Berlin, Life in Berlin, Literature, relationships, sex, things to do

Book Review: Berlin: 69 Erotic Places

Berlin has often been termed the sex capital of the world, famous for its sexually liberal attitude, vibrant gay scene, sex parties and clubs.

berlin erotic places

Berlin: 69 Erotic Places does exactly what it says on the cover, dedicating one page of text, coupled with one image, to each ‘erotic’ attraction. The book has the look and feel of a 1970s porn mag, and its attitude is equally outdated. The term ‘erotic’ implies positive sexual arousal and mutual pleasure, but the book is skewered towards straight men.

Much of the content covers the city’s many brothels, strip clubs, and massage parlours, and although the author might find it erotic that “between 10 and 15 girls will fascinate you with their strip dances” at Rush Hour, the women working there might have another point of view. Of the 69 images in the book, 32 sexually objectify women.

The book itself demonstrates this issue. It gives voice to a few women, and these passages are disturbing and decidedly unerotic. For example, 25-year-old prostitute Alexa, who works the street-walking strip along Kurfürstenstraße, says: “The first time was really uncomfortable and I had a horribly bad conscience and felt totally filthy afterwards.” Another woman, Sue, 26, a ‘hobby whore’ who attends gang bang parties, describes how a fellow guest ‘hounded’ her to join her first party while she sat nervous in the hallway. She eventually relented and ‘spent 9 hours straight getting fucked.’ She talks about how she was aroused by erotic films in her youth, her need to be desired, and sense of fulfilment when she turns a man on, and how she equates this with money. Internalised misogyny, sexism and sexual objectification are also unerotic.

Despite all this, there are some gems in the book. The author clearly knows his topic, and this shows even when he covers famous attractions, like Kit Kat Club, which “has some of its own artists whose artwork decorates the club. The most-well-known is the ‘Träumer’ with his glowing nude images. Works from Till Bernesga, Jürgen Fenegerg and Dimitrij Vojnow are also on display.” Other gems include Kuschelparty, where people experiment with touching different people in different ways, Darkside, where late night lovers of bizarre eroticism, fetishists, and bondage artists meet, and Liebesinsel or ‘love island’ one of Berlin’s 34 islands where you can enjoy peace and nature with your partner(s).

Berlin: 69 Erotic Places by Dirk Engelhardt is out now.

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Berlin, Humour, Life in Berlin, people

Daniel Sloss at Quatsch Comedy Club

I am loath to say anything critical about Daniel Sloss because he started yesterday night’s show at Berlin’s Quatsch Comedy Club by reading out the last letter of complaint he received.

quatsche comedy club berlinIn fact, I’ll take a leaf out of his book and critique of the audience instead. It was mostly German, with a smattering of ex-pats. The Germans were very efficient with their laughter. They laughed in short bursts, then fell silent in anticipation of the next joke to keep things moving along swiftly. I’m glad, because the girl sitting next to me hee-hawed like a donkey. It’s one of the things you notice at comedy clubs – the weird and varied nature of other people’s laughter.

The German audience were also not very well informed – when asked whether we have free healthcare in Germany, they all shouted ‘yes’ when really (especially if you are a freelancer) it is more complicated than that. So either the audience didn’t care to go into the ins and outs of how the German healthcare system, or they were ignorant.

As for myself, I laughed most during the latter half of the show, when Sloss’s routine turned more personal. Disability is not funny, he said. Then went on disprove the statement by talking about his disabled sister. He also had some life tips, like how to help friends deal with bereavement. The trick is to be consistent. If you are always a prick, don’t stop making jokes or treat people differently because someone close to them has died – continue to be a prick.

Although all this seems irreverent, Sloss’s show is actually quite sweet (especially his banter with his friend and fellow comedian Kai Humphries, which I would have liked to see more of), because it shows that no matter how tragic, difficult or absurd life gets, there is always laughter to be had.

The Quatsch Comedy Club (Friedrichstraße 107, 10117 Berlin) regularly features both English and German comedians from around the world.

Berlin, Life in Berlin, music

Clubbing in Berlin

Despite the fact that we live in a city renowned for its clubbing scene, the Bavarian and I hardly ever bother.

Thank god that Berghain has just this week fallen off the top ten list of best clubs in the world to place no. 13, so now when people ask us how come we’ve never been, we can wave a casual arm and say, “Oh the Berghain is so passé…”

There are many, good reasons we stay home and dance around the living room instead of going out: we have a good stereo and all the music we like, we can get drunk on better quality alcohol and for cheaper, we can fall straight into bed once we’ve had enough, we’re married and not getting younger…

However last night we broke the rule and went to Cassiopeia. It seemed like a good idea when we planned it – who can resist old school hip hop – but as the date approached, the thought of leaving home at 10 p.m., then going for drinks for over two hours, then making our way to the club – because of course there’s no point in arriving before 12.30 a.m – made us anxious in a way Mickey Flanagan describes below:

However, once we were out, it was all okay – we even had fun. The Bavarian, who is absolutely a morning person, was a bit confused at some of the sights Friedrichshain had to offer at night; “Why is that man reading Karl Marx outside a bar at midnight?” “Why have so many people got beards?” “Why do they bother selling anything but beer in this shop?” “Why are those people climbing up the side of that building?” “But seriously, that guy, reading Marx – is he really reading, or is he just posing?” “Do you think anyone’s ever stood outside a bar in Friedrichshain and read Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’?”

And then, at three o’clock in the morning, when we were leaving the club, a new mystery presented itself – people were queuing, actually queuing, to get in: “Why is everyone going in now?” “What have they been doing thus far?” “How long are they going to stay out for if they’re just getting here now?” “Aren’t they tired?” “Don’t they want to go sleeping?”

Now I know that three o’clock is a ridiculous time to leave a club, but I can’t help it – where I come from, clubs used to wind down around three, and you found yourself on the pavement by four, so I’ve been pre-conditioned stop dancing and start making my way home between those hours. I even dragged the Bavarian home at four on our wedding night (ignoring pleas of “but I like this song!”) while our friends continued celebrating till breakfast.

Leaving early, however, does have its benefits – when the Bavarian wakes up at seven a.m. in his usual chirpy mood, which he is bound to do no matter what time he went to bed, it’s just about tolerable. Any less sleep, and I would have had a problem with him singing Wir Feiern Die Ganze Nacht at the top of his lungs in the shower this morning. Which makes me think, maybe we should start going to clubs first thing in the morning – after all, they run continually from Friday evening till Monday morning in this city. People coming out of the club would be as awed by us as we were by the people going into the club when we were leaving last night – and to top it off, I’d have the Bavarian by my side, who is so energetic in the mornings that everyone would wonder what rock n’roll cocktail of drugs could produce such a high…