This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Two naked men of about 30 are chasing each other around a bunch of tents, their long dark hair blowing behind them in the wind. A naked woman is lying on a naked man, who is lying on a mattress in the middle of a field. A couple in their early fifties are sitting on a garden swing. They're not looking at each other or touching, but they're speaking softly. In contrast to most of the other people here, they're fully dressed, even though the weather is warm – trousers, socks, shoes, T-shirts, cardigans, the whole shebang.
For the past nine days, 150 people have been occupying the grounds of a farm in the south of Berlin, taking part in the Art of Love Festival. New arrivals are asked to keep their clothes on until they reach the barn in the middle of property so they do not scandalise the neighbours. Behind the barn, most people are naked and having sex with each other out in the open.
The organisers of the festival have set up a clothing station to encourage gender play, but that mostly happens at night. In the daytime, guests seem to prefer nudity or body paint. For some reason, a lot of the men's bodies have been painted blue, with a red penis.
The 10-day schedule is rammed with workshops. For just 600 Euros (about £511), participants can pepper their public sex sessions with classes in orgasmic breathing, prostate massages, the sense of smell, while there is also an orgy event called 'Le Partouze'.
Konstantin Stavridis came up with the idea to put together a sex festival, when him and his wife bought the farm three years ago. The pair, along with the other three organisers see their concept as an alternative to quick, anonymous sex in the big city, but also to monogamy. "The keyword here is freedom," says Konstantin who calls himself 'a community leader'. "Everything is permitted here, as long as it doesn't harm anyone else," he continues.
Everything might be permitted, but not everyone is invited. Part of the organisers' job is to go through applications and call each participant beforehand, to ask a set of questions that is meant to show whether someone is into the experience for the right reasons. Half of the attendees are members of the "community" – meaning they're friends or acquaintances of the organisers. Many of them work in sexual wellness – they are tantric instructors, psychologists, performers, massage therapists. The rest are just people who stumbled across the website and signed up. Was that because they wanted to raise a middle finger to societal norms or just to bone a lot? I guess that's what I came here to find out.
Finn, 26, is the youngest person here; his brown hair is tied in a ponytail and his nails have been painted red. I notice him sitting in the field, painting, and approach to ask him what brought him to the festival. "My girlfriend and I were discussing polyamory and we landed on the website," he replies. "We saw photos from last year's event and it looked fun. We came here looking for alternatives to monogamy that don't involve surreptitious cheating."
I point out that everyone arounds us seems significantly older than him. "Do you have a problem with older people?" Finn asks me. "Yesterday I had a very sexy experience with a 57-year-old woman. We played around, it was beautiful. What's wrong with that?"
At first, Finn thought all the talks and the classes were too "new age-y". Apparently every morning, more than 100 naked people sit in a circle in a white tent, and discuss any issues that might have come up the day before –like jealousy in threesome situations, body image complexes or overstepping boundaries. But on day nine, Finn is feeling totally comfortable with everything that is going on at Art of Love.
Finn informs me that his time here has allowed him to explore his sexuality. "One night, I put on a black leather dress," he says. "Then, I found myself sat next to Seani Love – a hairy, bear of a guy – and he asked whose ass he should flog. Without thinking, I bent over his lap and he flogged my ass. In the moment, there was nothing I wanted more than that." Finn's girlfriend, who is lying next to us, says Finn's new developments are making her nervous.
"At the beginning all the moaning around here turned me on, but I'm so over it now," says Nina – another woman I meet. 'Nina' is not her real name, but she is worried her employer could find out that she was at Art of Love. On the first day of the festival, Nina got with Daniel – a man whose body has been painted green. They met while setting up their tents, and they have only been sleeping with each other since. Daniel has spent most of today running around the grounds with other painted people.
What Nina appreciates about the experience, she says, is that it's helped her feel stronger as a woman. A vulva exhibition she attended, involved women lying down with their legs spread, presenting their vulvas. The audience were asked to sit down in front of each woman for five minutes, and regard her vulva. "I really feel more confident since coming here. But when it comes to Daniel, I'm going to tell my coworkers that we met at a music festival in Berlin," Nina says.
I decide to check out some of the workshops myself, so I go into a tent that is currently home to a Dirty Talk workshop. People are walking around, telling each other random words that are getting increasingly filthier and sexier. Outside the tent, two men and a woman are standing under a cold shower. The woman is spanking one of them.
Tonight is the final night of the festival and things are expected to go wild – apparently the closing party involves a dildo performance by a porn star. "I don't really know what I am going to do when the festival is over," says one of the men, as they step out of the shower. "I might just stay at the farm forever."
Konstantin seems up for that: "I dream that about 20 people will end up living here soon," he says. "But everyday life at the farm would be much calmer. The festival is a way for people to let go, leave the stress of their busy lives behind – it's not necessarily a lifestyle. I see Art of Love as a research project on free love. Everyone comes here prepared to open up. But it's the ninth day, naturally I'm feeling a little tired."