When it comes to nightlife, the general assumption is that Berlin has little to learn. Practically enshrined across Europe, the reputation of the city with regards to openness and inclusivity is undoubtedly well earned and yet not all is well in clubland.
Enter WET, the collective of Saskia Bert, Anna Rubner and Lotte Charlomme that has been gathering pace on the Viennese scene for the past two and a half years. While the baroque capital is hardly renowned for its clubbing, the trio brings with them a glowing reputation for answering questions that Berlin so often cannot. “We can create a space where women have the power and women are making rules.” “I have never experienced that before in my life.”
The fact that even out of context, Saskia’s words ring universal is one part of what WET is about. Yet, more precisely WET is a lesbian rave here to bring some visibility to a glaringly under-represented scene. It is a sex-positive party, and a space for gay women to share their lust with pride.
What inspired WET?
Saskia: I was talking to lesbian friends, and everybody was complaining about the current situation for lesbian parties. It didn’t seem to matter where it was; I had friends in Toronto, friends in Berlin and friends in Vienna all saying the same thing: The representation of lesbian parties, even in big cities like these was terrible. When I was growing up in Berlin I started going out early, and I remember going to a lot of gay parties, and at some point, I realised that all of these parties were male-identifying gay parties. Even here in Vienna, the city’s largest party, Meat Market, is the same, and there was this huge question mark for me. I started to ask, why is it that way and can we change that? There was perhaps one lesbian party in Vienna when we started WET, but it was playing charts music.
Lotte: When Saskia came back from Toronto, she told me about the queer scene there, so we thought why not take action by combining the music that we like with a space that we need. I grew up in Munich, and the situation was similar to here in Vienna. I felt so disconnected from the scene. I went to these parties because of my lesbian interests but to be honest, nothing ever really fit for me until we started to do it ourselves.
Why are lesbian parties so underrepresented?
Saskia: It’s a very complicated question. First of all, it’s a gender-equality thing. The business is, sadly, mostly men. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it seems like what you end up with is male promoters booking male DJs to play male-identifying parties. Also, generally, people seem to think that there just aren’t that many lesbian women out there. It’s such a weird assumption, but I think it is actually in a lot of people’s minds. People have confronted me to tell me that lesbians don’t listen to techno or that women are not as sexual as men. These things have their source somewhere deep down in our society. A lot of people thought that there was no need for us to do parties like this but the fact that people think that shows you exactly why we are doing it.
Lotte: Sometimes, when people assume these things, I think it is because we are not visible. That’s across all structures in society, and this is one way that we can try to change that.
Why do you think this separation between LGBTQ groups exists in nightlife circles?
Saskia: It’s a tough problem to crack. When we started, we were working with another small lesbian party based in Berlin, and they didn’t allow any men into that party whatsoever. For us, that wasn’t really what we wanted to do. I think that the first step to acceptance is inclusion, and we didn’t want to start our party by building a wall around it. The other side of that is that if you let too many male-identifying people into the party, then at some point, it isn’t a lesbian party any more. We are developing systems to work on that, but it is not perfect, and a lot of people face the same problem.
Lotte: There are also some structural aspects you might not know. For example, when it comes to funding the government in Vienna has a certain amount of money for projects like ours. This money, however, isn’t distributed by the government. First, it goes to the queer society, whose job it is to divide up the money and not every group within that spectrum is very well represented and that causes a lot of infighting. What we try to do as the new generation is not to let those structures divide us, and that is why it is essential for us that we are inclusive of a certain amount of non-female-identifying guests.
What are the core values of WET?
Lotte: I think we try to be very positive with our vision. I don’t want our foundations to be in jealousy of people that have more events, or more representation than we do. I think it is just time for us to do it because we can do it, and we are actively bringing more diversity to club culture. If you don’t start with positive energy, then you’re not going to throw a good party, especially when you’re trying to create a sex-positive space with a darkroom. We want to show what we have and share our lust with pride.
Saskia: I also want WET to be a platform for female-identifying artists. We almost only book women artists, and that’s super important. Berlin is a little different to Vienna in that regard, but in Vienna, the number of bookings for female artists is total bullshit. I have met promoters that have been doing this for years, and they are incredulous, they ask us: how do you find all these women DJs? As if they don’t exist! It is not difficult to find excellent female DJs, and we can show that you can throw a great party with a female lineup.
What makes WET special?
Lotte: The feeling in a club when it is female-dominated is entirely different. That sounds a little spiritual, but it does something to me when a dancefloor is more female. It makes me freer.
Saskia: One important thing to note is that we will definitely have a darkroom, and it will only be open to female-identifying guests. The last thing we want is to regulate people having sex. Still, we are responsible for our guests’ safety and enjoyment, and it is necessary that women feel as comfortable as possible to express their sexuality at our party.
Lotte: I don’t think we are at the stage yet where we can make the assumption that male guests would understand that point inherently and we want to do everything we can to encourage women to be confident in that aspect.
Saskia: Sadly, a lot of women are used to the fact that our sexuality is seen as passive. That is always in your mind, even at a majority female party. Changing that takes a lot of time, and it is about learning by doing. The first thing we can do is provide the space, and that space must be a judgement-free environment with a darkroom.
Nightclubs play a large part in the history of LGBTQ movements. What is in the power of a dancefloor for you?
Saskia: It sounds cheesy, but if you are in the moment, on the dancefloor, you can be free. It reminds me of the first party we threw in Vienna. At one point, one woman had taken her top off and then all of a sudden the entire first row in front of the DJ was naked. I thought to myself: what the fuck, this is amazing! It just happened. I was so impressed with how confident these women were in front of me, how confident they were in their bodies. Maybe it happened because of the dynamic between women in an environment that is usually dominated by men, or perhaps because they were feeling sexy, the important thing is that they felt safe in this space that we had created. That is the power of the dancefloor!
What is the sound of the party?
Saskia: It is electronic music, and that ranges through everything. Techno, acid, trance, it doesn’t matter as long as it is danceable.
Lotte: And hard. Don’t forget that! By the end, it is super fast, hard bass. It is a proper rave first and foremost.
What are you looking for moving forward?
Lotte: In Vienna, we have a good community. We have a lot of regular guests that trust us with the party, and it would be nice to be able to have that in Berlin. I would also like to be able to open the party up to more generations than just young people. When I look back two and a half years to when we started, I think that I have learned so much and I think we will continue to learn as we go. I’m sure we will have confrontations about our standpoint and our views, and that will be a challenge, but we are learning, we are open to criticism, and we are open to change.
Who else is in that community?
Saskia: There are loads of people in Berlin that do a lot of great femme forward work. The No Shade Collective is on point when it comes to claiming their space and making bookings with female, non-binary artists. Also, Room For Resistance is a great lesbian night; they throw their parties at Trauma Bar.
Lotte: We should also mention Lecken, who throw amazing parties here in Berlin too. It is a mixed, queer party that is popular with lesbians, and it is a great vibe.
Tune in to Cashmere Radio for a taste of what to expect at 21:00 on November 30.
WET | ://about blank, Friedrichshain. Dec 1, starts 14:00.