Lovehoney, the giant British online sex shops conglomerate, has released some figures about its business in 2012. I immediately checked out the ‘Fantasies’ table, which in this case refers to sexy costumes, and I wasn’t really surprised to learn that their top seller is the eternal British archetype, the French maid outfit. What astounded me was they sold 8,500 of them: an average of 23 each day of the year. When you think that several other franchises are selling sexy maid costumes too, you can easily imagine the bedrooms of the United Kingdom stormed by armies of saucy servants every night. Then there are the runner ups.
The second-best sellers are nurses outfits, followed by schoolgirls. Right after them aresecretaries, policewomen and a baby boomer classic: the air stewardesses, whom only someone who never used a low cost carrier can find a turn on. The bottom of the list is composed of puzzling characters like sailors, pirates, soldiers and – rather understandably – nuns.
If we concentrate on the first half of the table, however, one thing appears very clearly. Even outside of the realm of “proper” BDSM, erotic fantasies are based on power imbalances. The master of the house can have his way and abuse the poor maid just because her very position makes her vulnerable; the nurse can poke and prod her patient taking advantage of his weakness and her scary medical tools; anyone can manipulate an innocent schoolgirl simply by seniority right, and so on.
As I explain in my BDSM – A guide for explorers of extreme eroticism, masks and roleplay may look silly, but they give people a plausible alibi to let go of good manners and unleash the primal instincts of dominance and submission within them – usually with sizzling results. It doesn’t really matter whether they do it consciously at all: sex is about pleasure, and if taking on a temporary identity gets you rocking, elegance be damned. You can always wear your boring old look throughout the rest of the day, and go back to your polite manners as soon as you hang that frilly apron away. Until the next time, of course…