A Rubber Pup’s Perspective
By Bolt – www.pupbolt.com
Start as you mean to go on. Walk through the door into the room. Strip. Lube up your body, slide into a full rubber suit, pull on sneakers and a sleek and shiny hood that turns you into an anonymous creature of the night. A harness and wrist and ankles restraints complete the look. Then leave the hotel in search of others.
So began my Folsom, at 11pm on Thursday night. First stop – Fuggerstrasse, the throbbing heart of kinky Berlin and the main artery of Folsom. The crowd was just beginning to arrive and I spent most of the next few hours hugging, kissing and laughing as I caught up with friends and picked up the electric current that begins to spark through the street. Shiny rubber guy or serious leather man, it all kicks off here. Prinzknecht, or ‘PK’ as some of my pup friends call it, is at the epicentre and was a teeming hive of every type of kinkster. Pups take note, however, the (ahem) ‘unique’ barmen sometimes choose to ignore unaccompanied human canines. I guess because dogs don’t carry money. At 2am, an early night was needed – the main events are yet to come. I say early as pretty much everything serious starts around 10pm or 11pm in Berlin and continues into the morning. The major difference for me this year was the appearance of a couple of Telegram groups, meaning that my weekend plans had already been laid. But there’s also Twitter and, of course, the lifeblood of the kink world that is Recon. That thing goes off the scale this weekend!
Sleeping times are virtually Mediterranean, so only the internationally jet-lagged are really seen before midday. Brunch and a quick tour around the fetish shops on Motzstrasse to see what was new, and then it was back to the hotel to change into Bolt. Up first was ‘In Dog We Trust’ at Scheune. I missed most of the annual group photo because I was talking, but saw pretty quickly that there were more pups and dogs this year than ever before. It may be Chinese year of the monkey, but it’s almost certainly the kinky year of the pup. Scheune is tiny and was as packed and hot as usual. It’s a smoking bar, so out-of-towners (and rubber-clad pups) should be prepared. Also watch out for pups on all fours heading towards the play area. But none of that matters as most of the pupping out and socialising is done outside, attracting attention from all. And you know how pups hate attention…cue much barking, tummy-rubbing and wagging all round.
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have (or make) friends at these events. Appearing daunting, it’s actually not hard. After all, conversation is started easily once you realise that we all have something in common. It quickly moves on from there. My owner and I then went to dinner at Winterfeld, organised by Massimo, one of the most gorgeous and friendly rubber men I know. The third year it’s been held, around 18 planned to be there. In the end, it was more like 50, ranging from pups to gimps to sirs and subs. Nearly all in gear. See what I mean about making friends?
As conversation grew and drinks flowed, hoods came off, new friendships were forged, and existing ones caught up on amidst laughter and great food. The patient and tolerant staff remembered us from last year and demanded photos with us at the end. This is Berlin, after all. Let’s just not mention the sweat-stained chairs…
For rubbermen, Friday night is dominated by Mutschmann’s, a firm favourite on the kink calendar. Friday is ‘rubber only’ until midnight, when the dress code becomes ‘Fetish In The Mix’, an important phrase to look out for if you want variety in your event. It’s totally over-crowded, cramped and maybe one degree cooler than Hell. But it’s Heaven for hardcore rubber boys – drowning in sweat. The packed and lively main bar is on the ground floor, but go upstairs or downstairs to find the true Berlin experience. Don’t bother bringing poppers downstairs, just bring your lungs. The darkroom maze is full of breathy expectation. And there’s a bed. A big bed. I threw myself into the writhing, sweaty, pheromone-filled lubey pile and squirmed. Hands. Hands everywhere. And hot, firm bodies, and fingers, tongues, and more. Exploring, stroking, probing… Upstairs is quite different, being more like a kinky and bizarre take on a sparse suburban home. Want to take a break on a retro easy chair to watch a bunny fuck someone on a double bed that looks like something granny may have?
Saturday’s all about the street party. We joined over 30 pups and their handlers or owners to meet at the nearby Café Berio for brunch in full gear. Eat – you’ll need it! There’s a tiny bit of tension as the next 7 hours…well, who knows? All you know is that you’re going to be thrown into a vortex of kink. The action kicks off in earnest around 1pm, with the marvellously maquillaged Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence collecting donations for entry. Right up front – if you’re looking for sex, it won’t be done (but it might be initiated) here. Plus, you really should have had it by now if you’ve been doing it right.
Party or parade? It encompasses all that and more, so it doesn’t matter. Patiently progress through the crowds from one end to the other (and again), posing for pics or pausing for pints at PK. You’ll see chained, blindfolded, muzzled and straitjacketed gimps being led around, public pain pigs being bull-whipped, piss fans enjoying recycling beer, puppies bouncing, rubbermen shining, leather men posing, and so much more – peppered with the odd kink-curious muggle. This pup’s memories are a flashing series of images, probably something like what’s meant to happen to you when you die. You’ll forget more than you remember, but throw yourself into the thick of it and have a ball.
Nearly everyone’s on point, some having planned their outfits months in advance. And you thought common or garden gays were bad? Stand in the middle, close your eyes, clear your mind and then open them all – it’s a sight like nothing else. The hours flew by in a flurry of seeing people I’d chatted to online, catching up with friends, and good, old-fashioned people-watching and perving. Oh, and pupping out, of course. It all lasts into the night, but tails off from around 7pm as people prepare for the what’s up next.
Feeling horny by now? Saturday night for anyone into rubber is Lab-oratory, the fabled basement of the abandoned factory that contains the legendary club Berghain. Expect freaks, fucking and fisting everywhere. All in varying degrees of sexy skin-tight rubber. It isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it has the strictest dress code I’ve ever come across. But, beware, it’s not just the tops, boys and gimps that are hot, this place will have you sweating buckets. Oh, and there’s now a submarine too. Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself.
A few years ago, I did much of Lab on all fours, pupping out (according to a friend) like a ‘cartoon dog’. While still being respectful of other people’s space and activities, this dog went where normal people couldn’t – a little like Jacques Cousteau in the Underworld, seeing things from angles never seen before. Of course it helps that, as my owner always says, I’m wearing a ‘full body condom’. Wipe clean is good with some of those drips. Speaking of which, if yellow is your colour, Lab is your Valhalla. The piss shower and basement are packed and the pissy puddle that is the toilets is always populated by ‘toilet frogs’, crouching with mouths open like living urinals.
Practically speaking, entry to and drinks at Lab are cheap (certainly compared to London), but be prepared for a long queue (down to the left of the main queue for Berghain), a gruff welcome from door staff and being handed a bin bag for your outer clothes. It’s a €10-15 taxi ride away from Fuggerstrasse, so many choose to cover up their rubber to get there. Put them in the bag and have your bag number written somewhere on you or on a band. That also acts as your number for the night – you don’t need to take cash any further. Show your number when buying a drink and pay up at the end in order to get your bin bag of clothes back. The highest number I counted was in the early 700s, so it was certainly busy. If you get sick of the endless stream of filth and you fancy dancing or chilling out to the best Berlin beats, entry to Lab gets you entry upstairs into Berghain too – just ask the door staff. Go on, go scare the straights. I can hear it now. “Berghain is just so, like, out there. There was a guy in a rubber suit. You know, like the gimp in Pulp Fiction”. If only they knew. It’s more like ‘Pulp Ficken’ downstairs.
Reflecting the ‘pupularity’ this year, Boxer sponsored an organised pup walk on Sunday. After meeting for a chilled brunch, around 40 intrepid pups and owners or handlers set off for Tiergarten. Brunch needed to be chilled as the temperature was soaring. Especially brave were those (like me) in full rubber, as the blazing sun pushed the heat up to 31 degrees (88f). Even with a stop to clear out a shop of bottles of water, it was clear we couldn’t make it to Tiergarten (alive), so the decision was sensibly taken to stop in a park halfway that contained shady trees and a small pool and fountain. You can’t hold a hot pup back and, within seconds, pups leapt in to splash around and play with the fountain. Others flopped on the grass for rewarding scritches and water, before heading back to Boxer and Prinzknecht for drinks and chat. I’ve never known a pup that isn’t a photo whore, and plenty were taken.
Sunday sees the great exodus begin, as people return home for the working week. Gear in public is still commonplace in the area through into Monday, leather especially, even in restaurants. As ever, I spent way too many hours in full rubber pup gear (tail included) to the extent that wearing cotton again on Monday night felt, well, plain weird. I felt somehow empty too…
One main Folsom conundrum is whether – if your work schedule allows – to book Thursday to Sunday or Friday to Monday. Or even more on either side if you can, especially given the very full programme of varied events that Folsom Europe announce online (folsomeurope.info) and in a small brochure. There’s something for everykink. My owner and I have done it both ways and found the latter to be the best. The weekend cranks up slowly, not everyone can come early, and there’s an energetic keenness to get down and dirty on arrival, which turns into a more relaxed and chilled vibe after people emerge from the darkness on Sunday afternoon. It depends what you want and how well-connected (to private parties) you are, but time after Sunday morning allows for something more to develop than a hello and quick fuck or grope. Unless that’s what you’re looking for.
Now my ‘kink hangover’ has cleared, I can’t wait for next year already. Although challenged by the equally excellent events in Antwerp in late February and Fetish Week London in July, Folsom is still the undisputed jewel in Europe’s kink crown. Even if that jewel is a shiny, kinky, stinky, sexy, sweaty, filthy, black, blue, grey, red, and yellow type of thing. Just how we like it.
Photos as credited in each image, with thanks to Henry Falco and gaydogtraining.com, Pup Teck (twitter.com/teckpup) and my owner (via pupbolt.com).