Whip It Good

Deborah Richardson gets strange phone calls on a daily basis.

It’s no surprise; the owner of Deborah’s, “the Midwest’s largest fetish store,” provides latex and leather for a world that makes a lot of folks uneasy. But it’s not her customers who are making the strange phone calls.

“Mostly people don’t understand what it’s about,” Richardson says. “They think it’s about sex and nudity.” It’s not. Bondage and discipline (B&D) and sadomasochism (S&M) are more of an emotional release, she explains; a good “scene,” or encounter, ends not necessarily in orgasm but in catharsis. “For a lot of people, especially those under a stressful job, mostly stressed men, it’s a release for them. It’s something where they can have somebody else make all the decisions for them,” says Richardson.

It wasn’t until the ’80s that the American Psychiatric Association removed S&M as a category in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Until then, those who admitted to or were caught engaging in any variety other than “vanilla” sex (as it’s called in S&M circles) risked being shunned and shut away. (Spank me! Even gay people got off of the crazy list in ’72.)

As is the case with any subculture, misconceptions abound. If a woman is a dominatrix, people make assumptions. “People think that a woman is a dominatrix just because she wants to beat on people or she’s got a point to prove, but that’s not the case at all. People who think that are completely ignorant, because in order to have a scene with somebody else, it takes a great deal of trust on the submissive’s part. “

Some people have to be tied up to be free. This so-called underground sex scene gets bad PR, even though it’s probably safer than a hookup on a weekend night in “Fratport.” “We don’t do anything wrong. A lot of people think, ‘Oh, they must be doing something wrong,’ but I’m out there, we don’t hide,” Richardson says, wondering out loud what it is people actually think fetishists do.

Plain and simple, “It’s just how some adults play,” she says.

Hey, who hasn’t fantasized about handcuffs and leather masks? Which is partly why Mistress Deborah has sponsored the Fetish Ball for the past six years, taking place this year on Saturday, August 5. The Fetish Ball’s titillating title, “Bound for Pleasure,” promises an evening of fantasy fetish shows, exotic contests, sensual dancing, and an environment in which people can be anyone or anything they want without fear of being judged. “It’s basically a party where people can meet people they don’t already know.”