About five years ago, when the new wave of Copenhagen techno was still in its infancy, an unfamiliar face at a party would quite literally turn heads. Arriving at an event meant a ceremonial series of greetings: hugs, kisses, and sincere exchanges of the charming “tak for sidst!”—“thanks for last time!” Everybody knew everybody. There were raves in bunkers and on boats—invitation-only affairs that never made it onto Resident Advisor. The scene has since exploded, earning an international reputation for its own unique hard-and-fast underground identity. But even as crowds gather in their hundreds (and sometimes thousands), that sense of intimacy is hard to refute.
One of the most significant shifts in Copenhagen’s rapidly growing techno scene is the sex-positive approach to partying that has begun to take hold in the last couple of years. It’s part of a gradual progression that’s been bubbling under the surface since the party Fast Forward laid out its explicit code of conduct back in 2015, inspired by the philosophy of the beacon of Copenhagen counterculture, Ungdomshuset (‘The Youth House’). The anarchist squat and safe-haven was torn down in 2007, resulting in some of the biggest riots the city has ever seen. “No racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia allowed” set the precedent for every party that’s come since and in the last five years, the commitment to cultivating safer spaces has been non-negotiable. But sex-positivity is more of a recent development, and there’s one name in particular that’s responsible for its emergence. Bedside is the production company-meets-party series creating transparent porn “without the bitter aftertaste” and revolutionizing the way Copenhageners rave. Its latest film, All Work No Play (Ei Blot Til Lyst) premiered last weekend at Berlin Pornfilmfestival, Copenhagen’s MIX Festival, and debuts online next week.
First conceived in 2017, Bedside Productions is spearheading a new kind of sex-positivity in Copenhagen’s club culture. It’s undoubtedly a byproduct of the city’s thriving techno scene (the place where its founders Anne Sofie Steen Sverdrup and Caroline Due met) but its parties are also influenced by the sex clubs that preceded this new Copenhagen underground. “I was going to sex parties before I was going to techno parties,” explains Steen Sverdrup, who started exploring the sex-positive scene when she moved to Denmark from her native Norway at the age of 20.
Back then, although there was this vibe where people would be hooking up on the sofas, there weren’t really dedicated spaces for sex or outspoken policies about sex in the clubs.
We get a lot of people from the gay scene, from the BDSM, kink, and sex-positive scene, and a lot of queer people who don’t normally come to the techno parties. It’s more of a mixed crowd.
We were starting to get that vibe that I would usually go to Berlin to get, where it felt like no matter how freaky I act it’s still totally within the reasonable boundary of this space.
Published October 27, 2020. Words by Harriet Shepherd.