You're never too old for new tricks: Liza Campbell joins a Coco de Mer seminar on finding one's inner mistress and emerges as fast as a whip
For best results, this article should be read from the kneeling position.
Miss Absolute is wearing a pencil skirt, a black lacy top and obligatory scarlet lipstick. When she swings her long black ponytail (which she does often) she manages to bring an air of menace to it. Miss Absolute is a dominatrix. Her intention is to show me what’s what.
I’m not alone; 20 women have gathered in the South Kensington branch of cult lingerie boutique Coco de Mer for an evening class that will, we are told, unleash our ‘inner mistresses’.
Whenever I think of mistresses, I think of Wallis Simpson, who so dazzled a king that he ditched his throne for her. According to popular rumour, her power over Edward was down to the ‘special skills’ she learned ‘in the Far East’. I have always thought this was garbage. There are no ‘special skills’ that anyone with any degree of sexual experience has somehow missed out on. I hold that Edward had a tiddly wink and Wallis’s ‘special skill’ was to routinely take it up the jacksie.
Clearly, if there is anything ‘Far Eastern’ to be learned about being a dominatrix, it is this: confidence. Miss Absolute caresses her clingfilmed body and tells us it is vital to dress the part. The mistress is a ‘character’ we shall play. We cannot inspire steamy fervour by demanding our feet be kissed if we are dressed in comedy pyjamas and titter like schoolgirls.
Finding my inner mistress
Here, I find myself at an instant disadvantage. Thanks to a short-sighted early morning wardrobe decision, my inner mistress currently lurks beneath a homely Fair Isle cardi: not so much Miss Absolute as Miss Cast or, given the cardi’s antiquity, Miss Hapen. I furtively shrug it off in the hope that the quailing courtesan within can be willed to the surface.
Coco de Mer is a marvellous place that runs regular classes on all sorts of womanly wiles. Looking around the room, this session has attracted quite a section of cross broads; no, I mean quite a broad cross-section. There a few young ones, plenty of 50-plus, trendy, trad, some whose partners have persuaded them to attend, curious singletons, and a pair who might be there on a professional refresher.
Over two hours, Miss Absolute is going to teach us the tricks of taking command – and retaining it – in a sexual context. As the lesson starts, it looks as if her stilettos will be blunted by the effort of kicking us into shape, since most of us are trembling on our gilt chairs, quite terrified by what she is saying.
For what she is saying is that the class is interactive. She wants us to pair up and start acting as dominatrices. We are to practise saucy fantasies on a stranger… who is a woman… and we are to take it seriously. No tittering! In her hand is a long ruler bearing the legend Teach Me A Lesson.
First, we have to get up close for a bit of eyeballing and strict talk. Champagne is on hand and soon everyone realises there is no point being here unless we are prepared to teasingly unstrap our inhibitions. Later we discuss ‘security words’ so the submissive can indicate that they want to stop.
I am someone who finds anger and pain, even slight pain, devoid of erotic charge, but Miss Absolute reassures us that it is not about that, unless you are both dead keen – and the key word here is both – to nail his balls to a mast.
We graduate to a bit of blindfold work, which I recommend. It’s much easier to whisper unusual things into the ear of recipients who can’t see you. Particularly if they are strangers.
My partner is Elke, a Nordic beauty. We form one of those instant friendships forged by shared anxiety. When it is my turn, I blindfold her and tell her I am leaving the room and she must await the arrival of an exotic neighbour who will join her shortly.
At the end of the exercise she embraces me and tells me I was ‘incredible’ as the exotic neighbour. I am proud and foolishly pleased and a tiny bit confused by such a rapturous review from a girl.
I step out into the night feeling bouncy and hail a cab: “Camden please, and can you to step on it? I’ll tell you the route I think best.” And I give a menacing flick of my hair to his rear-view mirror.
Oh God, I’m in full dominatrix mode and can’t seem to turn it off. Miss Absolute has created a monster! A monster you can call Miss Ion-Creep.
Did I say you could get off your knees?