SBS travel correspondent Darryn King lets us in on the awkward reality behind the doors of a Berlin sex club.
Darryn King

27 May 2014 - 1:04 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2015 - 4:12 PM

Even with only seven days in Berlin, I’ll admit I could have managed my calendar better. Paying my first visit to a sex club after spending an afternoon at the Holocaust Memorial was not exactly a classy day plan. On the other hand, a night of Bacchanalian excess was possibly just the thing to get my mind off the Holocaust.

Sorry, for a piece about going to a sex club I’ve probably used the word ‘Holocaust’ too much already.

Berlin’s nightlife is renowned for two things – techno and sex. As someone who would rather insert sharp objects into my ear canals than listen to techno I figured I should probably investigate the other thing. I’d met an ex-pat in the city – a music journalist and writer of children’s and (separately) erotic fiction – who’d assured me sex wasn’t compulsory but advised me to dress dangerously.

Perhaps if they were offering drink specials to early copulators there might have been more action.

Wearing a T-shirt and jeans (as a concession to my friend’s counsel I was also wearing two socks that were the same colour but slightly different texture) I took a bus in the direction of the site of the former Templehof Airport, headed for Berlin's least terrifying-sounding sex club, Insomnia.

Insomnia hosts events seven days a week catering to all levels of sexual adventurousness. There’s Thursday’s ‘Kinky Gang Bang’, the twice-monthly ‘Saturday Night Fuck’ and the promisingly titled ‘Anale Grande’. They also throw a weekly ‘Sunday Orgy’, kicking off at 7pm so you can get back home at a reasonable hour, wash off all the bodily fluids and settle in for a nice cuppa.

Not quite ready to dive headfirst into the Anale Grande just yet, I thought their newbies-friendly tango-themed Wednesday night event would be adequate for my level of curiosity.

Walking in the doorway – after cloaking my jacket with the almost offputtingly nice hostess – I had half-expected to be immediately swept up in a swirling cesspit of hot, young, gyrating bodies in the semi-darkness.

But the closest thing to Bacchanalian excess going on was mediocre dancing. In fact at first glance it could have passed for an only-slightly-looser-than-usual church function. There were maybe a couple of dozen men and women, most of them over forty, clinging to their drinks and lurking self-consciously at the perimeter of the room. Some of them had probably hired babysitters for the night. One bespectacled middle-aged man wearing a leather corset, which didn’t exactly flatter his backfat, was slow-dancing with a woman much taller than him. But aside from them the small crowd was unremarkable and too busy sizing each other up to be enjoying themselves. A slideshow of try-hard arty pornographic imagery was being largely ignored and the spacious, hygienically upholstered vinyl ottomans around the place were going to waste.

Perhaps if they were offering drink specials to early copulators there might have been more action.

In awkward English the club’s website had promised “top of the edge DJs” playing “a full sound carpet”. But for tonight’s tango-themed event the DJ was mostly playing any track that featured a piano accordion.

It felt like ages before finally a couple – a man and woman probably about ten years older than myself – took to one of the ottomans and finally made the whole thing feel decidedly less like a church function. Not going to lie: it was difficult to avoid eye contact. They had just gotten a solid rhythm going – her poised on all fours, him kneeling behind – when the DJ decided to play one of the more whimsical tunes from Yann Tiersen’s Amélie soundtrack, which I will never be able to listen to again without visualising that forty-year-old woman’s sex face.

Before long, there was another couple servicing each other, and another – parking as far away as possible from the other couples in the room. Sex club etiquette not being too different from changing room etiquette, I suppose.

I didn’t get the impression these were spontaneous hook-ups between strangers, either. These were couples who had come tonight seemingly for the pleasure of having intercourse outside of the comfort, privacy and security of their own homes.

The rest of us in the room stood around trying not to look as uncomfortable as we were, sipping our wine and stealing sidelong glances at the action. Now it felt like a racier version of my Year Twelve disco. Though, to be honest, probably not that much racier.

This was, I suppose, what I had wanted to see. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the voyeuristic thrill was fleeting. Actually it was deeply unerotic to the point of banality, if not downright unpleasant.

After another half an hour of lurking on the fringes, I finally decided there was nothing else for me here and made my way to the exit. Presumably Saturday Night Fuck and the Sunday Orgy were looser, wilder, and easier for the casual onlooker to get caught up in. But this mid-week soiree, in accommodating wide-eyed innocents like me, had seemingly attracted too many… well, too many people like me. And putting oneself in a strange new situation like that is only ever going to end up in premature evacuation. 


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