Hot Secs

Pub date June 19, 2007


Dear Readers:

Since every third column I’ve run recently has harked back to one I wrote about the movie Secretary a couple of years back, I thought I’d bring it full circle, and then let’s all move on to something else. Here’s the original (published in fall 2005).



Dear Andrea:

My manager is leaving at the end of the month. I’m pretty sure from hints that he’s dropped that he’s into S-M, particularly whipping. I’m attracted to him and I believe it’s mutual. I’m not interested in pursuing a dominant–submissive relationship with him but am definitely interested in having a one-off because a) he’s my boss, b) he’s kinky, and c) he’s my boss. I’d like to initiate an encounter between us, preferably on his last day at the office, but I am new to the scene and I’m not sure how to go about it.


Ms. Secretary

Dear Sec:

Two things come to mind when I think about Secretary and its stars, the unaccountably attractive Maggie Gyllenhaal, who has a face like a none-too-bright, six-month fetus, and creepy-sexy James Spader, who is at this point indistinguishable from the waxwork simulacrum of himself that undoubtedly exists in some museum somewhere, although I kind of dig him anyway: a) it was hot, and b) it was fiction.

I was listening to a colleague-friend give one of my favorite talks this weekend, the one about acceptable and unacceptable objects of desire and how they shift over time and space, and I thought about Secretary too. "Think about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky," my friend says. "Where we are right now [San Francisco in particular, but any blue-state bastion with a women’s studies department will do], the socially acceptable response was, ‘Oh! She’s just an intern! Think of the power imbalance! Uncool! Unclean! How could she give consent when he was so powerful and she was so lowly?’ But what do you think was really going on for 22-year-old Monica, on her knees in front of Superpower Man, the one and only leader of the free world? What do you want to bet that the power imbalance was exactly what was hot for both of them?"

More fantasy, of course. We have no idea what was really going through either of their heads (well, hers, maybe, but — hey! — that’s not what I meant!), and it doesn’t really matter, since we’re just using them as puppets called "Bill" and "Monica," not seriously examining the ethics of seducing interns or flashing your thong at the leader of the free world, depending. I liked your list (he’s my boss, he’s kinky, he’s my boss) and certainly trust you to know what’s hot for you and why, but let’s remember that this is neither a quirkily erotic indie movie nor a puppet show; it’s part of your actual life, and his, and it has consequences. Hot as a last-day quickie may sound to you, chances are he will be a little busy that day, plus, until all the paperwork is done, he is still your boss, and it could still go rather poorly for him to be found in the supply closet, whaling on the clerical staff with a … what? Unless he’s far kinkier than we ever suspected, he will not have his gear with him, so unless you want to get spanked with a three-hole punch while bound with extension cords and blindfolded with Post-its (wait — this is sounding kind of hot, isn’t it?), maybe you’ll want to wait.

Look, give him a break. Let him pack up his stuff and make his good-byes like a grown-up, and then corner him very late in the afternoon, just as he’s leaving, and tell him you’re sorry to see him go and you wonder if he’d like to get together sometime. Ask if he likes indie movies. Tell him you really dug Secretary. Really, really dug it, you know? That should work. To tell you the truth, I have some reservations about a boss who would drop hints about his kinky sex life around the office — that seems kind of, well, actionable to me, really, plus just kind of indiscreet in an icky way, but hey, he’s your fantasy, not mine.

One thing people who know nothing about S-M (I’m not necessarily talking about you here, Sec) might miss about Secretary is that the way Gyllenhaal’s character, Lee, is initiated into the joys of submission isn’t exactly the way it goes down most of the time. In real life, at least where there’s an organized "scene" with rules and regs and a public image to maintain, no mysterious and compellingly attractive Mr. Grey would, all unannounced and uninvited, order our heroine to bend over for a spanking, thus unleashing her deep longing to find freedom through submission and so on. Instead, he would have invited her to a "munch," where they could negotiate their scene, choose a safe word, and exhaustively disclose their physical limitations ("I have hypoglycemia — you’ll have to feed me." "I had tennis elbow but I think it’s better now"), emotional vulnerabilities, and time constraints. Then they would shake hands and agree to meet at his place on Friday evening to "play." Safer, more ethical, and much, much more boring.



Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.