Opinion: Love Techno, Hate Sexism!

...but does it love me?
I went to an underground techno party a while back.  There were a lot of guys there.  Guys playing great music, guys working on the door, guys hanging out by the decks and bar and even guys dancing.  I wanted to dance too, but I had a problem focusing on the music because I was distracted by the dance floor's only decoration: an inflatable sex doll hanging by her neck with her wrists tied behind her back. 

At the majority of underground techno parties I've been to, decor was of the bring-your-own variety; whatever was there represented the views of people in the crowd.  After a few tracks, I decided that I didn't like the view represented by whoever had  brought this inflatable murder victim.  Their view seemed to be, “Violence against women is a sort-of sexy joke”.  Maybe a very angry man would agree that it is, but most women would not.  They would tell you that a cloud of potential violence already hangs over their heads, kind of like how that inflatable doll did, and so the 'joke' is actually pretty serious.

Anyway, I wouldn't - couldn't - enjoy myself in the doll's shadow, so I pulled it down.  This got an interesting reaction (doesn't it always, when a woman expresses a strong opinion).  Most of the guys in the space seemed a bit whatever and just let me get on with it, but one of them came over and actually told me off.  He said I was being stupid.  I countered that the doll was stupid.  He retorted, ‘Some people like being tied up during sex, you know.  Does that upset you, too?’ 

Uh, no.  Not really.

I have been to fetish clubs like Torture Garden, Kit Kat Club etc., to do reviews.  I've heard devoted fetishists talk about the importance of explicit boundaries within their scene.  And actually, the fetish scene is pretty enlightened when it comes to violence against women.  It recognizes that there is a very thin line between extreme sex and victimization and it goes to great lengths to make sure that misogynists don't use the fetish scene to cross that line.  What would those people say if they saw such violent imagery being bandied about casually at a techno club, where there are no well-defined sexual agreements in place?  At a time when men who mistakenly believe their fantasies are a reality continue to put women into hospitals and coffins each day?  I think they would call that reckless.  And insensitive.  

Context is everything.  In the context of a fetish party, the hanging doll might be one of a dozen such images that also depict men in a sexually-risque way.  In an underground techno party, where everyone is welcome (although strangely, the audience is usually all-male) it's a statement about how the guys there see women.  And any woman who  wants to dance without having to sign up for to that fantasy, won't stick around in a party where women are depicted as submissive sex-bots. They'll go somewhere that the women decide how women are depicted, instead -- like  glitter parties, or the psytrance scene.  

Thinking about it later, I realized that every single female image that I have seen on a techno flyer, website or magazine lately has been some sort of reductive, vanilla-fetish cliché.  And what image do the guys in techno scene have to live up to?  Uh... none, actually.  Many years ago, techno was a refuge from definitions for women, as well as for men. It was just too far of the loop for definitions to exist. Apparently techno is still a refuge for men... and whatever prejudices they may hold.  Whereas women in techno have been squeezed into an ever-more restrictive sexual template, the men are Scott-free to go on being exactly who they wanna be.

It's the same problem that the punk scene had many years ago, before the advent of Riot Grrl.  A handful of outspoken men are assuming that just because they are musically outside of the system, they are psychologically outside of the system, too.   But from a female point of view, any man who sees the female body as a mere accessory to getting off - that he's free to ogle, harangue, manipulate, or even strangle as a means to that end - is thinking exactly what the system wants him to think.  The question shouldn't be, 'We're in the underground, so why is she complaining?'  It should be, 'We're in the underground... why isn't he changing?'

The old guard of Berlin's techno scene does seem to have let a rather old-guard view of women fester.  That may be one reason why the Wilden Renate style places keep on getting more and more popular, while the old-guard venues are in decline.  Maybe it's not that women in Berlin don't love techno.  Maybe it's that techno in Berlin doesn't love them back.   

Further Reading:

Da Girl Connection (Review of all girl squat party)
Feminist Takeover at Anarchist Conference 2009


  1. Amazing, you have articulated everything that I have been feeling for a long long time. Thank you!

  2. I was going to say 'thanks, I'm glad to hear that' but actually, it doesn't make me feel glad this behaviour is familiar to so many people!

    All this started with the superstar DJ phenomenon i.m.o. When the established music industry started getting involved in techno, they couldn't understand the egalitarian, gender-neutral movement as it was, so the invented the (always male) 'superstar DJ' as a way of shoehorning us into a phallocentric hierarchical structure. Sad to say, it actually worked. These days techno's always about the DJ, and DJs are almost always male. How very Convenient for the old boys clubs of investment and advertising. They haven't had to change their formula one bit to make a fortune out of the underground. They just changed the underground, instead!


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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.