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The "Fete Du Slip": Switzerland's High-Brow Porn Festival

A brother and sister have set Lausanne alight for the past two years with a celebration of "positive sex" and "alternative porn." The Swiss city has been surprisingly submissive. Austin, Texas might call it the XXX answer to their SXSW

Performance at Lausanne's Le Romandie rock club as part of the Fete du Slip 2015
Performance at Lausanne's Le Romandie rock club as part of the Fete du Slip 2015
Antoine Duplan

LAUSANNE It's almost spring, and last week Lausanne was already taking its panties off.

The Arsenic, an art center in the Swiss city, displayed an interactive performance about sex workers and screened films such as A Blowjob Is Always a Great Last-Minute Gift Idea. The Galerie Humus unearthed a little known collection of erotic pictures and objects. At the City-Club, viewers could watch other "ballsy" movies. There was sexy dancing at the Bourg, while the Romandie rock club celebrated the clitoris.

What a week the Fête du Slip (literally "Festival of Panties," also meaning "big mess" in French) has been!

Since 2013, the festival conceived by a pair of brother and sister intellectuals, Stéphane and Viviane Morey, has been raising the temperature in Lausanne. If Stéphane were a J.R.R. Tolkien character, with his diminutive size, thick beard and glasses, he would belong to the Dwarves family. Viviane, svelte and blonde, wearing a discreet piercing and a gingko leaf for a necklace, would be an Elf — she is loquacious in her reflections and laughs heartily.

The son of Earth and the daughter of Air don't look physically alike, but they finish each other's sentences. He's 28, she's 33, and she enjoys poking fun at her brother, who is used to Viviane's displays of tough love.

"We really got along when we starting doing the Fête du Slip, even though we asked ourselves if we'd be able to work together professionally," Stéphane explains. "It's quite nice knowing that even if we argue, if we're at each other's throats, he'll always love me," Viviane adds.

But how do you end up creating such a hedonistic, such a Babylonian project in Lausanne? Stéphane is mostly interested in cinema, and Viviane prefers literature and music, but both have degrees in social sciences. Viviane undertook gender studies. Stéphane listened to his older sister talk about the social construction of the male and female gender before following into her footsteps. He completed a Master's degree in visual anthropology in Berlin, where he discovered the "positive sex" and "alternative porn" cultures.

"Sexuality is a fundamental structure of one's identity and personal construction," Viviane says. "The U.S. produce about 10,000 porn films per year! This means it needs to be thought about and talked about. Whether we like it or not, pornography is part of our culture."

Stéphane believes "everyone consumes porn," even if it's just through advertisements. "It's also a way to conceive social relations between genders," he says. "We're sick of prudishness. Sex education classes never talk about pornography on the pretext that it's dangerous for young people. But do they all end up in a psychiatric hospital?"

No hue, no cry

The Internet, same-sex marriage, the highly publicized chronic mischief of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the IMF. Sex is everywhere. A multidisciplinary festival centered on sexual issues, the Fête de Slip neither advocates nor condemns sex. It simply explores and questions it.

In not-so-ancient times, events such as this one would have led to a major outcry. Times are changing. "We're almost disappointed," Viviane says before Stéphane adds, "It's surprising. We were expecting virulent protests."

But there was no such reaction, just a few invectives in the letters to the editor of 24 heures, inaccurately denouncing a misappropriation of public funds when the Fête du Slip is actually financed through crowdfunding and, this year, with a grant by the region's lottery. Even certain feminist groups from which they could have expected an angry reaction answered positively. The religious, meanwhile, seemed blissfully unaware — and may they remain unspoiled.

Lausane's cultural institutions opened their doors with an "incredible generosity," the founders say. Are the world's panties on fire? "It's hard to answer that," Viviane says.

"Traditions have become more flexible. The Internet generalized porn. It's easier to talk about it." adds Stéphane. "A space of openness and freedom was created at the same time as a space for reactionary attitudes and conservatism. We saw that with the demonstrations for same-sex marriage."

And where does Fifty Shades of Grey stand in this globalized rut? The Morey siblings have neither read the book nor seen the film. Stéphane knows enough to say that the flagship of "mommy porn" isn't really representative of the BDSM world the way the Fête du Slip shows it. The crude film Love Hard, Viviane adds, is "very poetic" and "shows the beauty, the trust, the tenderness, the consenting nature of the people in a BDSM relationship."

She's too much of a belletristic literature connoisseur to devote time to clumsily written books, and prefers reading Story of O again. She does, however, concede that the Fifty Shades bestseller may have the merit of making erotic literature mainstream.

Do their parents know what these two are up to? "Of course," says Viviane. "We talk with them a lot. My dear mother often asks why sex is so important."

Says Stéphane, "We maintain the dialogue, even if we don't agree on certain points. Our mother instilled this principle in us: "Don't curse the darkness, light a candle!" That's what the Fête du Slip is about. We prefer celebrating progress rather than complaining and simply denouncing injustices without offering alternatives."

Born in an evangelical family, Viviane and Stéphane grew up in western Africa. "We were raised in an atmosphere of openness, of recognition of differences and otherness," Viviane says. "We've been called "missionaries of positive sex." This makes us smile because there's some truth in it."

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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