Steph Lee explores an international network of queer parties shifting the focus beyond cis-men.
Resident DJs and up-and-coming locals bashed out trance, techno, UKG and a few donk edits of pop hits. Objekt also played the main floor, at one point delivering an unforgettable blog house moment with the sleazy Switch remix of Spank Rock's "Bump," which rolled onto the dance floor with all the subtlety of an Escalade limo. Suddenly, from a small stage across the room, three nude performers, elegantly wrapped in bondage ropes, emerged with cakes held above their heads. Each put their cake down on a chair and walked seductively around it. They gave their cakes lap dances. Hoots and hollers erupted as they got closer to the baked goods, but refused—over and over—to actually touch them. Objekt mixed in SOPHIE's "Faceshopping." The room shook, and the performers mounted their cakes with a straddle. As the beat dropped, they began pounding each one into mush.
Fantastical moments like these are making a new era of queer nightlife sparkle. Historically, the most popular queer parties have been created by men, for men. Many people have questioned why this is and worked to change it. Now more than ever, though, a different kind of future seems clear. A new generation of queer-feminist collectives is producing nightlife for women, trans and gender non-conforming folks. For this piece, I spoke to six of them: BOAR in Berlin, Bound in New York City, Flesh In Tension in Leeds, Maricas in Barcelona, mina in Lisbon and Lecken in Berlin. There are many other notable collectives, some of which have been written about on RA in the past. I chose these six for their specific focus on sexuality and eroticism.
A sexy party might seem clichéd in our porno-centric world, but a closer look reveals how these collectives approach pleasure with a radical calling. They critically challenge sexual repression and exploitation, putting femme-perversion and gender non-conforming freakiness on a pedestal, one that they own and control. In the process of reclaiming that power, they call into question our states of being, whether we can be freed of restrictions, our social and psychological conditions reshaped. Writing in 1988's Macho Sluts, Pat Califia, one of the pioneers of lesbian sadomasochistic sex, put it this way: "Sex may seem like a trivial part of a radical, futuristic vision, but if we are not safe to indulge in this playful, vulnerable, and necessary activity, pleasure ourselves and others who fascinate us, how safe can a society be for women?"