Being explicit about ones’ preferences, fun enough to fulfill fantasies and brave enough to head to the dark rooms – even with strangers, are all things many people would consider as sex positivity. What about using substances that trigger excitement and relaxes you - yet knowing your own boundaries inside the dark rooms? We got interested in the good - the bad - the beautiful, and - the ugly when it comes to this topic. What responsibilities do the clubs have and how can we keep on enjoying the celebration of sexual freedom yet keep people safe from sexual assault.
The words sex and positive put together are presumed to be feministic and carry a strong foundation of bravery and confidence. But do sex positive spaces have any dark sides, and does being sex positive also mean that one has already faced demons and traumas from the past, something that many women and queer people assert. The experimental part of the word can include discovering sex fantasies and bringing them to life. A common one is having sex in public; with a person you don’t know and have never spoke to or having sex surrounded by others who are also enjoying themselves.
Sex positivism includes those sexual activities that should be consensual, healthy, and pleasurable - as well as experimental. It also advocates for sex education and owning the way one enjoys to have sex. Berlin is a city filled with ”sex positive spaces and clubs” if that means having a dark room, and being able to be naked and maybe pleasure yourself sexually amongst others. Also, they often include people who have been consuming alcohol, drugs or both.
We’ve met people who have been experiencing some of their absolute most glorious sex moments in clubs, some who have had to deal with the trauma it caused and some who are fighting for Berlin’s dark room’s to be safe spaces for everyone.
Voices from the inside
Emelia – she / her.
Would you describe yourself as a ’sex positive person’ if so - why?
Yes, I would describe myself as sex positive, even when I'm not currently doing public things. It's fairly well known amongst my friends that I'm a kinky switch and that I have my own 'dungeon' full of toys. I also semi-regularly visit strip clubs and have a Dominatrix that I enjoy seeing; and I love supporting my friends over at Berlin Strippers Collective, as well as Playgirls Stripper Wars when I can.
How has Berlin helped you with feeling free with your sexuality, if so?
I think Berlin has helped in that there's spaces to explore, and generally people are very accepting. I used to visit a few bdsm clubs, but they've all been forced out of the city. If we feel safe and surrounded by non-judgemental people, then we're more likely to explore and figure out the full depths of our sexuality.
Besides that, I used to co-run the English Munch in Berlin, which the fabulous Frau Leader.
What do you believe dark rooms bring to the whole experience of ’freedom and fantasies’?
Dark rooms give us a space to relax and experience things we may not normally experience. It’s public sex but there's an explicit consent boundary: you don't enter a dark room if you don't wanna see it.
I once gained confidence at Berlin Fetish weekend and ended up walking someone through a hotel at 4am on a leash whist wearing killer heels, a corset, and a latex pencil skirt; also, I had the best company after an ego boost by a well-known trans porn star. I did more that night than I normally would.
What’s your biggest sex fantasy that you haven’t yet fulfilled?
I have one which I was wishing to do, prior to an incident in which someone violated the space of myself and others, so I'll share that here.
For a while I've been wanting to incorporate some much shorter, some might say ”sluttier", skirts into my wardrobe, inspired by tumblr Bimbo culture. So, the fantasy is to be invited out to drinks at a bar, that also has a darkroom, by another woman. I’d be wearing quite the revealing outfit, and then after an initial drink, she takes me back into the darkroom, unzips her jeans, revealing her strap-on. Pushing me down to a squat I then must please her orally, before we return to the front of the bar, no one the wiser to what we've just done.
I just like the idea of that it'd be our secret, we'd come back, and no one would know she'd just face fucked me with a strap-on that's hiding in her jeans. I'll probably just do this from the safety of a Dominatrix studio instead of a darkroom though.
Is there anything about you that makes you hesitate to experience it, if so - what’s your fears and where do you believe they come from?
Yes, back in December I went to the bar which inspired this idea, with a friend, and she was drugged, and a man attempted to sexually assault both her and myself. From that night four women were left traumatized by a single pathetic excuse for a man.
We of course told the staff who called the police. Although when they arrived, the attacker likely hid in the dark room to avoid detection and arrest. Police didn't bother to search that room. The bartender failed to assist victims. Don't be that police officer or bartender, be a better human being.
What do you think you’d need in order to feel safe in dark rooms and be able to fullfil your fantasies there?
Mostly just time, and hopefully justice.
I would like to urge all bartenders and bouncers to receive correct training in incident response. Further, I'd like to call on Berlin police to actually trust survivors of sexual assault and to have them have a refresher on laws relating to it — after my attempted assault, the police detective said to me ’if he did not penetrate you, then it's not rape’, despite the man trying to force himself on me with his dick out. Attempted rape and using drugs to allow you sexual access to someone without their active consent IS rape.
You cannot do anything in a dark room without ACTIVE consent.
Milad – he / him - they / them.
Would you describe Berlin as a free space of sexual freedom, and if so - why?
Yes, I definitely would. Simply because in comparison to many other cities and environments, Berlin offers by far one of the most liberal atmospheres. Because of my background, I know first-hand what living without political and social freedom feels like. Therefore, it's easier to feel the positive difference.
What’s your thoughts on the connection between sexual freedom and Berlin clubs?
A friend once told me about nightlife in Berlin that ”it seems pretentious. Why would people need to be naked or in costumes to have fun?” But I replied that literally every other public place always has certain premeditated and tight traditional guidelines and strict unwritten norms aside from the known rules, which usually seem to be designed to socially suffocate and eventually eliminate those who are different, except these clubs.
How was your first experience with dark rooms and what did it bring you?
I was understandably pretty nervous at first. But it was something I fantasized about for years yet did not believe I would ever really experience. So, to me it felt like, this is it. I finally found my place. Eventually I researched more and worked on myself to accept my nervousness and insecurity when I was inside them. But it's okay to be unsure, it's okay to take time to trust, it's okay to try, and it's okay to let go and let loose.
What’s one of the best memories you have from a public sexual experience in Berlin?
It’s when I realized that I wasn’t just “the guy” anymore. I was neither “the student” or “the Ausländer”. Instead, I had a deep feeling within that I was just me, I was just being, and following my natural instincts, although of course under consent.
In that moment I forgot about all shame, and all years of being unsure or feeling unsafe, misunderstood, or like I’m obliged to always explain myself. I stopped paying attention to divisive attributes such as age, sexuality in a strictly subjective sense of it all, being black or white and I was simply being me.
More plainly explained, I’ve experienced some intensely beautiful sexual fantasies in dark rooms and clubs which were in a way life changing. First and foremost, they made me know myself better and gave me a better understanding of others.
Do you always feel safe in dark rooms?
Mostly but not always, mainly because of the non-moderate use of substances by some guests as well as the occasional lack of basic manners by some people. Nothing is sexier than being considerate.
Pornceptual Awareness Team
As an Awareness Team, what’s your main role?
Raves and sex-positive parties are spaces of opportunity, possibilities, and freedom. However,
freedom still involves boundaries. This is where the Awareness Team comes in. We're
mediators of people and their limits.
How do you work to make people feel safe?
We're there to make sure the guidelines that constitute our space are followed. We're present
and visible as a reminder that the space is protected and we're there to take care and act in
case anything happens. We're there to cater to someone's trip-gone-wrong or to an emotional
hijack if they feel they wanna talk it out. But we're by no means actively responsible for their
feeling of safety.
We're talking about 3000 people each with their own agendas, levels of consciousness, with
different backgrounds and expectations as well as needs and triggers. At any given moment
something can happen that will challenge someone's feeling of safety and that's why we're
not responsible for that but rather for what happens after a violation of someone's safety or
feeling of safety.
What’s your view on the correlation of substance use and darkrooms?
I think the correlation is more between substance use and structural shame and suppression of non-heteronormative gender and sexual identities - therefore individuals - rather than the space these individuals find comfort in.
It's no wonder that people feel the need to inhibit themselves when they enter that specific space to claim a part of themselves that has been judged, shamed, or denied. That's not to say that this is the only way someone can access their sexuality or observe their blockages but it’s definitely one way. From my experience, it can be eye-opening and revealing, when consciously used as a tool, but also confusing and destructive when mistaken for the destination or the only way to get there.
What's your advice for the guests, who'd like to participate and get involved in sexual acts during a sex positive party?
Make sure that you set an intention before going there, and make sure that intention is pleasure-based and as abstract as it can be. Make sure you're aware of the demands and hazards of your sexual practices.
Make sure you're aware of your boundaries and limits as well as the ones you want to expand
and the ones you're not ready to cross. Make sure you gravitate to personal safety and comfort whether that is provided by yourself, a lover or a friend but make sure you feel safe cause you are entering a space of possibilities.
How do you make sure to notice if someone is not following the rules?
That's usually rather obvious. In any case, we make sure to always have our people in high risk areas and always go around without interfering in our guests' private spheres. People in sex-positive parties are generally more queer-coded and "aware" in comparison to a mainstream crowd so usually they know how to also spot and report any odd behaviour and look after each other.
Of course, there are always some special cases where you don't really need to be super intuitive either but rather adjust your radar to look for "what's wrong in the picture". I think we all understand body language, nuances, and power dynamics so we're trained to know it when we see it.
What do you do with people who are violating the rules?
You just must be very careful to properly follow the storyline behind a report until you're sure that you have the right picture of it, but from a mediating standpoint not out of mistrust. In the case that someone actually violates our rules, we track them and first we wanna have a talk and try to make it an opportunity for them to understand what's wrong with their behaviour before we decide that they can stay or leave the party, which of course depends on the sort of violation they committed.
What responsibility do clubs with dark rooms, or a sex positive niche, have?
To educate society in topics such as consent, personal boundaries, and mutual respect. And also, to break the stereotype about those spaces and show that anyone can be welcome and express their sexuality in this context. In that way, to spread further a message of sexual freedom.
What are your rules at Pornceptual parties when it comes to this topic?
The rules are clear: every act should have explicit consent from all the parties involved, so always ask before touching anyone. Guests must be respectful and keep all events free from any form of discrimination