Welcome to SMil, Denmark’s second oldest BDSM and kink social organization, and their gorgeous dungeon playhouse. In the lounge area of the club, a handsome, grizzled man sits beside me on the deep red leather sofa. Lars, SMil’s current vice president, is large and muscular, even by Danish standards; he wears soft suede pants and brown riding boots. Clear blue eyes meet my gaze with confidence and kindness. Lars agreed to meet with me and tell me about the organization. I was fascinated to discover a kink club of the same vintage as The Eulenspiegel Society of New York (1971) and The Society of Janus in San Francisco. (1974).
You’ve been a member of SMil since 1993. How long has the club existed?
Since 1979. Here, I have to do a bit of clearing up because it is not a club—and we are quite particular about this. We are a democratic association, so there is no moneyman behind this. We are a non-profit organization … We are based on the members’ enthusiasm and their voluntary work. I do believe that is what makes us quite different than clubs.
How do you define “club”? We might have a difference in definitions here.
Human corset. Photo courtesy of SMil.
[Here], a club is not necessarily democratic. They might have a board, but may be self-supplying, there are no open elections for the board. That’s at least the situation here in Denmark. We have similar organizations or clubs, but they are quite particular about calling themselves clubs, and we are quite particular about calling ourselves the opposite.
So it’s more of an association?
The word “club,” at least in America, is used in a much larger sense and includes commercial enterprises, non-profits, and so much more.
When you look at Denmark, we have a strong and very, very long, historic tradition for democratic associations. A lot of voluntary work and interest groups are organized like that.
How did SMil get its start?
SMil was initiated in ’79, at a time when BDSM was not very known and was quite taboo, especially with Women’s Lib. Some of the founders of SMil were quite known, quite public Women’s Lib people. That was quite a smack in the face for a lot of other women. Female masochism, especially, was a taboo with the Women’s Lib.
Caged. Photo courtesy of SMil by Kasper Fladmose/www.fladmose.com.
That touches one of the aspects of SMil, which is quite important. That’s the public work, which stretches beyond BDSM interests. What we work for in our sexual, political aspect is openness and tolerance toward all sexual behavior or expression that takes place between consenting adults, within Danish legislation.
So you could say we work for tolerance—toward diaper fetishists, toward the gay community—all kinds of sexual interests. We don’t tend to call them “sexual minorities.” That’s self-stigmatization. We work on a broad scale of sexual tolerance and openness.
In other BDSM organizations, in Copenhagen at least, they narrow their scope. What you find here is a broad variety of members with a broad variety of kinks. We’ve got gay people, pet players, and a big group of nawa shibari with a lot of attendance.
I, myself, initiated "The High Command," which is our group for uniform fetishists. My wife, Megan, and I are about to set up a photo shoot with our uniform wardrobe. We’ve got everything from the black SS, MVA from East Germany, pre-revolutionary Russian uniforms, French Foreign Legion, and things like that.
We chose to celebrate our wedding reception here. It’s a signal that this place is important in people’s lives. It actually means something. It’s such a good place.
In Denmark is there potentially a problem at work (for members)?
Not necessarily. That depends on who you are, and how you feel about it.
So it’s not a legal risk, but more about personal emotional comfort?
Right. And who knows? You might find corporations that would strongly dislike their CEO to spend his nights in bondage.
In the United States, people have been known to use a partner’s BDSM interest in divorce and custody cases, to have children taken away.
Not really here. Someone might try that, but I don’t think it would work.
How many members are there in SMil currently?
In Copenhagen, it goes up and down, but it’s about 300. There are actually four local branches in Denmark—in Odense, Aarhus, Aalborg and Copenhagen. We are all together in the umbrella organization of SMil, but the branches have quite a lot of autonomy. For example, the SMil department in Aarhus does not necessarily mirror Copenhagen directly.
Something here that I noticed that’s very different than similar places in the U.S. is the presence of alcohol and a sex space. Many American readers may be shocked to find alcohol and full on sex. Let’s start with alcohol. You have a full bar here.
Yes, we have a license, so we’re allowed to serve alcohol. We have the bartenders, who are overseers of the evening. If anyone becomes intoxicated in a way that they either bother others, or so that it wouldn’t be considered safe to engage in SM activities, they are kindly asked to leave and come back when sober.
A "naughty girl' gets spanked. Photo courtesy of SMil.
In the Danish culture, there’s quite a liberal attitude towards alcohol, [but] you don’t see excessive intoxication here. It’s extremely rare, and if it happens it’s put to a stop, promptly. We used to say about drinking and SM—If you’ve had enough not to drive a car, you’ve also had more than you should to engage in SM.
Many of the similar venues in America, alcohol is not only completely prohibited, but people get very dogmatic about it. I think perhaps many Americans get dogmatic about a lot of things.
Oh yes, I quite agree. Seen from the Danish point of view, yes.
What about sex in SM play spaces?
What can I tell you about sexual activity, other than it’s highly recommended!? (laughs) That is, of course, one of the main reasons for many members to come here—to be sexually active. If you have a two-room flat or a condo, where you have neighbors living above and below you, “smacking the pony” can cause problems in some places.
There’s also space. Few bedrooms in Danish apartments have room for your 8’ or 12’ bullwhip. There are suspension possibilities when you’re into ropes. As you can see from the way we put the place together, it calls for sexual activity. This is a playground.
What’s the Danish view of American sexuality in general and of American kink?
It’s quite two-sided. There seems to be bit of ambivalence on our perspective on American sexuality and American SM. On one hand, the U.S. is the land of opportunity and on the other hand, the land of intolerance … and to some extent, double standards. It’s where there are all these do’s and don’ts. Does it really work?
But then there are a lot of possibilities. In some places in the States, you find a lot of tolerance and in others not. You cannot really talk about U.S.A. as just one place, as it differs a lot being a vast country.
SMil takes to the streets.
Editor’s Note: Visitors to Copenhagen are welcome to visit SMil at open parties or as the invited guest of a member. Members of the board can be contacted through the group’s web site, though it is all in Danish: http://www.sado.dk