You put your cloths in a black garbage bag when entering
By: Kade Anderssen
He smiled as he told me about it, clearing taking pleasure in steering the nervous American guy toward one of the most infamous gay sex clubs in the world – if not the most infamous – Lab.oratory. I was staying with a local who was very helpful in pointing me in the right direction to take advantage of Berlin’s notorious gay nightlife.
He described to me where it was located – attached to one of the world’s most famous dance clubs, the Berghain.
The building is intimidatingly large, having once been a communist-era industrial complex in East Berlin. I couldn’t help but wonder what the comrades of days past would think of its use now. You enter through the side of the building, away from the main entrance to Berghain.
I had a hard time finding the entrance at first but ended up finding a stream of gay guys to follow in.
The first thing you see upon walking through the door is a clothes check station. You’re handed a black garbage bag to put your stuff in. I was a little surprised to see a lot of guys go full monty right there at the front door. Underwear and jock straps were more common. A lot were in varying amounts of leather.
I was trying to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, so I dressed down to a jock strap, something I would never in a million years do back home. I’ve just always had a mental block against taking my clothes off in public.
But there I was, clothes fully checked, wandering into a club full of naked and nearly-naked men.
Now, to be clear, I am not an inexperienced prude. I’ve been to bathhouses, I’ve been to Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco twice, and I’ve been to some wild cruise bars in Europe. But nothing I had seen in those places fully prepared me for what I found in Berlin.
I suppose it’s partly just the size and scope of the place that sets it apart. When you first enter the club proper, there is a large main bar area. Some people were dancing but for the most part it had more the feel of a hang-out spot.
As long as you’re comfortable hanging out with a few guys having sex near you.
Aware of what I was in for, I knew that I’d need at least three drinks in me to deal with it. With that down the hatch, I was ready to wander a bit. The club is made of several distinct rooms that flow into each other. The industrial vibe carries through the whole place.
You’re drinking at bars made of metal, sitting on pipes (a little intense in a jock strap, believe me), and walking up and down metal stairs.
I was surprised at how well-lit it was. Most cruise bars or bar backrooms are pitch black, but much of Lab.oratory is lit for all to see. There are dark corners and hallways, but generally there’s not a lot of hiding space. Which means that when guys are messing around, they’re pretty well doing it right in front of everyone else.
I think that’s a lot of what gives Lab.oratory its intensity. No one is worried about hiding their dirty deeds, which means they don’t feel so much like dirty deeds. It’s almost like they’re just playing pool or darts with their friends at the bar.
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(A bit of guidance if you go: Find out if it’s a theme night. My understanding is that Fridays are sort of the “general” night, with 2-for-1 drink specials and such. Saturdays get even crazier.
Every night at Lab.oratory is fetish-y, but Saturdays often have a specific fetish theme, including stuff that even the average leatherman isn’t going to get into. Let your imagination run wild there – you won’t be wrong. Check ahead!)
In the end, it was a very positive experience. It helped me leave some of my hang-ups with my clothes at the door, which is no small feat for me. This may sound hyperbolic, but it was honestly empowering. I was able to feel at home in my skin and near other people’s skin – and feel comfortable with the sexuality of us all.