Arriving on Friday evening and leaving on Sunday night, I was able to witness the almost full experience. Our sleeping location a.k.a. tent basement was near the festival entrance, which was right next to the permanent food stalls people might remember while being on big festivals in Ferropolis. With the main floor located right under the cranes, it was a minimum 10-minute-walk from party to bed. It might be one of the most lasting effects of those days: with roughly 2.000 guests on the festival ground, Ferropolis felt almost like a ghost town – and it was hauntingly great. When the cranes did not do it anymore for you, you just went down to the beach stage, the Teufelssee, for some more music, passing the third and smallest, but very delightful dancefloor, the Treesome – a wooden house with a balcony and dancing space in it. While the first two stages were all about electronic music mixed with some lighter techno slots now and then, the Treesome had its disco and funk moments, which was a welcome change. The art exhibitions by the Curated by Girls platform, Proper Space and Eva Garland were not just a charming chill-out spot behind some woods, but also a place for performances and workshops. Plus home of the Vulvae sculpture which was observing visitors throughout day and night. At Eldorado guests could enjoy film screenings and performances, too.

Credit: Victor Luque

So without being too picky about the music – sometimes I just wished there would have been darker and harder techno (to be fair: I left before the grand finale, so maybe I just lost my chance!) – the days spent on WHOLE were delightful and fun. It was an event promoted to be opened for everyone, all of the program points with high body and sex positive policies. Self-acceptance, self-love and unity were next to gender equality the upper goals for the team.

Reflecting it now, a couple weeks later, I would still confirm that the festival’s team made no empty promises: they created a safe space for queer people to dance, connect and eventually more. The air was filled with sexual heat – way outside a tight club space – so at a certain point not only single tents or an old-truck-turned-darkroom were venues for private dances, but so were bushes near the stages (who wants to miss some of the good music?) Everyone was allowed to have fun, without being pushed to anything – which should always be the status quo on public events, regardless the event’s intentions of being a space for sex. I do not even know if ‘intentions’ is the right term, living in Berlin and being on-off active in its gay party scene, orgies or some casual blowjobs behind the bass box are no news to my eyes.

Still, bushes must have been unexplored area for some guests and surely WHOLE made a secure space for people to share their sexual liberation.

Credit: Eric Phillips

Liberation through masturbation

Oh, and speaking of liberation – thanks to a workshop and tutorial by Team Vulvea for more effective masturbating, I learned in my mid-twenties we should value a genuine self-fuck just as good sex with another person (or more). This was truly a thing near a blessing, as the stigma of pleasuring oneself is still a closeted topic among most of us. Interesting fact: the term of masturbating itself comes from the old Latin and means ‘to do something bad with the hand’. No more explanation needed, I guess. For those curious among you – yes, besides a theoretical part, there was a practical one, too. Located in a big tent full of curious (and aroused) people, the two instructors explained some simple, yet informative clues. Rule No.1: enjoy being with yourself and only yourself. Obviously most of the male participants did not get the point of the whole game, as they starred nervously at one another to catch a quick look between some legs before finishing. How do I know that? Well, for journalistic reasons I had to keep mine open, of course.

Teufelssee. Credit: Eric Phillips

Still, it were not necessarily such moments which turned WHOLE into something unique. It was more the absence of judgement, harassment and bullying of people who do not fit into a normativity our society sees as a status quo. With friends, or people I just met there, expressions like ‘freedom’ or ‘being yourself’ came across more than twice. Sounds a bit melodramatic – but I am sure most people felt more secure during this weekend than in their everyday life. One night the base got shut drastically down at the main stage – locals nearby were complaining about the noise and the police called the organizers to turn it down. Surely they just forgot to inform them about another festival happening there. Or was it an act against queer culture? Such conversations took place, too.

About 80 percent of guests were male, dominantly gay, which is no critique at all, just a thing that hit my attention. Especially as the event was open for everyone – men, women, non-binary. Luckily, WHOLE is still in its beginnings and it will surely get attention from more queer people and allies of the community in near future. Which is a good thing, as we must all stick together. Such events prove once more the beauty of diversity is more powerful than any act of against it could ever be.

Credit: Victor Luque

Last but not least I would like to add something on the pictures which were published on WHOLE’s social media channels after the event. A small, but to me still relevant criticism started in the comment section, as those pictures would have failed to show diversity among the festival’s audience. The gallery shows nice shots which might captured some bodies fitting certain beauty standards, but reality showed also different body types. Yes, a few guys were packed and they presented it, but there is nothing wrong with it as long as no discrimination of other bodies is involved.

With that in mind: let’s keep diversity and uniqueness alive, as it is so much more beautiful than living in limited boxes of binary standards. By that I do not mean all of us must join an outdoor sex-movement or masturbation club, but people should stop judging other people when they are not fitting into society’s rules of being. Life is much more precious when we meet people with empathy, not prejudice or hatred. Both will never win. If you agree, WHOLE is a place for you.