“There’s no sex in the USSR”
Boston-Leningrad television satellite link-up
28 June 1986
During the long rule of the Soviet regime, all aspects of sexual relations, prostitution, homosexuality, fetish, BDSM, night club life and other types of “Western decadence” were the subject of double standards in the USSR.
They were kind of prohibited and condemned in public (“No sex in the USSR!”) though they still existed in various forms, as human nature exists despite all attempts to eliminate or change it.
So I guess the roots of the BDSM community in Russia (one of the earliest Russian alternative subcultures after the hippies and bard-music fans) date back to the late 1970s/early ’80s.
This scene existed in the form of private parties between a small group of selected individuals who shared their “knowledge” with only a small number of neophytes.
With no specialised domestic industry, most of their toys and paraphernalia were home-made or imported by those who by chance travelled abroad.
In the late ’80s the empire began to collapse and most of the “prohibited stuff” became not only available but in a way, you might say, popular.
I remember that the ’90s, when we were granted access to porn-movies, fetish fashion magazines, erotic items, sex toys and other sex-related stuff, felt like a whole candy shop being given to a hungry child.
Anyway all this gave a strong push to the development of a vast number of subculture trends that might be called “alternative” — among them punk, gothic, rock, fetish, BDSM, trance, electric, cyber, tattoo. piercing and body modification.
Some of these have a strong connection with music styles, some are connected with psychological and physiological aspects of human relations, while some were created through the influence of fashion or literature or television.
The number of differences between them is more than the similarities but they are similar in one important aspect — they all are alternative, non-vanilla and somehow distinct from common or mass culture.
Though it’s difficult for this reason to give a full breakdown of the Russian fetish/alternative scene, I will try.
First of all, there’s no such thing as a nationwide “Russian fetish scene” because it exists only in Moscow and, to some small extent, St Petersburg.
Of course there are some local fetish enthusiasts in most of Russia’s big cities but they mostly do private stuff and must come to Moscow or St Petersburg to attend parties.
There are fetish enthusiasts in most of Russia’s big cities but they mostly do private stuff and must come to Moscow to attend parties
But the situation is a bit better for alternative culture in general: most of the regional centres have night clubs, organised parties, concerts, festivals, performances etc.
Most of these don’t deal with fetish stuff directly — they’re more focused on music trends, tattoos and piercing — but participants often dress in fetish clothing (vinyl, latex, leather, nylon) with some BDSM accessories — collars, chains, bondage ropes, floggers, whips, etc.
The Russian community that does deal with fetish stuff directly may be very roughly divided into three different groups.
There are the “pure fetishists” who are interested mostly in latex, vinyl, nylon, pantyhose, zentai, rubber, gas masks, high heels, corsets etc — the simple wearing of which makes them happy enough.
Then there is the BDSM community that is more focused on domination/submission and all kinds of “action stuff”.
And third, the largest and most disparate group can be described as the “music fan community” and includes goths, punks, all types of freaks, and lovers of trance, cyber and all that.
But many Russians belong to all of those groups. They attend not only fetish events but also BDSM private party meetings and, say, gothic/industrial/cyber concerts.
As for the “pure” fetish scene, it mostly includes rubber/latex fetishists with the occasional addition of a BDSM theme, eg bondage, spanking, suspension, mummification and so on.
This scene is rather small — about 150-200 people in total who attend fetish events, have their own portfolios and take part in photo shoots on a regular basis.
There are three or four latex ateliers making latex clothing and accessories in Moscow and St Petersburg. And there are a few sex-shops that stock not only porn and dildos but also latex clothing and BDSM items (or, as they’re called in the Russian BDSM community, “devices”).
There are also individuals and a limited number of studios that make corsets, bondage devices, gothic/cyber/lolita clothing and all that stuff.
Some purely fetish events that include performances and fetish fashion shows are held on a regular basis.
Two of these are featured in the galleries on the right. RubberDay is held in Moscow every month on Sundays, and Fetish Party Night happens two or three times a year.
There are three or four latex ateliers making clothing and accessories in Moscow and St Petersburg, and a few corset and bondage makers
The BDSM community here is much bigger, though many (but not all) people who belong to it are more into psychological/social aspects of BDSM relations and take part in action stuff — bondage, humiliation and so on.
Some of them are also latex addicts. There are specialised clubs and various private parties targeted mostly at BDSM enthusiasts, such as Spring & Autumn Midnight Ball, Temnichki and others.
As for Russian dominatrixes: there are some mistresses with their own studios, and these women can be very harsh and strict with their clients, though in everyday life they’re quite friendly.
The fetish-friendly music fan community is so vast and disparate that it cannot be easily described. It includes all kinds of self-confessed “freaks” as well as vanilla folk who consider fetish to have become mainstream and popular but are not really into it.
It is not unusual for events in Russia aimed at these groups to include such things as latex or zentai fashion shows but most of these are rather poorly organised.
Comparing fetish in the UK, America and Germany with the Russian version, I can see one very important difference: fetish still hasn’t become mainstream in Russia. This has its advantages and its disadvantages.
Obvious disadvantages are that as it’s not so widely spread as in Western Europe and America, clothing and fetish items for us are rather expensive, there are not so many fetish events, clubs or parties and the whole thing depends very much on the Russian fetishists’ enthusiasm.
There are fewer possibilities for talented Russian fetish photographers (such as Robert Borsch — see galleries on right) or models unless they travel a lot or have contracts that give access to the wider market.
And as a whole, too little money is invested in any kind of domestic fetish industry.
There’s only one advantage I can think of and it results from the very fact that fetish here hasn’t become mainstream.
There is more enthusiasm about it, a feeling of something prohibited and perverted, attracting, arousing. Being a latex fetishist and an alt-model in Russia still gives you the illusion of being among “the chosen”, not of the common stuff.
In future articles I will talk more about the Russian fetish scene and focus on some regularly organised parties and shows that I hope will interest Fetishistas readers.
Being a latex fetishist and an alt-model in Russia still gives you the illusion of being among ‘the chosen’, not of the common stuff