Looking to misbehave in Berlin? Here’s a comprehensive guide to the best sex clubs, fetish shops, the sexiest and kinkiest clubnights, porn festivals… and more! By Camille Darroux.
Berlin has a reputation for being the city where people are free to explore who they are, open their minds and push their own boundaries. It has been a hotspot for sexual enjoyment ever since the 1920s Weimar Republic, as highlighted in the 2005 Canadian documentary Legendary Sin Cities. To this day, Berlin is renowned for being home to a number of world class sex clubs such as KitKat Club and Berghain, the latter not only boasting incredible electronic music line-ups, but also its infamous dark rooms.
Another interesting trait of the city is that a number of venues, shops, and club nights pride themselves on being extremely sex positive, meaning that any kind of discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual habits is very much frowned upon. In fact, many night clubs state these rules on their websites, mentioning in their code of conduct that anyone found guilty of not respecting other people’s choices and identity will be shown to the door in no time.
That being said, here is a list of a Berliner’s favorite places and events in Berlin that actively support sex positivity, ranging from sex clubs to art venues, festivals, and sex shops.
KitKat Club was founded in the early 1990s and is inspired by the Sunrise Beach Parties that were happening in Goa during the late 1980s. The club’s motto hasn’t changed since its launch and remains “Do what you want but stay in communication!” Its specificity is that it mixes an uncompromising musical curation policy which strongly leans toward techno music with the atmosphere of an actual sex club. Their most typical club night is CarneBall Bizarre which happens every Saturday. The club has an outdoor pool and comprises of several rooms as well as dark rooms and is probably the best place to start to catch a glimpse of Berlin’s free spirit.
Kitkat Club, Köpenicker Straße 76, 10179 Berlin
In a way, Insomnia was born out of KitKat Club since it started out as a club night that was hosted in the aforementioned venue in the mid-1990s. It aims at being the lovechild of Roman orgies and New York’s Studio 54 and also wishes to be a place where sexual topics are discussed and showcased, be it through exhibitions or charity events. The place has hot tub parties every Tuesday and is also well-known for its fetish parties, even though they insist on being as inclusive as possible.
Insomnia, Alt Tempelhof 17-19D, 12099 Berlin
Berghain was made world famous by Claire Danes who mentioned it recently while she was a guest during Ellen DeGeneres’ show, but has been the holy grail of techno music fans for many years now. Its specificity is that it started out as Ostgut, one of the first places to host gay sex and fetish events. Berghain itself opened in 2004 and is also home to a gay sex club called Lab.Oratory. Not only does it book the best DJs in the world, it also has several dark rooms and fetish (inspired) clothing is the norm among its regular visitors. Its door policy is reputed to be extremely unpredictable, but the club’s bouncers somehow always manage to only let non-judgmental, positive people in, which after all is nothing but a good thing.
Berghain, Am Wriezener Bahnhof, 10243 Berlin
Pornceptual was launched by photographer Chris Philips about two years ago and, as its name suggests, wants to conceptualize pornographic aesthetics. It has an extremely arty vibe and co-exists with Chris’ eponymous erotic photography project. Each party has its own theme, and those who follow its dress code or come naked are allowed in for a reduced price. What sets Pornceptual apart is that it manages to make sex-positive events hip and strongly promotes sex positivity among the younger crowd and those who usually do not attend sex-related events.
GEGEN happens on a bi-monthly basis at KitKat Club and is an arty queer techno party. The German word gegen means against, and each of their events is titled “against” something and accompanied by the greatest Facebook event descriptions like, ever. The November edition is called GEGEN ASS and the text deals with the topic of sexual orientation and its stigmas in the best possible way, quoting Spanish essay collection “Por el Culo: políticas anales” by Javier Sáez & Sejo Carrasco in the process. All guests pay close attention to their outfits and this is the night to see all the open-minded cool kids who call Berlin their home in action. Think techno music, lots of leather and shameless dancing as well as, of course, some X-rated action, all of which makes for the best cocktail one could possibly think of.
Schwules Museum, literally gay museum, was founded in the mid 80s and is dedicated to promoting LGBT life in Berlin. It was launched after a very successful exhibition on gay topics at Berlin Museum, which highlighted a high demand for shows that address these issues. Aside from exhibitions such as Homosexuality_ies which is currently running and deals with the history, politics and culture of homosexuality, the venue hosts a lot of talks and events around them. All of this makes it is a must-see for anyone interested in sex-related topics.
Schwules Museum*, Lützowstraße 73, 10785 Berlin
HAU, short for Hebbel am Ufer, actually comprises of three venues spread along the banks of Berlin’s Landwehrkanal. They host exhibitions, concerts, performances, theater plays and parties, and often have events related to sex and gender topics, such as the Sexy MF performance by Ana borralho & João Galante earlier this year or the Grindr-themed performance “Wanna play?” that was at the heart of a large controversy around privacy last year. Its programming choices are very forward thinking and I cannot recommend their events enough.
HAU, Stresemannstraße 29, 10963 Berlin
Studio Я (which is the last letter in the Russian alphabet and means I), is “a place where radical new forms and political theories merge with theatre”. They have organized many events linked to homosexuality and are focusing on the political side of things, having hosted discussions on topics such as Istanbul’s gay pride in the past.
Studio Я, Dorotheenstraße 9, 10117 Berlin
Unfortunately, Schwelle 7 is currently at risk of closing for administrative reasons, but its founder is looking for a new location so let us hope they reach their goal and are able to go forth! Their current venue is a 500 square metres industrial building which they use to host workshops and events on contemporary dance, performance and BDSM. The variety of its program is astounding and fascinating. They offer bondage, aerial yoga, tantric massage classes and so much more, and aim to be a space where people interested in more kinky topics can learn and talk about their interests, with a strong focus on consent.
Schwelle 7, Uferstrasse 6, 13357 Berlin
Schwarzer Reiter is is an authority as far as fetish fashion and sex accessories are concerned. Unlike many other shops, it manages to keep things very tasteful and classy and offers a variety of carefully selected products for affordable prices. However, this doesn’t mean they compromise on quality and their main goal is to help their clients experience a sense of luxury when entering the shop. Their sale staff is welcoming and wants their clients to peruse the shop knowing that they have all the time in the world. It is truly a great place to visit, even if you have never walked into a sex shop before.
Schwarzer Reiter, Torstraße 3, 10119 Berlin
Located right next to Schwarzer Reiter, Très Bonjour is a latex haute couture and lingerie shop. Everything is as expensive as it is tasteful, and I have to shed a tear every time I look at the shop’s window and remember I cannot afford anything that is on display. Their pieces have been featured in many fashion magazines such as Vogue, Grazia or France’s Jalouse, and you should pay it a visit even just to look at the beautiful pieces they sell.
Très Bonjour, Torstraße 3, 10119 Berlin
Other Nature describes itself as a “queer feminist sex shop” and its particularity is that it mostly offers vegan products. In other words, it tries to abstain from selling accessories or apparel made out of leather. They sell clothes, accessories and sex toys as well as feminist and sex-positive porn DVDs. They also host workshops because they believe that “knowledge is sexy” and that learning about sex is the best way to enjoy it more. Topics include bondage, dirty talking, and all events are hosted by professionals and experts.
Other Nature, Mehringdamm 79, 10965 Berlin
FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
Pronfilmfestival Berlin was launched in 2006 by German filmmaker Jürgen Brüning and focuses on erotic and porn movies by encouraging people to rethink the genre in terms of art, society and philosophy topics. Its mission statement says the festival wants that “pornography becomes actually stimulating, actually erotic and actually sexy, rather than enjoyable and erotic only in theory, unwatchable in reality.” The festival happens every year in October and organizes public screenings in many of the city’s sex-positive venues.
PorYes – Feminist Porn Award
Another Berlin event which actively fights sexism in porn is PorYes, Europe’s feminist porn award. Its focus lies on high quality erotic movies “with a wide range of portrayed female sexual lust and in which women also play an important role as producers.” The yearly event also happens in October and consists in a ceremony, a party and panel discussions.
San Francisco’s Folsom has its European counterpart and it takes place in—you guessed it—Berlin! This street fair is held every year in September since 2003 in gay-friendly neighborhood Schöneberg and focuses on BDSM and leather subcultures. It is mostly visited by gay men, but strives to remain inclusive and open-minded.
Venus is the world’s largest erotic trade and consumer fair and is happening for the 18th time this year. It attracts 30,000 visitors annually and is a place for all actors of the industry to meet, as well as an event aimed at those who want to find out more about this field all while shopping the latest products and attending various performances and shows.
Camille Darroux is a Berlin based writer, weighing in on topics like sex, feminism and nightlife.