By age 13, I had already been exposed to Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel, and even the alien prison amazons of Space: 1999. But the first “traditional” dominatrix I can recall ever seeing was Tanya, the Lotus Eater, in Blake Edwards’ Revenge of the Pink Panther.
These two minutes were a revelation, at least to me. The idea that Femdom could be in the “real” world, not just the realm of comics or sci-fi, had somehow never taken hold in me. Not only was this type of woman a fantasy, she had to be in a fantasy, and whether as an ideal or an archetype, she would always be an unfulfilled craving. I had about as much chance of being in her restraints and experiencing her not-so-tender mercies as I had of patrolling the Neutral Zone on the Starship Enterprise.
Until Valerie Leon hit the screen, that is.
Some mental wall came down during this scene, and my kink horizon broadened more in two minutes than in all the formative years before. Not only did the idea that Femdom could be in the real world take hold, so did a hope that at least some actual, flesh-and-blood women might actually, really be like this. Patrolling the Neutral Zone lost some of its appeal in those moments, because another, deeper desire of mine suddenly seemed more attainable. And while achieving it might involve an expensive, cross-dressing trip to a brothel in Paris, at least France existed.
Unfortunately, however, both for my travel planning and for my arousal, my mother was sitting in the theater beside me.
To this day, I can’t say if she knew the Tanya scene was coming. Or what she thought about it. Or what she thought about my seeing it. She never said a word. She didn’t even laugh. Maybe she had some sense of how I was reacting, or maybe she didn’t. I couldn’t have torn my eyes off the screen to glance at her even if I’d wanted. All I knew was that my desires and emotions were seething inside me, and that I was very uncomfortable inside my pants, and also very, very glad that the theater was very, very dark.
Today, this scene would probably be considered a “teachable moment,” but I was being raised by WASPs. In 1978. So this subject and its implications for my future were never spoken about, by either of us, ever.
Maybe that’s a shame. Maybe my mother should have forced the issue, giving me a awkward lesson in “Safe, Sane, and Consensual”—assuming that phrase was even around back then. And maybe she should have explained the difference between Pro-Dommes and lifestylers, and the sometime overlap between the two, and how despite what Inspector Clouseau says to Tanya’s breasts at the end, kink is nothing to be ashamed of.
Yeah, maybe if my mom had been Marlo “Free To Be” Thomas, and my father Phil Donahue or Alan Alda.
I’m just as glad she didn’t say a word, though, and let me sort this out on my own. Because when Peter Sellers delivered that final “You two should be ashamed of yourselves” line, his eyes were saying something different. And so were mine.