as an academic and as an amateur sexual researcher. In the course of these peregrinations, he’s had a number of threesomes and visited prostitutes in Brazil (because, he says, the women were different - “exotic, black and extroverted”). He became interested in BDSM because it was difficult: “Sex has to be unpredictable, not just when [you do it], but how – the whole thing from beginning to end. The thing about bondage, discipline and all that is that the other person doesn’t even know what she wants. Making sex voluntary kills unpredictability. My best sexual experiences were in China, where it’s not voluntary, but not illegal either.”
At home, this self-styled decadent noctambule becomes a bookish recluse. Why? “In Berlin, you see people looking for sex in the afternoons; that’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere. Sex here is too predictable. It’s basically too easy.”
All names have been changed.