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‘Young People Are More Interested in Fetish Than They Think’

by Hans Hafkamp in Scene , 30 december 2013

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

For some time now, Thursday at the Eagle in Amsterdam is Young Eagle night. On Thursdays, this legendary bar in the Warmoesstraat focuses on “Young Guys and guys who love Young Guys.” Music is in the hands of DJ Mally Clark. Reason enough to ask Michael Roks, general manager of the Eagle and its little brother Dirty Dicks, some questions about the Young Eagle night and the rejuvenation of the Warmoesstraat scene.

Is Young Eagle based on signals from a younger target group, indicating that there is interest in such a theme night?

“Ever since it reopened, the Eagle is frequented by more and often younger visitors. From way back, the Eagle is known as a hard-core fetish bar, just as Dirty Dicks is. In the two years I have been working in Amsterdam’s gay scene, I have increasingly noticed that ‘fetish’ is spreading out over the city. You don’t really need a fetish bar anymore to go out in a nice outfit. The Eagle and Dirty Dicks have become truly casual bars, bars you can visit in regular clothes, but also in a fetish outfit. That is also true for the Young Eagle night.”

“There are a number of venues young people are attracted to, but who doesn’t want more choice and experience different atmospheres? You don’t eat at the same restaurant over and over again. We also want to lower the barrier for the Eagle and the Warmoesstraat in general, as for some there still seems to be one. When someone comes here for the first time, I always hear the same thing: ‘it’s not bad at all,’ and: ‘cosy.’”

Social Media vs. Bars

People say night life is suffering because of social media and dating apps like Grindr. Meeting people in a bar must have its advantages?

“A lot of businesses are negatively affected by the Internet, but let’s not forget we also benefit from it. It has become a lot easier to reach your target audience. A lot of people subscribe to our newsletter, but we also work on customer relations through social media.”

“An absolute fact is that the safety of our customers is key. If you meet someone in a park or invite someone to your place, you never know what the person is like. In a bar, you meet people in a safe and secure environment. We make sure everyone is safe. Too often, you hear the most terrible things in the media.”

“And if someone is bored in the a bar, we offer free Wi-Fi; you have the option to browse the web or use an app to safely meet in the bar, without being disturbed.”

“My advice is to try to reap the benefits of every situation. It will make your life much more enjoyable and successful. The Internet is here to stay.”

‘Not Scary and Dirty’

What can a young person who is not familiar with the scene expect when he wants to visit the bar?

“Before I started with the Young Eagle, I spoke with a large number of young people and showed them around in the Eagle. On Thursdays there is more light, so it is not very dark or scary. The response was: it’s not scary or dirty at all. Besides having a live DJ who caters to the tastes of the younger generation, we are also making the place more colorful with laser light, while you can also dance to music.

“The nice thing about the Eagle is that there are different places in the bar where you can have a talk and have some fun. You can have more intimate moments on the many benches and in the quiet corners, and when it gets more serious, you can go down a floor for perhaps something more.

“The venue is also making sure that you can establish contact on different spots in the bar, but without getting the feeling you are cornered.”

Fetish Diversity

You once said that “fetish is somewhat over,” except on special occasions such as Leather Pride and Fetish Pride, and that this is one of the reasons behind Young Eagle. But was the Warmoesstraat scene ever extremely fetish minded? Other than a “ban” on penetrating odors and truly inappropriate garments, the leather scene in Amsterdam never enforced a really strict dress code. Also, fetish is a very broad notion, meaning the classic leather man for some, but for others rubber, sportswear, or even torn denim with T-shirt, to make a reference to the somewhat kinkier options that were always accepted in the Warmoesstraat. How does the Young Eagle differ from this?

“There is no real future in running a hard-core fetish bar, but that is not a problem as such. I can’t say that fetish has disappeared, but it is more spread out over the city and events. Nowadays, people don’t need a specific fetish bar to wear their favorite fetish outfit. People, myself included, are much more likely to change their outfits. Of course we will have the RECON Full Fetish parties, the XXXLeather parties, and other parties in the making. It is about what is on offer, and that there is a balance.”

“Young people are increasingly wearing sportswear. Not only is it cheaper, but you can buy new stuff more often, while it looks quite exciting.”

“The Eagle is the home base for a wide clientele. Fetish does not have to be expensive, hard-core, or for the older generation. In the Young Eagle you can be yourself. Wear whatever you like, or see what others are wearing.”

“The Young Eagle night is not just for young people, but everyone is welcome. There is no dress code or age category, and young people can meet each other and the other visitors. Wouldn’t it be interesting to meet others who are wearing leather or rubber, or just to have a chat with them and ask them things?”

“The Young Eagle wants to lower the barrier for the Warmoesstraat. We want to get rid of the old label ‘hard-core fetish street’! Have a look at Mister B and what kind of fun and exciting apparel they have, not just of leather or rubber. What about Lycra, neoprene, bleacher jeans, exciting underwear, etc.”

“Young people are more interested in fetish than they think, but don’t want to be pigeon-holed as ‘fetish.’ My motto is: ‘Be yourself and have fun.’”

Safer Sex

A lot of studies show that people are increasingly having sex without a condom, especially younger men. Over fifty percent of porn currently produced is bareback, and more than fifty percent of guys under twenty-four watches porn on a weekly or daily basis, also to get inspired or to learn about sex techniques. In the eighties, agreements were made with the then owners of bars with a darkroom to propagate safer sex as much as possible, maintain a safer sex environment and to discourage unsafe sex. Is this still the case, and is it realistic in 2013?

“In a recent meeting with the GGD it became clear that research showed that safer sex venues are often misinterpreted as venues where you can easily have unsafe sex, because everyone is supposed to be practicing safer sex there. That is the wrong signal and is the opposite of what they were trying to achieve. I do not want to deny this is happening, but in the Eagle NOTHING happens without someone’s prior consent. We will make sure of that.”

“Of course it is impossible to check everything, and we do not want to police the place. That is the reason that every year, the Eagle and Dirty Dicks spend a rather large amount of money to be able to provide free condoms. No, we don’t get them free of charge, but you can get them at the bar for free.”

“In cooperation with the GGD, we provide the necessary information, as well as free condoms. Our advice: ‘if you do it, do it safe!’ You can always ask questions at the bar, or you can ask at the GGD, of course. We are not just there to serve drinks.”

What are some of the special characteristics of the Young Eagle?

“At the Young Eagle, we try to keep in mind that young people often do not have much money to spend. On these nights, we do not charge people under twenty-eight any cloakroom fee, and soft drinks and local beers are only two Euros. We do not charge an entry fee, and you can have a lot of fun in the Eagle without spending a lot of money. You should bring your ID. There is no dress code, no maximum age, and everyone is welcome. And we are working with a nice new team.”

The Eagle, 90 Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam, is open seven days a week,
from 22:00 until 04:00,  on Friday and Saturday until 05:00.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 328, December 2018

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