Latex, Latex, Latex: A Night at the German Fetish Ball
It’s not every weekend plans include attending a Ball. Special preparations were in order. I needed the perfect dress, the right accessories—black leather and stainless-steel. I needed to shine my boots. You see, this was no Cinderella-style affair I was preparing for, but the 12th Annual German Fetish Ball taking place over the long Ascension Day weekend here in our very own Berlin.
The Fetish Ball is actually the climax of a series of events that make up the German Fetish Ball Weekend. By Saturday night, visitors have already enjoyed play parties and club nights at some of Berlin’s already familiar kinky hotspots like DarkSide, KitKat, and Insomnia. And then there’s the Fetish Ball itself, a large-scale, high-end party for fetishists and BDSMers at the trendy, upscale Spindler & Klatt in Kreuzberg. It’s a truly international event, drawing guests not just from Germany or from Europe but from all over the world, not to mention artists, performers, models, designers, and photographers.
I’ll admit, the cost of entry was a bit intimidating, especially since I’ve acclimated to Berlin’s usually reasonable prices. Some of my Berliner friends had already long since balked at the cost of tickets, saying, “Those events are always too crowded to do anything but drink, and why should I pay 60€ just to drink beer?” Fair enough. I’ve attended some similarly bloated and overpriced events in San Francisco and departed with little satisfaction. Then again, Berlin is regarded as one of the world’s great fetish capitols, so I was willing to give it a chance, at least this once, to see what the German Fetish Ball had to offer.
What to wear, what to wear? Or perhaps the more pressing dilemma here: To wear latex, or not to wear latex?
I was conflicted, worn down by low-maintenance Berliner practicality, concerned about things like comfort and range of motion—things that really have no bearing when it comes to fetish fashion. It’s simply not the point. It’s all about exaggeration, amplification, objectification, transformation.
So in an act of aesthetic compromise, I chose a strappy wetlook vinyl mini-dress, arm-length fingerless gloves, and then the timeless classic fishnets + combat boots beloved by those of the gothic-persuasion. To “elevate” the look, my partner helped me fasten a thick contoured leather posture collar around my neck, prominent metal D-ring in the front, large buckle in the back. It tucked neatly into the more subtle locking metal collar that I wear every day.
You could say I was over-thinking the dressing up bit—just go! That’s usually the philosophy here. But costume, fashion, is a very integral part of the German Fetish Ball. Dress to impress, and come to be impressed. The event would feature seven different fashion shows with 70+ models by latex and fetish designers coming out of Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, names like Inner Sanctum, Lacing Lilith, Bondinage, and more. There was going to be rope, burlesque and aerial silk stage acts as well.
In theory, it was a lot to get hyped up about. Unfortunately all of this ended up being lost on us. The event opened its doors at 21:00, but in typical Berlin fashion we failed to leave home before midnight, putting our arrival nearer to 1:00 by the time we located the venue.
The venue’s street side façade was deceptively calm, though the faint telltale thrumming bass meant we were close, leading us down a precarious cobblestone walkway toward the club entry overlooking the Spree. Although we were too late to see the last of the stage performances, the club energy was in little danger of ebbing. According to the door staff, there were more than 1200 people in attendance. And the night was still young, by Berlin party standards.
Indeed, once inside the venue, my partner and I found ourselves immediately swept up in a sultry, sweaty, pulsing turbulence of all things fetish finery: straps, snaps, corsets, heels, studs, tassels, boots, pasties, collars, hoods, gasmasks, goggles, ball-gags, inflatable tits, lingerie, uniforms, armor, catsuits, pony suits, things that lace up, things that zip down, over-the-top, see-through, barely-there, topless, bottomless, and so, so much more. One recurring theme though: latex, latex, latex.
We pushed our way slowly through that seemingly unending press of rubber-clad bodies, propelled first by the need to check our coats, and then by the desire for libation. Choked walkways shuddered and shifted around us, revealing cocktail bars along their borders, walls decorated with lines of backlit Tanqueray bottles. Meanwhile the actual bar wares consisted of a truncated selection of familiar liquors, and lots and lots of Carlsberg beer—served up in the bottle with a straw by a mirthless bartender who’s clearly seen far too much tits and ass by now to be phased by much of anything.
The main room featured the familiar electro and tech house one might expect to find at other dance clubs. Fetish porn (mostly rubber-centric) flickered across a number of video screens overhead along one wall. Meanwhile, the second smaller room was spinning Goth and 80’s tracks. Both rooms seemed to do a decent job of keeping their dance floors packed with enthusiastic characters.
I must note, for all the Fetish Ball’s overt sexual atmosphere and explicit imagery, there seemed to be surprisingly little going on in the way of actual kinky activity—covert, clandestine sexual acts, perhaps, but you could argue that similar activity goes down regularly in a lot of Berlin’s non-fetish nightclubs. If you had come here hoping to encounter abject hedonism, it seemed to be playing coy. Despite their provocative, risqué attire, most guests appeared content to take part in the standard club activities: drinking, chatting, flirting, dancing, and wall-flowering.
Later into the night we discovered a dedicated upstairs play area, consisting of some basic tables and equipment, masochistic bottoms bent over benches or rails, sadistic tops wielding various smacking/thudding implements, exhibitionist couples “scening” under the gaze of voyeuristic friends and strangers. A bit more sex was happening up here too, but only a bit. Even here the German Fetish Ball remained a trifle reserved in its perversion and in its excess—then again, if playtime is your gig, why go to a Ball?
The upper level also provided a nice vantage point to look out over the main room dance floor. From there you could take in the crowd as a whole or scan for eye-catching outfits and get-ups. By this time, pieces of costumes were being discarded or lost, hair mussed, makeup smeared. Naughty little shenanigans broke out here and there like brief shuddering ripples in a great current of water. The time was nearing 4:00. Intoxication, weariness, a little delirium were setting in. The night wasn’t over just yet, but things were beginning to wind down. It was a good time to head home.
All in all, I’d say it was worth the 60€ to experience what I did, though if I could do it again, I’d make a point to show up earlier to catch some of the shows. And I’d definitely wear my latex—comfort and range of motion be damned. There will certainly be opportunities for do-overs. Berlin will play host to other fetish events in the upcoming months, and of course the German Fetish Ball Weekend will be back again in May 2016.
By Eileen Carelock
Eileen is a Berlin-based freelancer and tentative explorer of a tiny segment of the human experience. She ends up hanging out with her dog a lot; she also writes things.