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I was 29 before I told anyone about my sexual desires. He was the first guy to come on to me properly, it happened in a pub, and he became the first guy I had sexy time with. Before that night, I knew what and who I desired. But I never did anything about it. Really what I desired was just a big messy film playing in an empty cinema in my head.
I’ve spent the past few years exploring my sexuality—and talking to anyone who wants to join me in this. I’m fascinated by how our sexual desires are influenced by what’s going on in our lives, what movies we’re watching, what billboards we pass, what our bank balance is, who our boss is, and what kind of person we want to be.
So I created Karl’s Kaschemme to host that conversation. It’s a fictional bar that takes the form of a podcast. It’s open to all genders and sexualities, but for season one I’m interviewing men who have sex with men. I fall into that category, so it’s the conversation I feel most qualified to have. I would love to broaden out if I make a second season.
In Karl’s I’m seeking to model a conversation about sex, sexuality, bodies and gender that is supportive and open, and that resonates with you. Talking about this stuff sounds like fun, but it isn’t easy. I am honoured that my guests have trusted me to ask them about their desires, and to offer up their insights into these complex feelings. I thank them deeply.
The pub is named after Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (above, phwoar), an early gay-rights activist in Germany. Ulrichs used to publish pamphlets and give talks about his own sexual desires because no other man was open about desiring men. In talking and writing about same-sex desire, Ulrichs argued that it was not at all errant or deviant. He came to see same-sex desire as a part of some peoples’ nature. He laid the groundwork for us to see being gay or bisexual or lesbian as one element of our identity. I can’t thank Ulrichs enough, so I named my fake bar and my very real podcast after him.
I imagine that if Ulrichs had devoted himself less to campaigning and more to having a good time, he might have opened a queer kaschemme. That’s the word used in 19th century Germany for a lawless dive bar. So in Karl’s Kaschemme, anything (consensual) goes. Bring your desires, bring your rainbow group of friends, bring your kink gear, bring your mum—let’s shrug off society and have a good time. Prost!
Here are some of my articles on queer life, art and politics, mainly in The Economist.
And here are some books that had fed into my thinking in building the bar:
Peter Ackroyd, Queer London
Denis Altman, Homosexual Oppression and Liberation
Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin
Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaws
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
Julie Bindel, Straight Expectations
Jim Downs, Stand By Me
Lee Edelman, No Future
Jason Orne, Boystown
Hugh Ryan, When Brooklyn Was Queer
Michael Warner, The Trouble With Normal