"The French are glad to die for love..." So sang Marilyn Monroe in "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." The Swiss, however, are less cheerful about dead Frenchmen. On June 18, a Swiss jury sentenced Cécile Brossard to eight and a half years in prison for the 2005 murder of her kinky lover, Edouard Stern, during a BDSM scene.
Stern, a banker, was one of France's richest citizens. Brossard admitted shooting him while he was tied to a chair, dressed in a head-to-toe latex suit, wearing a dildo and a mask. But she said Stern had tricked her into thinking that he'd given her a million dollars, that he loved her, and that he wanted to marry her. Then he took back the money and, during the scene, taunted her viciously, calling her a whore. She "snapped," got the gun, and shot him multiple times.
Stern's scandalous death shocked the region's conservative investment industry. Prosecutor Daniel Zappelli pushed for a stiffer penalty, saying Brossard "showed cruelty" by not removing the latex suit from Stern's body after she shot him. Leaving him to be found in it ruined his reputation. (Obviously, Mr. Zappelli has no experience with latex bodysuits. Getting into one, alive, is laborious. Getting a dead body out of one sounds horrible.) However, it's widely speculated the relatively brief sentence reflects the Swiss government's wish to sweep the embarrassing incident under the rug.
It's an extreme example of how roles in BDSM relationships aren't always what they seem. I don't condone murder, and I certainly won't be sending Brossard any invitations to come play in my dungeon when she's released. But descriptions of Stern do not create much sympathy, either. He doesn't seem like a nice, well-liked guy. Certainly he wasn't noted for kindness or fairness—he once forced his own father out of a family firm. And the judge in the case remarked on Stern's "humiliating, harassing, and occasionally cruel" behavior toward Brossard. Just because Stern wanted Brossard to play the Mistress in the bedroom doesn't mean he wasn't a controlling, abusive prick to her.
A murder like this one isn't spawned in an instant. Any relationship, kinky or vanilla, can turn nasty. News stories called this a "sex-games slaying." But these two people had gone way past games. Stern didn't deserve to be murdered just for being an asshole. I believe Brossard didn't plan to kill him. But for good or for bad, doing BDSM often brings out strong emotions in people. The fact that Stern let Brossard start a scene with him, render him helpless and immobile, and then began insulting her about real-life, high-stakes disputes speaks volumes to me. A toxic BDSM relationship between two damaged people has the potential to spin desire, rage, sex, and violence into a tornado just looking for a place to touch down. If it does, the result will not be anything that looks like love.