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A BDSM woman explains the Swiss scene to me

Since the tightening of the Swiss Criminal Law in 2002, recordings or demonstrations "containing sexual acts with violence" have become a criminal offense. Many people in the Swiss BDSM scene who own or produce BDSM porno felt that they were close to pedo criminals. The BDSM scene is also confronted with prejudices in everyday life and therefore usually holds its meetings away from any public attention.

That is why the Swiss scene has been organized through the BDSM interest group since 2002. Although the IG does not claim to unite all Swiss BDSMers, with 125 members it is probably the largest BDSM organization in Switzerland. There are currently 877 users registered in the IG's online forum. On fetlife, the international social network for BDSM and fetish fans, around 11,000 people state that they live in Switzerland. I want to find out more about these people, about whom I know very little, and decide to take a closer look at the largest BDSM organization in Switzerland.

29-year-old Simona from the canton of Zurich has been President of the IG for six months. She tells me that BDSM is generally very poorly researched and that the few studies that give information on the proportion of BDSMers in the population vary widely. Around 40 followers meet every two weeks at the BDSM round table in the city of Zurich - one of around 20 Swiss round tables. At Café Odeon in Zurich, Simona tells me what the Swiss scene looks like from the inside and how the community helped her to find her way as a very young beginner.

VICE: How did you get into the scene in the first place?
Simona: Certain elements from the BSDM movement have always been a part of my sex life. In the beginning these were rather harmless things like handcuffs or blindfolded eyes. When I read a book on the subject when I was 26 - but it wasn't 50 Shades of Gray - I looked up the scene on Google, found the IG and got into it pretty quickly.

About one of the trial evenings offered by the IG?
No, I went to a real BDSM party right away. These beginners' evenings are an important part of our work. In three-hour information events, we go into the theoretical key points. We start with the explanations of terms relating to relationship forms and technical terms. A second part is about anatomy and the ways in which you can inflict pleasure pain on someone. After a short theoretical introduction to restraint and important safety instructions, newbies who want to stay can try it out for themselves. We make sure that a few of our members are always on site and demonstrate a few games.

Did 50 Shades of Gray flood the scene with fresh meat?
In the short term, the regulars' tables were in greater demand than usual, but that quickly leveled off again. Some came only once, others have become an integral part of the scene.

Do people who have experienced abuse and violence also approach you to deal with them with BDSM?
Basically, I don't think that there is an accumulation in our scene. But there are definitely people who use BDSM as a form of therapy or a processing strategy. But this has to be done very consciously, at best with a trusted person. In the scene I know some women who have had to experience rape and who have sometimes processed these experiences with BDSM. However, that's not the primary reason for their sexual preference.

And what about people with inferiority complexes?
Yes, there are. They are quickly noticed at the parties. Instead of focusing on the game itself, these people pay more attention to how they are perceived by the other party attendees and turn it into a show. I then just try to avoid them. You have these people everywhere.

Do you also have a place for homosexuals or the LGBTQ scene in general?
I know that the gays have a separate BDSM scene, but I can't say much about that because I'm out of place there as a woman. But we also have a lot of gays and lesbians in the "normal" BDSM subculture. There is also a clear overlap between the poly scene and the LGBTQ scene and the BDSM scene. Transsexuality is definitely an issue with us and many are bisexual or pansexual. That is generally accepted. Our scene has to be open to a certain extent, otherwise we would split up into many small splinter groups.

Do enough women always come to the parties?
It is true that more men come to events alone than women. But that's probably also the case with the vanilla exit. Vanilla - I think that's a very nice term, by the way - we mean a person who doesn't like BDSM. This is because most people like vanilla ice cream, just like most people like flower sex. The less beautiful and somewhat derogatory term for this is "Stino" for perfectly normal.

I think men - as with the vanillas - are more aggressive when looking for a partner, be it in real life or on the Internet. There are definitely parties with a clear surplus of men and others where the organizer makes sure that the gender ratio is balanced, which, by the way, we also do at our parties.

From a legal point of view, BDSM is a gray area in Switzerland: Your practices can be viewed as bodily harm by the judiciary despite your consent and BDSM porn is prohibited from depicting violence.
Depending on what can be seen in the recordings, this can be legally problematic. But I don't know anyone who got into trouble as a result. In the case of separations or divorces that go unfavorably, however, it can certainly happen that BDSM is reinterpreted as domestic violence. It is practically impossible to find out in retrospect whether or not these actions were consensual. I am aware of such cases. The scene is already thinking about it - the lectures on law and BDSM are always well attended. BDSM ranges somewhere between assault, deprivation of liberty, the Guns Act, and the Pornography Act — there is a lack of clear legal definitions, especially when it comes to consensual. Personally, I just make sure that I only play with people I can trust. On the other hand, if you pick someone up at the exit and take them home with you, that person - if things go wrong - can also charge you with rape.

Have you ever hurt someone so bad that they had to see a doctor?
No, and nobody's really hurt me either. There are basically two concepts. At "Safe Sane Consensual", as the name suggests, all practices are fundamentally safe, reasonable and consensual. In "Risk-Aware Consensual Kink" things are also done that are no longer quite as safe, but the risk is conscious and controlled as far as possible. This includes everything that has to do with choking, for example. We all know from workshops and literature, for example, that hitting the kidneys is taboo because it can quickly become dangerous.

What was the toughest practice you've pulled yourself off so far?

How did you get into it?
I once went to a party where waterboarding was done and I felt like doing it myself. A month later I asked an acquaintance from the scene who I trust very much if he could do this to me. To prevent water from running into the lungs, the person lies with their head slightly down. You shouldn't think of it the way you see it on TV - a glass of water will last a long time and there is never any real risk of drowning, even if the feeling is there all the time. A wet stocking around your mouth makes breathing much more difficult and the moment you start flowing with just a little water, you panic. Still, you know you can say the safeword at any time and cancel. This inner struggle between "actually I think it's full of shit" and "somehow I want to go on anyway" is part of the appeal for me.

Do you actually hide your bruises in summer?
No not at all. I really don't care. On the one hand, I actually find it pretty nice, on the other hand, the spots lead to questions from people who do not yet know about my preferences and I get the chance to promote more acceptance of BDSM in the conversation. But I know a lot of people who either hide their stains or make sure that there are no visible spots in the first place.

What do your parents actually think about it?
Nothing to my father because he is no longer alive, but my mother was a little worried at first when I told her about it right after my first party. After I explained all the precautionary measures to her, it was OK for her. But I don't tell her any details about my SM parties.

Can BDSMers only have relationships with like-minded people?
No, basically anything is possible. Due to the many overlaps with the polyamorous scene, I know different constellations. Some couples only practice BDSM sexually within the relationship, but are also allowed to practice outside of the relationship in a purely playful manner. Then there are the open vanilla relationships, where the partner can practice his preferences outside of the relationship. It probably also happens that a BDSM player refrains from exercising his or her preferences, but it is rarely a good thing in the long run.

When was the last time you had normal sex?
Last weekend with my boyfriend with whom I am in an open relationship. It would be a shame if I didn't have that anymore.

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