Bleats

Germany Taught Me That Being Naked With Other People Isn't Just A Sex Thing, So Danke

It's plenty awkward, though.

Berlin is famous for sex parties and Germans are famous for (among other things) getting naked on the beach. Frankly, I had not had the slightest interest in participating in either of these activities despite living in the land of apparent nudity, pretzels, sausages in jars and bureaucracy for more than three years now.

So, actually, it’s a major cultural thing here called Freikörperkultur (FKK), which translates to free body culture. It basically kicked off in the 18th Century, embodying the idea that there is a certain joy and feeling of freedom to be had from experiencing nature and being naked, without any direct links to sex. It was the first official movement of its sort in the world and is more prevalent than ever today, with very few legal restrictions on public nudity existing in Germany.

It became somewhat more of an East German thing following the war, largely because of the more secularised cultural development, and probably as a way to seek a sense of freedom behind the Iron Curtain.

Anyway, three years in, when a colleague offered to take me to a spa for a few sauna sessions, I thought “why not”. I’ve always very much enjoyed saunas. Have always worn swimmers or at least a towel when in them, though. Forgot about the FKK.

Well hello indeed.

So when I entered this particular spa, I was suddenly and very immensely surrounded by hundreds of naked bodies. Standing there in my robe, with my towel around my neck – I was the awkward one at this FKK party. Everywhere I looked were penises. Penis here, penis there, penis everywhere. Too much for my sheltered and very clothed Anglo brain, overwhelming to my more uptight and perhaps overly sexualised relationship with the naked human body. I’m sure my eye was twitching at some point, not really sure what to do, frozen and completely overcome by something so simple. Humans without clothes.

First I was thinking I would just sort of slink off and leave, but before I knew it I was being dragged into a sauna full of completely naked men and women. I put my towel around my body, underneath my robe, then took my robe off and sat extremely uncomfortably in the sauna with my towel around my body while the rest of the group remained entirely unclothed and entirely unabashed.

Next came the Aufguss (infusion), whereby a person enters the sauna, pours some infusion oils over some hot rocks, hands out some scrubs and tells you to have a great sweat sesh. With a duration of 12 minutes it starts to get real hot-and-steamy. Sweat is pouring, balls are being scrubbed with orange peel, people are looking into each others eyes as if to bond over their shared sweat droplets. Me? I’m sitting there in my towel contemplating how I ended up here in life. Then came the lols.

Leave nothing to the imagination.

Oh how the lols did come. I had to go sit down in the most private place I could find (there aren’t many) and just laugh until I couldn’t laugh anymore.

Then I went back and attended another Aufguss with my towel on only from the waist down. Talk about free body culture, right?

It was an 8-hour session and oh boy was it a transformative one. In the end, I still find it all a bit extreme, but I understand that this is based on my associations and connotations with nudity, which are perhaps utterly British in their tense, anxious nature.

Germans are an odd bunch, but body shaming is not on their agenda and understanding of the human body separate from sex is something they’ve certainly achieved. Damned if they aren’t a bunch of sex freaks too, though.

Finally, A Man Is Using Fashion To Make A Statement In Politics, And It's The Flash Of Hope Brexit Needs

Behold the Speaker of the House, the grand Wearer of Ties.

Brexit is the worst of times, it is the blurst of times. It’s a lot of politicians hooting and hollering and a lot of people waiting for answers and solutions. Much complicated, very borders, such deals.

Speaking of hooting and hollering, there’s one man who does it better than anyone, and he my friends is the UK Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr John Simon Bercow MP. He can belt out “ORDER” and calm the rowdy house with roaring vibrato – and you know what else he can do? He can rock a tie, he can work a tie, he can embody a tie. He is the Speaker and he is the Wearer of Ties.

His range of colourful geometric ties have brought some much needed fashion-relief to the disaster that is Brexit, and it is also, quite simply, really cool to see a man’s accessories being the centre of attention for once. Gone are the days of analysing the suits of female politicians, this is a new era, and it’s the era in which we wait for and appreciate Bercow’s ties.

He knew his thundering face would be plastered across screens all over the world, he felt it in his bones that it was his time to shine and ladies and gentlemen of the house, he stepped up.

He has delivered during debate after debate, with geometric patterns, metallic motifs and dashing designs and we are here for it.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ties we’ve seen during the Brexit season of 2019 so far.

On January 15, the day Parliament voted to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal, Bercow donned his best tie yet – a rainbow number that perfectly juxtaposed the anger of his bellowing face but brilliantly captured the odd, energetic mood in the room.

Look at this floral piece:

BLOOM!

Let your eyes be behold this colourful beauty:

BOLD CHOICE

Big spots? Why not!

ROUND N ROUND

Whatever this is, yes!

SO MUCH YES!

He loves the attention, he lives for it. And you know what else is super cool? He understands that his tie-wearing lifestyle isn’t necessary for everyone and in 2017 Bercow lifted a long-standing rule which required male MPs to wear neckties in the House. What an icon.

Stop Telling Female Gamers We're Only Playing To Impress Guys

Sorry, your princess is in another castle.

I am a woman and I like games. Sometimes I like to play Pokemon and sometimes I like to dabble in a bit of MMORPG, not that you can really dabble there – you sort of have to commit, well, entire days at a time. (That’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, for those playing along.)

Anyway, there’s nothing interesting or special about being a girl who finds this form of entertainment engaging, fun and even social. It’s another facet for escapism, one more way to switch off for a few hours and enter another world. In fact, I would even say it’s healthier than zoning out and streaming TV series, because it usually requires you to logically solve problems and actively use your brain.

Games have almost always been considered as a “boy” activity, mostly because of production and marketing being targeted at males. While this has changed over the years, the gaming world is still very much a male dominated one. The rise of Twitch (where gamers stream themselves playing live) has also confirmed this, with mostly males dominating the platform while females are berated for using the platform for attention, money or male approval.

I’ve personally come face-to-face with the odd, often accidental sexism that surrounds females who like gaming and gaming culture, even in cases where the subject matter is the the more female-accepted Nintendo facet.

Recently, I was talking to some people about the new Pokemon Let’s Go Evolvi game, and someone in the group called a Pokemon by the incorrect name (lol). When I corrected them, tongue in cheek, a boy in the group said: “oh, so you’re one of those girls who’s not like other girls right? You love gaming and find shopping boring?”

I’m convinced he didn’t understand the brevity of sexism in what he was saying, but that alone is also deeply concerning. It’s not just the belittling of female independent thought here that’s the problem, it’s the stigmatisation. The idea that girls engage in this culture only for the purpose of attaining a certain image, or impressing a particular group of people, is inherently problematic. It is possible for women or girls to do things for a purpose other than seeking the approval of someone else, namely the men they are accused of attempting to attain it from.

Similarly, this social construct, labelling and at times blatant misogyny can also be seen in the music industry, where girls or women are accused of being “posers” or even “groupies” for liking a certain genre of music or a particular performer.

Men rarely receive the same kind of criticism based on their interests, likes or the aspects of culture in which they choose to engage in.

If girls like games, let it be that simple. If boys like games, that’s cool too. We’re all free to be interested in whatever we like, regardless of the gendering that may surround the subject matter.

What’s even more important is to question our own views and ideas of why people do things. We all do things to impress others from time to time, but the entire female population doesn’t base their interests off what they think men might like.

Oh, and the “you’re not like other girls” thing is a problem too – “other girls” are also fine just the way they are.

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