Flat-sharing in Berlin
The Space Opened on Queer Dates

A Room of My Own 100 m Away

 

Sebastian Moske

I have been living in Berlin since September 2020, currently in a sublet situation for two months with no follow-up flat so far. During this time in the city, I have shared three flats and had to move out each time for different reasons: my roommates wanting to move in with a loved one or relative, or recently just because I lost my job. Each time, I had no say in the matter. The main tenant had the power to decide according to their own wishes, desires, and needs. Having a first-hand contract allows for more power than subletting a room, and getting a first-hand contract is nearly impossible. The flat situation is very tight: not enough houses are built for low- to middle-income citizens; rent is most often used as an income source by landlords as well as first-hand tenants; more and more apartments become speculation objects for big companies; and a growing number of people are moving to Berlin. Some people hope for a chance at a job with a higher salary than in their home countries or cities. Some come to Berlin because in comparison to other “Western” cities like New York, London, Paris, etc., the cost of living here is “relatively cheap”.

In this situation, I start to wonder what this need, habit, and idea of “a room of my own” actually is, and where, historically and philosophically speaking, it became a necessity. How is this necessity organized, distributed, and monetized? To what kind of society does this lead, especially while facing a world in need of collective action apropos climate change; the decline of natural resources; and an ever more pressing culmination of wealth in a smaller percentage of society?
I wonder whether this “room of my own” is still a real possibility. Perhaps, since its very installation, it has always been a privileged position.
This is not to say that we do not need a place to rest, reflect, and nurture ourselves, nor that today everyone is heard. Thinking with Angela Davis’ notion that “self- care is a collective approach”, the question becomes pressing: do I [we] need a room of my [our] own to achieve a nurturing environment?[1]

Queer (mostly male*) flirting and dating currently happens predominantly through the app Grindr. You can see people sorted by distance from your own position. In the app’s free version, only a certain number of people can be interacted with— mostly those in your neighborhood.

Even though most of the chats are fast-paced exchanges of preferences and kinky images—one often feels reminded of food delivery services—something interesting can happen in the actual encounters after a chat. This instant jump into intimacy can lead to an atmosphere of hostipitality, a term coined by Jacques Derrida in which he mixes the words hospitality and hostility.[2] A moment occurs where the power relations (still prevalent in the idea of the host and the guest) are not clearly distinguishable anymore, and one is left with an open awareness to whatever arrives: a space where “my own”, “our own,” and “your own” are shaken.

[1] I paraphrase here Angela Davis’ answer to an audience member asking about self-care. “On Inequality: Angela Davis and Judith Butler in Conversation.” 2017. YouTube. May 22, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MzmifPGk94
[2] Jacques Derrida, “HOSTIPITALITY.” Angelaki, no. 3 (December 2000): 3–18. https://doi.org/210.1080/09697250020034706

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