Tuesday 9 April 2002

Queeruption IV - an "explosion of sex and politics"

Picture this: a moustached girl in drag holds the microphone in front of a boy who is performing homoerotic poems in the nude; a female night nurse struggles with the temptations incited by a semi-unconscious bisexual female patient played by a boy in a skimpy miniskirt; an alluring singing lady turns into a butch boy, then becomes a woman again and performs a naked ritual of martial arts with a big wooden stick; two camp boys and a girl with a strap-on dildo enact on a "chaise longue" the logistics and troubles of executing double anal penetration during a gay male threesome; a girl wearing only a translucent sac of onions plays the clarinet; a "freak" resembling the singer from Prodigy accosts, to the sounds of German punk, a girly little girl wearing a pink wig, male genitals hanging under her lime green skirt; a naked chubby woman covered in body paint pretends to be a chicken while playing the mandolin; a glamorous Muslim skinhead mimes with his hands a piece of text presented in front of him just before he unzips the back side of his latex suit to indulge in harmoniously choreographed self-penetration with a rubber dildo; girls strip off for other girls or for boys dressed as girls…

All of this and much more was staged in the course of over three hours of non stop cabaret and dancing in a squat in East London on Saturday the 16th of March.

The sexy cabaret and the sex party that was to follow in the wee hours of Sunday were the apex of Queeruption 2002, a five day international gathering for queer folk of all sexualities. The event was put up by a London based collective of self-denominated “anarquists” (i.e., anarchists with a twist) and was billed as “an explosion of sex and politics”. The emphasis being on “sex”… and, most importantly, fun.

The event was the continuation of a similar but smaller gathering that took place in London in 1998 and which had ramifications in New York and San Francisco in the last couple of years. As the flyer puts it, “Queeruption is back in London and still outta Old Compton Street”.

On Saturday night, the place was packed wall to wall during the cabaret performances. Quite an achievement considering that, to find out about the venue, you needed to phone a special mobile number.

But only a fraction of the attendees stayed for the sex party. In the party space, there was a girls only room and a boys only room. However, a note stated that gender was determined by self-identification and that no one should assume that they’d find the genitals that could be expected from external appearances.

There was also a dark room, which was never used, probably because it was too cold, and an orgy room where almost nothing happened.

The big surprise was the so called “vanilla room”, which by the end of the night developed “organically” into the real orgy room. It all started with fully clothed body massage which slowly led into a no-holds-barred, all-up-for-grabs experience of polysexual fun. You could see there, for example, a boy sucking the cock of a boy, who was kissing another boy, who then kissed a girl, who had just hugged another girl, who was stroking the buttocks of a boy, who was fingering another boy, who…

And, yes, there was also a “dungeon”, which was located, oddly enough, above the top floor of the squatted building. The main activity over there was candle wax dripping, although some bondage and flogging was seen too. Someone who spent some time at the dungeon described it as "very theatrical; nothing to do with the harsh realities of true S&M".

But what may appear tame to the sophisticated sexual connoisseur was embraced with a joyous sense of adventure by the enthusiastic kids. In the end, though, everything was very pink and fluffy, just like the swing that hanged from the ceiling of the performance area.

But there was a lot more happening besides the sexy cabaret and party at Queeruption. Throughout the five days of the gathering, there were bands and djs catering for all musical tastes, there were films, there was poetry (under the heading: "Please Fuck Me"), there was singing, there was an art exhibition and loads and loads of workshops of all kinds.

One of the most eye-grabbing workshop titles was “imaginative wanking”; although the organiser was quick to clarify on the notice board that it was not a hands-on workshop, but rather a discussion of the health benefits of masturbation.

Other workshops included: samba, sewing, healing with chocolate, what do bisexuals do after dark?, fertility awareness, life modelling, creative erotic writing, body painting, DIY sex toy making, etc. etc. The latest one was, by the way, a hands-on workshop, as all the clay dildoes that cluttered the place proved.

The films shown on Sunday and Monday (mostly documentaries) were also very informative. We found out, for example, what gay men got up to in the piers of Manhattan in the 70s, and how the piers have recently become a hot spot for racial and transgender conflicts.

We got to know more about the sexual fantasies of queer women and the obsessions that many seem to have with hardware tools and car mechanics; we saw, for example, the enactment of a lesbian fantasy involving a fellatio scene between two women dressed as nuns. We were also reminded of the unpredictable whims of nature as we were faced with an experimental film that showed the most bizarre genitalia one can possibly imagine; words are not good enough to describe it; it has to be seen -- and even if you saw it you would be left with myriads of doubts. Was it two penises? Was it a penis split in two? Was it always organically attached to the thighs? Could it get erect? Could it ejaculate?

Queeruption ran without major hiccups. Even if (unsurprisingly) it felt disorganised at times and nothing ever started on time, one could say that the event was essentially a great success. The cynical amongst us may dismiss it as a playground for rich kids pretending to be revolutionary and radical. Granted: the participants were mostly well educated, well behaved kids, predominantly under 30, white and with a middle class background. But no one can deny their enthusiasm and their determination to promote and provide a genuine alternative to the increasingly commercialised gay ghetto which is often so limited in what it has to offer. Besides, these kids cannot be accused of being deluded. When, in the course of an introductory quiz (“Queerstions and Queeries”), someone asked what was meant by “the Western World”, the hostess explained: “You know, the cliched view, what is usually understood as such; the countries where rich white people live”. At that point a girl with a French accent exclaimed: “Well, that’s us! That’s us!”

Indeed, most of the people at the gathering had come from Continental Europe (mostly Germany) and from the US, as well as the British Isles. It has to be said that the reaction of the hostess was full of irony. Humour and irony dominated the festival.

What’s more, the event was genuinely inclusive and accepting of anybody. Arguably, you could feel a bit out of place if your lifestyle did not fit with the most common patterns amongst the “anarquists”: vegan eating, bike riding, smoking cannabis, squatting, tattoos, body piercing, alternative hair styles and living on the dole. However, nobody asked questions about your private life or your political allegiances; you were welcome to the event as long as you were willing to be part of it.

And the whole ethos of the gathering was based on an indisputable DIY mentality. If you wanted something to happen, you were given the opportunity to try it out and the kids would usually help as much as they could to make it work.

The end result was sexy, colourful, chaotic, playful, informative and cuddly. And, not to be dismissed, all of it (including the vegan meals and the self-contained accommodation) came to the punters for free.