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Lockdown of Berlin's queer sex clubs?

Quälgeist’s cages shall remain unoccupied until further notice – just one example of Berlin’s sex clubs getting shut down. SIEGESSÄULE editor Joey Hansom comments on the troubling situation

11.01.19 – Many of us choose to live in Berlin because of its permissive atmosphere. While the Hauptstadt isn't immune to Germany’s obsession with rules, it remains a haven for hedonists with its anything-goes attitude. Our city has numerous sex clubs, which over the years have had a big role in many Berliners' lives as safer spaces to explore their sexuality and to meet like-minded people.

Slowly, however, these places are starting to disappear. There are several contributing factors, not least the internet, which has enabled us new ways of connecting. But there’s a disturbing trend of sex clubs under threat, with city officials and police proactively involved. It's easy to conclude that LGBTI are increasingly accepted by society, but so-called progress is often accompanied by a rollback: if gays can get married now, then they should get married and stop slutting around, right?

In 2018, several such locations had to close or were thrust into bureaucratic limbo. Authorities forced Tom's Bar and Scheune in Schöneberg to shutter their darkrooms temporarily, and CDL had to close permanently. Non-commercial clubs struggle the most. Citing rising rents from gentrification, the kink-centric Quälgeist had to move from Kreuzberg to Tempelhof. Their new space was promptly shut down by ordinances classifying the association’s headquarters as a public place of entertainment, with all the expenses that entails. Its reopening is in doubt. The BDSM-oriented Böse Buben is being forced to make costly renovations if they want to stay open, even though they might lose their current location in another three years. Perhaps most disturbing is what happened at Ajpnia in November: over 20 police officers and officials showed up during “business” hours for an unannounced inspection.

This all follows the 2017 fire in the gay sauna Steam Works, which claimed three lives. It turned out the legally required escape route was missing. Obviously, this is unacceptable. Everyone needs to follow basic safety codes. But when Tempelhof-Schöneberg mayor Jörn Oltmann cites “anonymous tips” as one reason for the the tightened controls, it suggests these occurrences may be part of a coordinated crackdown.

Berliner Polizei have a gay and a lesbian representative as a bridge to the queer community. However, especially considering our contentious relationship with police since at least Stonewall, what does it mean when dein Freund und Helfer barges in on you having sex? I could make some kind of “fuck the police” joke here, but instead, I'll get serious for a moment: We should recognize that these places are part of the city's unique ecosystem, even if we don’t visit them ourselves. If we don't protect their existence, we might find that one day, all the city's dreck has been cleaned up, and that our beloved slutty Berlin has turned into a priss.

Joey Hansom

 

This article sums up reporting by Jeff Mannes, Elliot Zehms and Franziska Schulteß:

Queere Sexclubs – wie geht es weiter?

"Quälgeist Berlin" kämpft um seine Existenz

Schwule Sexclubs in ihrer Existenz bedroht



Berlin-Queer-Kalender

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