Lady Xena
Project info

The red fingernails are the only thing Gerda Ricci has left from her life as Xena. Her claws, as she calls them. When she was younger, she used to dig those long nails into the skin of men who like pain. As Lady Xena, she received customers daily in her salon in Biel. Old people, young people, bankers, academics, students, family men, pensioners came and went. Almost exclusively men. Their lives could not have been more different, but one thing united them: a secret passion. In Domina Xena these men found something that was not accessible in their own environment: satisfaction.

Today, Gerda Ricci's fingers with their red-painted nails cling to the banister as she climbs the steps to her small apartment in the old town of Biel. She is no longer so good on foot. For the 67-year-old, her life up to that point was rocky and steep, "but honestly," says Gerda Ricci. "And I'm proud of that." She pulls her cigarette and looks at you long and straight with her deep blue eyes.

Enlightenment during the family holidays

It was a liberation that could not happen overnight. It's one thing to discover that you enjoy violent fantasies. To follow this path yourself is another. "I was in my thirties, married and frustrated," remembers Gerda Ricci.

During family holidays on the beach in Italy, the young woman comes across a book by Marquis de Sade. The texts of the French nobleman, who became famous for his violent pornographic novels, drew Gerda Ricci's attention to her own darker side. "I could completely identify with the fantasies of these convent women, with the sexual violence, the secret desires." A passion had awakened in her, "I knew I wanted to do that too".
Marriage to an Italian soon became too close for the trained diet cook and patissier. After 15 years, Gerda Ricci divorces him. She starts a new life as a single mother of two daughters and tries to keep the family above water with jobs as a Spitex employee. In 1991 she opens an esoteric boutique with precious stones, jewelry and incense sticks.

But the shortage of money increases and finally drives Gerda Ricci into a brothel and thus into her work as a dominatrix. "The work as a prostitute in a whorehouse soon became too cramped for me, my fantasies went beyond the scope of the brothel owners' couple." Gerda Ricci wanted to be free, to be her own boss.

handcuffs, high heels

Thus necessity became a virtue, a secret passion a lucrative business. In 1998 she opened her own salon in the old town of Biel, "Domina Xena has awakened", she says and laughs her deep, smoky laugh. The name Xena, she explains, refers to the fantasy series from the nineties, "Xena, the warrior princess, that suits me". She did not have to learn how to be a dominatrix. "I just could. Because it was born out of sexual need and because I've always respected men's fantasies."

The fantasies. They're as different as the men themselves, and yet the same elements keep popping up. Pain is an integral part, both mental and physical. Being tied up, tortured, humiliated, Xena's clients were the ones who most enjoyed it. Some of them stood on electric shocks, others on handcuffs and whips, quite a few on putting on women's clothes, walking through the salon of the dominatrix in high heels or on all fours, humble and submissive. My "Fiffis", she says, her gaze wanders into emptiness. Gerda Ricci let the men call her "Sovereign" or "My Mistress".

The oldest "slave" was over 80 years old. He wanted to wear stockings and high heels. "I was never surprised by fantasies," says Gerda Ricci. What was the most blatant wish? She laughs again her resounding laughter. "For me, nothing is crass." But the telephone calls of certain men were unpleasant, they bothered Gerda, wanted to be her house slave. They got into an addiction, maybe even fell in love.

power and impotence

She had never found herself in a dangerous situation, she had never been afraid in her domina salon. "I was always the strongest." It's all about power and powerlessness: "And I prefer power." She's always liked having control over men.

It must have something to do with Gerda Riscci's story. Even if she doesn't want to talk about it or only briefly, one can't get rid of the suspicion that her work as a dominatrix also has something to do with revenge and self-protection. "Of course, I had bad experiences with certain men as a child and young woman." Especially in the marriage, in her ex-husband's family, a lot of things went wrong. "At some point I simply realized that many men are perverts. And it may well be that my profession put me in a stronger position, so that nothing can happen to me."

Sex for them is power, a source of joy and health that cannot be neglected. "Many of my clients have tried everything before: sports, psychiatrist, new hobbies, but they remained frustrated and ill. Then they came to me and were so relieved and satisfied that they could hardly stop thanking me.

The first step of "redemption", as she says, is through language. "I had to loosen the men's tongues. Once they could speak of their secret fantasies, the spell was broken." Sometimes the men needed several visits to talk about their desires. Sometimes it could take more than a year between a first phone call and a visit to the salon - "many were simply afraid of themselves".

Grandmother and author

Gerda Ricci retired a few years ago. In 2006 she became a grandmother for the first time, today she has three grandchildren. Her studio in the old town of Biel no longer exists, she has disposed of all her sex toys. Except for a few patent leather boots and high heels, and in a corner of her small apartment there is still a box of utensils: dildos, an electric shock device, a whip, old photos.

Gerda Ricci knows everyone in Biel, everyone knows her. Lady Xena was a city original, so is Gerda. Where she appears, she is greeted, sometimes invited for a coffee. Many know her story. Gerda wrote it down, years ago already. In a thin, specially created autobiography she relentlessly tells of her life as a "warrior princess". She has sold the book to passers-by on the street - "but many can't read it. It is too crass, especially for women".

Gerda's path: steep, stony, but honest. Would she do it again like this? "Yes. But I would start much earlier." She rattles her bunch of keys. She drums on the tabletop with her red fingernails. They're the only thing Gerda Ricci has left from her life as Xena.

Simone Lippuner