“But what is sex?” Giada Armani, founder of the (audio) erotica project and independent publishing house BERLINABLE, mused on the question: “Does erotica have to include sex?”
Throughout our interview, she rejects firm definitions. “For me a kiss is sex but for other people, a kiss is just a kiss.”
Ultimately, you’ll know erotica when you see it. Or, as is the case with BERLINABLE, hear and read it. In its catalog, you'll find more than 500 spicy (audio) stories and artistic but equally spicy visuals. While the way its 250 artists interpret erotica is wide and diverse, BERLINABLE’s goal is well-defined.
“To live fulfilled lives, we need to cultivate our sexuality as intimate art,” the BERLINABLE website reads. Through erotica, the brand is manifesting a world of (sexually) fulfilled, free, and inspired people. "We do this because we think that erotica is the way to learn about sex and eroticism and also gender,” Armani said.
Originally from Italy, Armani is joined on our Zoom call by Anna Fiene, who acts as a translator during our talk. Normally, she’s in charge of artist relations, does social media, and helps out with production and collaborations. “The BERLINABLE team is like a small family, whenever someone needs help, someone jumps in,” she wrote in an email.
Armani started BERLINABLE in 2019 together with the PORNCEPTUAL art collective after coming to Berlin 20 years ago. “Berlin” in its name is not only a way to indicate its geographical location but also a short-hand for the brand’s spirit.
“When we say that we come from Berlin and we want to publish books about gender, about love, about [sexuality],” Armani said, turning with German to Fiene who continues: “people take us seriously.”
Berlin’s reputation of raves, hedonism, and diversity precedes the BERLINABLE name and does some of the heavy lifting for the brand. “[Readers] want to know that Berlin is really as free as they’ve heard,” Giada said. “People don’t ask ‘is Berlin a free city?’ but instead people ask ‘is Berlin as free as we are told that it is?’”
At its core, BERLINABLE is motivated by this city-inspired desire to be free - from censorship, small-mindedness, and shame. “Through erotica, we communicate, we can connect, and find our fulfillment,” it says on the BERLINABLE website, “as it is only through open communication in all aspects that anyone can live a fulfilled life.”
While freedom is found through erotica, the process of creating erotica is similarly free from restrictions. Armani explained how they don’t provide formulas for their writers. “We give the people no frame for what to write,” she said. “Our authors are completely free to write about their experience, their fantasies.”
Selecting stories is an equally fluid process for Armani. “Some of the stories are super interesting because they actually did happen and others because they were very well-written. And other people when they write, they might not be the best authors but the topic is very very important and we want to have this topic in our [collection],” Armani said. “And some just have the heart,” Fiene translated.
While a lot about BERLINABLE is defined by its lack of definition, looking through the selections on this website, patterns arise. Sex toys in dark alleys, cybersex, and sorcerers in love; BERLINABLE offers erotica that is sexy, imaginative, and unapologetic — there's no space for cookie-cutter threesomes and mainstream porn's love for stepbrothers with questionable motives.
So what does the freedom-loving, sex-positive, inclusive future of BERLINABLE look like?
“My vision.” Armani releases a deep sigh and pushes her hair out of her face. “Is to be as diverse as possible, and then that we are not forced to move because of censorship,” she said.
From the very start, BERLINABLE has fought the limiting community guidelines and censorship on social media platforms. Just last week their post on a Ukrainian erotic artist was flagged by Instagram.
“The kind of erotica we do is not just to jerk off,” Armani said. “We want to move people,” Fiene added, translating before Armani continued: “[I want to] move you to know you[self] better, I want to move people to have a better connection to himself or herself or themselves, or with other people.”
BERLINABLE wants people to read together, learn together, and stay together. If they happen to get aroused in the process, that’s of course a bonus.
“[For] people to come together more. [That] is what I want,” Armani said. “Together we are stronger and together we can be,” she takes a small moment to think, sitting back on the couch and turning to Fiene, “more happy.”
Curious about BERLINABLE and want to get into the Berlin spirit? Of course you do. That's why we're sending the first five people to subscribe to our newsletter a code for a free, one-year subscription to BERLINABLE. Let's get sexy.