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 completely dressed, even though it's warm outside – 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, 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 organise 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 series of questions that is meant to show whether someone is into the experience for the right reasons. Half of the people here 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 – whether because they wanted to raise a middle finger to societal norms or just to bone a lot, that remains to be seen.
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 brings him to the festival. "My girlfriend and I were discussing polyamory and we landed on the website. 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," he says.
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 would sit in a circle in a white tent, and discuss any issues that might have risen the day before: Jealousy in threesome situations; body image complexes; someone who might have gotten a little too space-y. 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 I wanted more than that." Finn's girlfriend who is lying down during our conversation, 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. That's not her real name, she is worried her employer could find out that she was at the Art of Love festival. On the first day, Nina got together with Daniel, a man whose body is 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 she now feels stronger as a woman. In a vulva exhibition she attended, women lay with spread legs, hidden from the tummy up by a curtain, presenting their vulvas. The rest could walk by, sit down for five minutes and really look at the vulva in front of them. "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," she says.
I move to the next tent, that is 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 plan involves a dildo performance and a porn party. "I don't really know what I am going to do when it's over," says one of the men, as they step out of the shower. "I might just stay here."
Konstantin seems up for that: "I dream that about 20 people will end up living here soon," he says. "But everyday life here would be much calmer. The festival is a way for many to let go – it's not necessarily a lifestyle. I see the festival 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."