For Victoria Sapphire, "50 Shades of Grey" doesn't even begin to cover it. For more than 12 years, Sapphire has worked as a professional dominatrix in both Columbus and New York City where she currently resides. We chatted with her about kink in Columbus and society's current obsession with BDSM relationships. Be assured - real BDSM doesn't happen at the movies.

For Victoria Sapphire, “50 Shades of Grey” doesn’t even begin to cover it. For more than 12 years, Sapphire has worked as a professional dominatrix in both Columbus and New York City where she currently resides. We chatted with her about kink in Columbus and society’s current obsession with BDSM relationships. Be assured — real BDSM doesn’t happen at the movies.

At first, I thought [being a professional dominatrix] was the silliest thing I’d ever heard. I was part of the early crew of Outland in the 1990s. A lot of my friends there saw how interested I was in kink and BDSM and saw that I was talented at both the mindset and the physical aspects of it. Incidentally, I have really good aim and apparently not many people are very good at hitting their marks — it’s the difference between being a relatively good shot and a gunslinger. I’m good at reading their body and knowing where their threshold is. A few of my friends started telling me about a dominatrix in town that I should meet, and that I could be a professional dominatrix. I laughed when they suggested it. I thought, “Why would people pay that much money if there is no sex involved?” I ended up meeting Lady Cheyenne (a legend in the field) and I was really surprised she and other women in the field were college educated and very successful. I started working at my first dungeon between Third and Fifth avenues in Grandview. Everybody in the neighborhood knew it was a dungeon, but nobody seemed to care.

I’m a dominatrix, not an escort. Most of what people see on the internet is pornography — a professional dominatrix won’t do that. I never take off my clothes or perform sexual favors for any client. Often, what a client requests has nothing to do with sex at all. I had one client who had a fetish for long hair who just wanted to touch and brush my hair for a full session. Another dominatrix friend of mine has a pronounced throat, and a client paid her just to admire and touch her neck for a session. Because BDSM is becoming so popular, actual escorts have taken up the whip because so many clients are requesting it. I don’t suggest going to a non-professional though; I had a client who had an escort whip him, and she hit his kidney so hard he ended up urinating blood for a week.

There is very much a correlation between people in powerful positions and BDSM. I’ve worked with everybody from doctors, lawmakers and scientists to professional athletes and musicians. My average client is between the ages of 35-60, is upper middle class and Republican. Men in powerful positions who are yelling at subordinates all day want a role reversal in their private lives. I think visiting a professional dominatrix is a way to free themselves from daily pressures. Pain releases endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals in the brain much like a runner’s high.

“50 Shades of Grey” got it wrong. I appreciate that books and movies like “50 Shades” are making kink and BDSM more mainstream, but it’s not the message I would choose to send. Safe, sane and consensual is not a multiple choice question. What should be portrayed is that in real BDSM relationships the submissive has the right to say no. Some people call it a safe word, but whatever you call it the sub has the right to body autonomy. Those boundaries are very clearly crossed in “50 Shades of Grey” — and that’s a type of rape.

I think Columbus is very kinky — but it’s very much repressed. In the winter of ’99, my friends and I founded a group called “The First Fetish Crew.” We put on the first public fetish ball in the city. We had about 40 paying patrons through the door, and about twice as many police officers who lined the walls and just watched everybody. They couldn’t wrap their minds around the fact we were having a public fetish ball. They didn’t arrest us, but they did threaten to.

Photo by Laura Dark, courtesy of Victoria Sapphire