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Male “sex servant” casting raises hackles

Maggie Tappert interviews candidates for her event Keystone

A women's sexual therapist has aroused consternation in Zurich by publicly casting men for the role of sex servants to service her clients.

Dozens of budding studs tried to convince a panel that they could rise to the occasion on Wednesday night. The venue was changed after the city’s scandalised authorities threatened to cut funding for the original theatre.

The event, organised by Wings of Joy sexual therapy group founder Maggie Tapert, sparked intense public and media interest as a row about morality gained momentum.

But it was an anti-climax for those expecting salacious acts as the candidates were fully clothed and were only expected to talk about their sexuality. Tapert told swissinfo that the “beauty pageant” had been blown out of proportion.

“When people hear that we are a women’s group they think we are sitting around doing knitting, but as soon as one man is involved it becomes a huge scandal,” she said.

“My work is extremely provocative but these politicians have made a judgement that I’m acting like a cheap whore and that I want to do something perverted. But I work to help women get in touch with their sexual power.”

She added that the men who work with her group should not be linked to prostitution.

“There is no money involved and these men are not call boys. I don’t let most men in because they are not able to really appreciate a beautiful… woman,” she said.

Not amused

However, some Zurich politicians failed to share Tapert’s view, forcing the casting to be shifted from the controversial Cabaret Voltaire theatre to the nearby Neumarkt Theatre.

Cabaret Voltaire pulled out after the Zurich branch of rightwing Swiss People’s Party launched a campaign to end its subsidy of SFr300,000 ($299,925) a year. The city’s culture chief, Jean-Pierre Hoby, also waded into the affair, saying the casting would “damage the reputation of a publicly subsidised institution”.

The theatre, also known as Dada House, would not comment, but Tapert criticised the decision. Cabaret Voltaire was founded in 1916 to house the Zurich Dada movement, an anti-establishment artistic expression that used shock tactics to express its rejection of authority during the First World War.

“Those who are financing Dada House want it to be a museum where nothing actually happens. The very things that honour the Dada tradition are frightening to those in power. It’s very threatening that I should come along and do something with human sexuality,” Tapert told swissinfo.

Staying healthy

Tapert, who was born in the United States but has lived in Switzerland for about 40 years, started her women’s sexual therapy workshops 15 years ago after suffering a period of illness.

“I discovered that to be deeply connected to your sexual power, and the joy that that brings, is the way to stay healthy. I teach how to leave suffering behind and be joyful every day of your life,” she said.

About 800 women from all walks of life have taken part in her workshops. Most of the work is among groups of women but men are used to teach flirting technique and for sexual experimentation at the so-called Aphrodite Temple.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Dada or Dadaism was an artistic movement founded during the First World War in Zurich. It used various art forms to express its anti-war ideas and rejected established conventions of art with an anti-aesthetic and often shocking style.

There are various interpretations of how the movement got its name, with many believing it was just a nonsensical word chosen to display the movement’s contempt of logic.

Dadaism swiftly spread throughout Europe and the United States and was at its peak between 1916 and 1920.

The Cabaret Voltaire theatre was set up in Zurich’s old town in 1916 as a cabaret venue for the Dada movement.

The theatre ran into disrepair and was saved from demolition in 2002 by a group of artists who illegally occupied the building to prevent its destruction.

It opened for business again on September 30, 2004, complete with a subsidy from the city.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR