With all the strife going on right now, Berliners have reason to be thirsty for touch, playfulness and sensuality – gay Berliners maybe more so. We’re notoriously overly saturated for offers of physicality, from Ficken3000 to Lab.oratory to Grindr. But let’s face it, most of us weren’t completely chaste when it came to dine-and-dash sex over the past few years.
Thankfully this month is Easter, a time traditionally (at least in Berlin) set aside for some very special playtime: in non-Covid times it’s been a huge celebration of fetish and BDSM for LGBTQI* people. After a two-year break, Easter Fetish Week (Apr 13-19) returns to the streets of Schöneberg with its climactic crown jewel PiG Party at Connection Club (Apr 17). Berlin’s ruff-est fetish returns as well: puppies. The Puppy Circuit includes a tea social (Apr 14), a men-only play party (Apr 15) and more mixed party (Apr 16) for people who want to pet or be petted.
Berghain sex club adjunct Lab.oratory’s Easter edition of the epic SNAX party does not seem to be happening, but there’s a rubber fetish night on the eve of Easter Sunday for those who want to venture out of Schöneberg. While this all satiates the greedy need for touch after the pandemic, Berlin’s fetish community hasn’t forgotten about the war in the Ukraine either – the Berlin Leder und Fetisch e.V., who put on the official Easter week events, is donating all profit from their events to Queere Nothilfe Ukraine.
That’s the hard touch. But if one thing has been apparent over the years, Berlin’s been developing its own soft touch too, one that parallels the rise (it has risen) of queer culture, politics and identities. This is all reflected in the spring 2022 edition of Stretch Festival, founded in 2014, which takes place over Easter Weekend as well (Apr 15-17) in Möckernstraße’s Tanzfabrik near Bergmannkiez. Stretch Festival is an extension of We Are Village Berlin, formerly simply Village Berlin, and its mission to explore queer masculinities or “gay, bi, trans and queer men* and people who identify somewhere on a gender-fluid male-to-non-binary spectrum” as they put it. If that sounds like a mouthful, it is, but so is queer Berlin identity in the not-so-golden 2020s.
Among the 36 live workshops (with an additional 15 happening online) presented there, entries in the programme like Playfull Intimacy, Embodied Consent and Qualities of Touch, illustrate the newer gentle, tender side of Berlin’s thirst for touch. Not all of the programme appears so mellow and introspective, workshops like My Sex Menu and Queerfight get down to harder brass tacks.
While Berlin’s fetish culture has been adaptable and evolved with time (puppies weren’t a thing ten years ago), there’s still a pretty ‘rough’ idea of masculinity at the fetish events. And if that’s what you like, Berlin offers that up as it always has. The Stretch Festival’s image of masculinity extends a bit further than the traditional fetish stud, so if you don’t have a taste for the tough, this fest offers something a little more crunchy. Either way, Berlin offers plenty of ways to get in touch with yourself… and others.