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No means no: German clubs looking to create safe spaces for ravers

Tan KW
Publish date: Wed, 22 Mar 2023, 03:56 PM
Tan KW
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At New York's House of Yes, the Brooklyn club's policy is to explain a few things about the culture before you enter.

It's a space dedicated to creativity and connection where partygoers are free to explore intimacy, meaning respect is crucial for people to feel safe.

"Consent is everything, on and off the dance floor," the club says on its webpage. "Always ASK before a physical interaction."

A further note says, "It's okay to say no at the House of Yes."

To get clubbers in the spirit, those standing in line on a wintry night are encouraged to join in the chorus: "No means no" and "Yes means yes".

This spirit is growing in clubs in Germany, too, say those in the clubbing scene.

"Awareness is a topic that is developing quickly, there is a great sensitivity for it," says Victor Oswalt from the Clubs am Main network, which units some 15 clubs in the Frankfurt region.

But it wasn't clear exactly which clubs were doing what, Oswalt added, as clubs and parties operate in very individual ways, making data hard to come by. Some clubs have trained awareness officers while others encourage patrons to use a code word at the bar, for example.

Tanzhaus West, a dance club in Frankfurt, says it does not tolerate any form of sexual abuse, assault or sexist behaviour, discrimination of any kind, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia or any other form of violence.

Anyone who feels harassed or sees an abusive situation can contact the staff at any time, including anonymously, outside the club. The club also says two women are available as contacts, "who take time to hear your story".

Victor Oswalt, board representative of the Mainz club association stands in the club Tanzhaus West in Frankfurt, Germany.

Awareness and sensitivity are growing in importance in Berlin, the heart of German club culture.

The Berlin Club Commission has now set up the "Awareness Academy" to deal with issues of awareness, diversity and anti-discrimination.

"Of course, this is an issue for society as a whole, and public debates such as #metoo or Black Lives Matter have increased attention and awareness of discrimination, sexualised violence or crossing people's boundaries," says Katharin Ahrend, one of the academy's managers.

"Clubs do have a special role to play, though, because they also function as safe spaces, spaces where everyone should feel free and safe."

The academy offers clubs support with improving awareness, by providing workshops, for example. Enquiries are now coming in from all over Germany. "This development is very positive," says Ahrend.

"At the same time, there are still big differences here, while some have been building up knowledge and structures for years, there are also clubs that have not yet dealt with the issue at all."

The manager said Berlin clubs such as Mensch Meier and about blank have been addressing this area for some time, while tourist hotspot Tresor and newly established RSO have also focused more on this since reopening since the coronavirus broke out.

"A lot happened during the pandemic," Ahrend says. "When things went quiet in the clubs, many took the time to train their staff intensively and build up in-house teams."

Meanwhile in Munster, the Women's Emergency Hotline launched the "Luisa is here!" campaign in 2016, with cities all over the country now joining the initiative. If women feel harassed or threatened in bars or clubs, they can contact staff and ask, "Is Luisa here?" and will receive immediate, discreet help.

The city of Wiesbaden is also getting involved. "Everything that costs money is covered by the city," says municipal women's representative Saskia Veit-Prang, though she noticed that there had not yet been a major response, with only four locations participating so far.

Meanwhile the "Luisa is here" came to the North Hessian district of Waldeck-Frankenberg in 2018.

"In general, the feedback is positive, but it is difficult to actually take the project to the bars and clubs," says local women's representative Beate Friedrich.Staff turnover is so high right now that it is a challenge for the clubs to implement the free training, she says. "But it is not enough to put up the posters or display the flyers in the ladies' toilets," says Friedrich.

"I hope that when everything returns to normal now, after Covid-19 and more staff have permanent jobs in the sector, that club operators will become more willing to join in and take part," she says.


 - dpa 

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