Friday, 31 May 2019

Hatari loves you

The Eurovision Song Contest happened this month. I love a bit of Eurovision. Even when the UK couldn't actually do any worse if it tried. Poor Michael Wotsisflip and his perfectly adequate performance. It wasn't the absolute shittest song that night. It deserved better than last place. Fourth from last at the very least, I reckon.

In the run up to the competition - during the time when I was ordering mini-flags from Amazon and planning my eurocheeseboard - I was especially excited to hear about Iceland's entry to the competition,  anti-Capitalist BDSM techo performance art group, Hatari.

I'm all for there being more BDSM on Light Entertainment television programmes. More BDSM everywhere, I say.

As it turns out, I was a bit disappointed by Hatari's performance on the night. The song was great in a shouty goth way, their dancing was enthusiastic and they'd obviously gone to a lot of trouble with their costumes.

"Life is meaningless. The Void will get us all."
Everybody, sing along!
I think I just wanted rather more BDSM from my BDSM performance art group. I'm willing to accept that this may have been an unrealistic expectation. Maybe the Eurovision Song Contest isn't ready for shibari, nipple clamps, CBT and floggings just yet. As it turned out, the only BDSMesque thing about the band's performance were the outfits.

Wearing a lot of PVC, leather and straps isn't really noteworthy in the world of popular music though, is it? It's just one stage up from ubiquitous corset and fishnets as stagewear. In the very same competition, Cyprus's Tamta and friends were rocking outfits that might well have been bought at the same Fetish Fair as Hatari's.

I'm not holding any kind of grudge against Hatari though. The more I find out about them, the more I like them. They are absolute poppets.

There are three core members of the band:  Klemens Hannigan who looks like Ben Hardy playing Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody;  Matthias Tryggri Haraldsson who looks like Neil from the Inbetweeners and Einar Hrafn Stefansson who looks like half a transformer.

Spot the difference. You can't can you?
They are all exceptionally polite and softly-spoken in interviews. Their particular areas of interest are death, the overhaul of human society, the pretentiousness of human existence and the end of the world. Also cake, apparently. Hatari loves cake.

And Hatari loves you.
Earlier this year, they challenged the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu to a friendly game of  Glima - Icelandic Trouser-Grip Wrestling, stating that if their representative won the game, then the band would be permitted to establish within Israel the “first ever Hatari-sponsored liberal BDSM colony on the Mediterranean coast”. Sadly, Mr Netanyahu didn't take them up on the challenge.

Glima belts.
You can see why our BDSM-loving boys might like it.
They caused controversy at Eurovision by waving Palestinian flags while they were onscreen during the voting. This sounds cool and I'm sure they meant well by it but I have to say I'm with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which had demanded all acts pull out of the event. “Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line.” Any band who really wanted to support the Palestinian people shouldn't have been performing at this year's Eurovision.

Not that I can talk, obviously. I watched the bloody thing.

Any stated desire by Hatari to change the world should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. "Eurovision is part of Hatari's vision to bring Capitalism to its knees." Good luck with that, chaps. Someone needs to do it. It might as well be you guys.

But whatever they're doing I hope they carry on doing it for a good long while yet. They're outrageously deadpan, cheerfully nihilistic and obviously a bit kinky. Hatari, I do believe I love you.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Millie and the Mill Owner: A Short Story

Here's a short story for you to enjoy while I get round to finishing some of my proper-length books.
It is available as a free PDF here so that you can download it onto your kindle, kobo, phone, tea-kettle or similar. Enjoy!

Millie and the Mill Owner by Etta Stark

It was just before half past five in the morning; Millie pulled her shawl tightly around he shoulders as she stood outside the gates of Northam Mill ready to begin her day’s work.

The other girls who worked at the mill chatted to one another as they waited. As usual, they did not include Millie in their chatter. Millie pretended not to mind. She knew that she did not fit in. She wasn’t one of them. She had the wrong accent. These girls had all grown up together whereas Millie had been raised in a different world, a privileged life with wealthy parents, a good education and all she could wish for. But everything had changed after her father’s death.

Poverty and shame meant that she had to find work quickly doing whatever job she could find. She had been relieved to be taken on by Northam Mills as a weaver. The days were long and the work was difficult and exhausting. Millie could bear the work itself but the attitudes of the other girls was difficult to cope with.

The gates opened and as Millie moved forward with the crowd, someone barged into her from the side causing her to stumble.

“Oh I am sorry, Lady Muck” her assailant said. “Did your diamond shoes trip you up?”

Of course, Millie wasn’t wearing diamond shoes nor anything like it. She wore heavy boots like the rest of the workers. But it didn’t matter; the girls thought her a posh snob and were determined to hate her.

Millie reached her machine and set about cleaning it ready for the day’s work. She noticed that the other girls’ chatter was more animated than usual this morning.

“Did anyone else hear that Lord Northam is coming to inspect the troops today?” a girl called Bet remarked.

“I heard that too. You know he’ll find fault with someone here. He always does.” This response came from Jane whose machine was next to Millie’s.

Bet gave a ribald laugh. “From what I’ve heard maybe I wouldn’t mind his Lordship finding fault with me.”

The girls all laughed much to Millie’s bafflement.  One girl, Molly, didn’t join in the merriment. “You wouldn’t laugh if it had happened to you, I can tell you” she said.

“Aw, Molly,” said Jane. “You still sore about it?” More laughter.

“I was bloody sore for days afterwards, I can tell you!” huffed Molly before returning to clean her machine.

“Why is Lord Northam visiting the mill floor?” asked Millie, her curiosity getting the better of her.

The laughter stopped immediately. Jane turned to Millie with a look of contempt. “Oh I dunno, y’Ladyship. Maybe he heard we had an actual fucking Duchess working on the looms.”

“I’m not a Duchess,” Millie retorted.

“Well, you’re too high and mighty for the likes of us, aren’t you?” Jane then lunged forward and grabbed Millie’s bucket and threw its contents at her machine. Cold, dirty water went everywhere.

Millie was completely dumbstruck for a moment. Only for a moment though. When her voice returned she was furious. “Why the hell did you do that, you stupid bitch?” Millie yelled.

At that very moment the foreman, Mr Weavind came round the corner into their view. He was accompanied by the mill owner, Lord Northam.

Lord Northam was not what Millie had expected at all. For some reason she had imagined the mill owner to be an old man. Yet Lord Northam was clearly no more than five and thirty. He was well-attired with dark hair and a rather forbidding expression. His gaze was immediately fixed on Millie and then turned to her machine which was dripping wet.  “What, may I ask, has happened to your loom?” he asked.

Millie, still furious, replied through gritted teeth “It was sabotaged by one of the other workers, Sir.”
Jane gasped. She clearly hadn’t expected Millie to grass her up. But Millie was too angry to abide by any sense of workers’ solidarity. She was going to lose her job, most likely. She was bloody well going to take Jane with her.

“I see. And did this person have any reason to carry out such an action?”

“No, sir” replied Millie.

“No reason except you’re a lazy stuck-up snob who thinks she’s better than everybody else” spat Jane.

Mr Weavind looked absolutely furious at the unprofessional behaviour his workers were displaying in front of the mill owner. “This is completely unacceptable,” he barked.

Lord Northam held up his hand. “I will deal with this,” he said, calmly. “Both of you will go to my office. Now. Weavind, escort the girls there immediately.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Weavind gruffly.

Jane shot Millie a look of pure venom. There was no doubt that she held Millie entirely responsible for the trouble that she was in. However, Millie’s mood was already so low that Jane’s anger could not sink it any lower.

This was it, she thought. She was going to lose her position. Jobs were not easy to come by in this town. She might not have had any great love for working in the mill but any job was better than none at all.

When they reached the door to the mill office, Weavind told them to stand and wait in silence. He stood with them and made no effort to speak further.

Millie was already trembling in fear; she kept her eyes focused on the floor so that she did not risk having to look at Jane or the foreman.

Ten minutes later, Lord Northam appeared. “You may leave us now, Weavind. I will handle matters from here.”

Millie’s eyes were still firmly fixed on her shoes; she heard Weavind mumble his acquiescence and depart.

“Very well, girls” said Lord Northam. His authoritative tone made Millie look up to meet his eye. “I shall see you, Jane, in my office first. Follow me. Millie, you wait here.”

Millie managed a mumbled “yes, sir” as Lord Northam opened his office door and walked through it, followed by Jane.

She had no intention of eavesdropping but her position just outside the door meant that she had little else to occupy her attention. She heard muffled voices – mostly those of Lord Northam – and then a few minutes later a sound which made her jump with surprise.

It was a loud “thwack!”. Millie had never received any corporal punishment other than the odd pat on an errant backside by her father when she was a child. However, she was no fool. She knew that the sound she had just heard was the beginning of a beating. Some sort of implement was connecting with flesh. Bare flesh.

Moments later, the sound came again. Then again. And again. Over and over the same sound of something colliding with what Millie could only assume was Jane’s exposed bottom. After half a dozen strokes, the sounds of the beating were accompanied by new ones – the shrieks and wails of its unfortunate target. The beating continued. Jane’s evident distress at her punishment clearly wasn’t going to put a stop to it any time soon.

At long last the door opened and a very tearful Jane exited the room. Her eyes were wet and bloodshot and her hands were instinctively clasping her now-covered backside.

“Return to your work immediately, Jane, and do what I have told you” said Lord Northam. “And I trust we will see an improvement in your behaviour going forward.”

Jane nodded and hurried off back to the mill floor. Millie watched her go thinking that however much Jane had hated her before, this was only going to increase following the hard spanking that she had had to endure. And yet she felt a sense of excitement deep in the pit of her belly that she couldn’t readily comprehend.

“In my office now, Millie” said Lord Northam. On entering the room, Millie’s eye was immediately drawn to a thick leather strap lying on the desk. No doubt this was the implement which had been so loudly used on Jane. She could not stop looking at it.

Was she about to receive the same punishment, she thought. She wished that this was the case with a fervour that surprised her. She told herself that this was because being beaten, however harshly, was a hundred times better than finding herself without a job.

Lord Northam sat behind his desk and looked Millie up and down as she stood before it.

“Camilla Leamington, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Any relation to George Leamington?”

“He was my father, sir.”

“I thought as much. George Leamington was once a prosperous and respected man in this town. And yet his daughter is now reduced to working on the machines in my mill? Why is that?”

Millie had no idea why his Lordship was asking such questions of her but she replied honestly.

“There were debts that needed to be paid off, Sir, after his death.”

“Gambling debts?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I see” said Lord Northam standing up and coming to the front of the desk. He picked up the leather strap. “Right let’s get on with it. Bend over the desk. Feet on the floor. Hands holding onto the far edge.”

Her heart hammering in her chest, Millie did as she was bid. When she was bent over in position, she felt Lord Northam lift her skirts and fling them over her back. He parted her drawers so that her bottom was fully exposed. She had scarcely time to consider this undignified position before she felt the first smack of leather against her skin.

The pain was incredible. She had never felt anything like it. Tears welled up in her eyes but Millie was determined not to move from her position. She wanted to take her punishment as well as she could. After all, her job depended upon it.

Moments later, the second strike cracked across her flesh. Lord Northam barely paused as he brought the strap down repeatedly on her bottom. As Millie tearfully endured the pain, she became aware of another, rather more baffling, reaction.

She was aware of a warmth suffusing her body. Not just on her bottom which was fast becoming fiery red from the harsh application of the strap. No, the warmth she was embarrassed to discover was somewhere else, somewhere more intimate.

She could feel her breath becoming faster as Lord Northam continued the spanking. She was almost panting. As the blows rained down hard and fast on her tender bottom, she did not move an inch. When his Lordship stopped, he gave a low whistle.

“You took that remarkably well. Have you been beaten like that before?”

“N-no, sir” stammered Millie. She could barely get the words out.

Lord Northam put his hand on Millie’s still-upturned bottom and began rubbing her cheeks. Millie let out an involuntary moan in response. Lord Northam chuckled. “I suppose you are just a natural then. I do believe that you enjoyed that almost as much as I did. You didn’t struggle or cry out at all. A rather unusual response, I must say.”

Millie felt she should rightfully feel embarrassed by his Lordship’s touch and by the words he was speaking to her. But she could not manage to feel shame. Instead she felt longing. She welcomed the feel of Lord Northam’s hand on her sore punished bottom and felt herself raising slightly to meet his touch.

“Oh you wicked girl,” said Lord Northam in a voice that sounded almost affectionate. “You are enjoying this far more than you should.”

Millie gasped as Lord Northam moved his hand so that it was no longer rubbing her buttocks but was instead fondling the soft folds between her thighs. Her most private area. The area that no man should touch until her wedding night.

She was powerless to stop it. This was not because she was cowed or intimidated by her Master. She may have been before the beating but she was not even thinking of such things now. The sensation of his fingers inside her felt so marvellous that she wished he would continue to touch her in this way forever.

“So very, very wet,” said Lord Northam approvingly. He withdrew his fingers and gave Millie a sharp slap on her bottom.

His voice became commanding. “Right, you naughty girl, stand up and adjust your clothing. I believe you and I need to have a talk.”

Millie righted herself from her procumbent position with some difficulty; her body simply did not want to move. Her skirts fell back into place and she smoothed them down while turning to face Lord Northam. Her senses were beginning to return to her and she became aware once again of her surroundings. What on earth had just happened?

“Well Millie, you have certainly made my decision a good deal easier.”


“You do not belong in your current job. You should not be working on the factory floor.”

Sense and reason returned to Millie in an instant. She was going to lose her job after all. No wonder, she thought, after the behaviour she had displayed. Surely Lord Northam did not want a woman as wanton as her on his payroll.

However, Lord Northam continued. “Tell me, Millie, can you read and write?”

“Yes sir,” replied Millie, slightly baffled by the question.

“Did you go to school?”

“To Rodean, sir.”

Lord Northam smiled. It was a brief smile but it was dazzling. “Perfect. I have a proposition for you. My Clerk has just quit his position and I urgently require someone to fill the role. I see no reason why a woman could not do the job as well as a man. I would like to employ you as my Clerk on a month’s trial basis. The hours would be eight to six with a half day on Saturdays.”

Millie could scarcely believe it. The hours were so much better than the long shifts she currently spent on the looms. When Lord Northam named a wage far in excess of her present one, her spirits soared at the thought of her new job. A job which would take her away from the hatred and taunting of Jane and the other girls on the factory floor.

She managed to find her tongue. “Thank you, your Lordship. That would be most agreeable. I will endeavour to do whatever you require of me.”

“I’m sure you will,” said Lord Northam. “Of course, if you fail to please me, I shall beat you thoroughly. You have already met my junior strap but, believe me, I have a fine collection of straps, canes, whips and tawses that I will not hesitate to use on your bare backside. Is that acceptable to you?”

Millie felt her blood rush to her face. And to her nether regions. “Oh yes, Sir,” she said emphatically. She tried not to smile. She failed.

Lord Northam considered her thoughtfully. “In fact, it occurs to me that I shouldn’t wait for you to displease me in order to punish you. What if you never put a foot wrong? Then I should never have any reason to spank your bottom. I don’t believe that would please either one of us.”

He picked up the strap from the table and slapped it against the palm of his left hand in an almost absent-minded manner.

“I have decided that you are a girl who should be disciplined regularly regardless of your behaviour. We shall consider them Guidance Spankings.”

“Yes, sir. I think that would probably be wise,” said Millie mischievously. She was relieved that she would not have to be bad on purpose to be bent over and spanked by Lord Northam.

“Good. You will start your new role tomorrow morning. Arrive here half an hour early at half past seven. Before you start your clerical duties, I plan to plan to put you over my lap and administer a sound hand spanking to your bare bottom. Then you will bend over the desk and receive a most thorough caning.”

“I will be here at half past seven promptly,” said Millie, excitement rising in her belly.

“I shall look forward to it. As, I am sure, will you.” Lord Northam flashed Millie another of his brilliant smiles. “Don’t bother returning to work today. Take the rest of the day off. I will see you tomorrow morning and not a minute later than agreed.”

“What about my machine?” asked Millie thinking of the thrown bucket and its dripping contents.

“Jane will be instructed to thoroughly clean and dry your old loom,” replied Lord Northam.

Millie bid good day to her Lord and Master with profuse thanks. She exited the huge external gates of Northam Mills as though floating on a cloud. What an extraordinary day this had turned out to be. She had a new job which was eminently more suited to her talents than her old one. And, she thought, there was the other thing… The spanking. She had no idea what had happened there but she knew she felt utterly calm and happy about it. And that she was excited at the thought of experiencing it again.

She smiled a beatific smile and walked home. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, her bottom felt hot and sore and bruised and Millie felt truly happy. She was eager for the new adventures that life had in store for her.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Book Review - In Need of Correction by Gracie Malling

Want to know more about the book review star rating system? Or find out what other books I've reviewed? Check out this page here.
"Never had he met a woman so strongly in need of a good spanking."

Five Stars!

Ages ago I wrote a review of Casey McKay's wonderful book Emmaline's Groom for Spanking Romance Reviews. In it, I said "I feel like I have I have just acquired my very own bespoke romance writer catering specially to my own personal requirements".

Well, blow me down if I haven't just found another writer who seems to have approached writing spanky romance by saying "Now what are the things that Etta Stark loves in a book? I'll make sure I put ALL those things in".

I'm not really suggesting that Ms Malling actually did that, of course. I don't know the lady. Not even virtually. But, as far as I'm concerned, In Need Of Correction is just about perfect.

It's a superbly-written Austen-esque drawing room romance in which the principal characters, Mr Andrew Hunter and Miss Leticia Waterford are both absolutely charming. Lettie is a strong-willed young lady who is stifled by parochial Surrey society and vaguely indifferent parents. Her sister, Eleanor's marriage has left her without her one steady, supportive influence. The book begins with a visit from Eleanor and we are introduced to Lettie who is hiding behind a brittle facade and spending her time Mean-Girls-ing with Annabel Linfield, an entertainingly bitchy young woman who turns out to be even more horrible than she first appears.

Happily for our heroine, Ellie is accompanied not just by her husband but also her new brother-in-law, Andrew.

Good news for us readers too because Andrew Hunter is just downright bloody delicious. The epitome of the reserved Regency gentleman who you immediately know is a jolly good egg at heart. Reminiscent of Mr Darcy or Mr Knightley but with a far twitchier hand.

"Badly done, Lettie."
And like those other literary gentleman, Mr Hunter takes an infuriatingly long time about making his intentions known to the heroine. Look dude, we all know you and Lettie are madly in love and going to live happily ever after. We worked out on page 1, just crack on with it and propose to the woman.

Admittedly there wouldn't have been much of a book if he'd done that. And what he lacks in passionate declarations, he more than makes up for with a kind heart, dry wit and a whole bunch of disciplinary spankings. Having ascertained pretty sharpish that Lettie is a good soul sorely lacking in discipline, Andrew takes it upon on himself to provide the necessary correction. Usually bare-bottomed over his knee but there's a satisfying variety to the benevolent beatings.

Because that's what I really want from a book. Gracie Malling's gifts for satisfying story-lines, well-fleshed out characters and excellent prose are all very well but we all know that the quality of the spankings is everything. And here Malling (and of course Mr Hunter) really delivers. Andrew Hunter is certainly not a man to deliver a few paltry swats to a woman's arse and have done with it. When he administers a spanking, you can depend upon him making a thorough job of it. And provide a damn good cuddling afterwards, of course.

There's a very satisfying scene in the stables with a riding crop
Things are not straightforward for our heroes as malevolent influences conspire to make things turn out very badly indeed for Lettie. I won't spoil it with the details but Malling does deliver a cracking plot and suffice it to say, Mr Hunter can be relied upon to manfully ride in and save the day. (Although, Andrew, it was kind of your fault in the first place. If you'd proposed the first time you'd upended Lettie across your lap then none of this would have happened. See what happens when you don't rush into things?)

My one criticism (and it isn't even a criticism, really, just a tiny niggle) is is that I wished we could have had a scene where Lettie explains her odd behaviour to Mr Hunter's cousin, Jane, to him. It would have been nice to set the record straight on that score.

Actually it would have been nice to have seen more of Jane altogether. Maybe there could be a sequel with her story? She's had a terrible time of it. I reckon a nice, kind gentleman with a very firm hand could be just what she needs. It certainly worked out extraordinarily well for Lettie.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Fifty Shades of Meh

The third and final instalment of the Fifty Shades trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, was released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago.

I reviewed the first two films for otherwise respectable film website Mostly Film. Because apparently I can't stop having opinions about the whole franchise.

Mostly those opinions aren't all that complimentary to be honest but there you go. I'm sure E L James isn't too bothered about my less than enthusiastic opinions. And if she is bothered, she can always console herself by rolling around naked on large piles of money. That's what I would do in her situation.

My review of Fifty Shades Freed review is up today. As Mostly Film tweeted "Etta returned to give Fifty Shades a stern talking-to. It loved it."

Check it out and let me know what you thought of the (possibly) final cinematic outing of Chris 'n' Ana.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Return both of and to Corbin's Bend

There is big exciting news for fans of the multi-author fictional spanking community-based series, Corbin's Bend. It's coming back! Oh yes, indeedy.

It was on the internet and everything.
And to get us all in the mood for more Colorado-based DD deliciousness, Blushing Books have re-released all the original Corbin's Bend novels as box sets. Available for your reading pleasure are:


I'm going to focus on the second book, Return to Corbin's Bend, because that's the one that has my book, East End Girl, in it. And, you know me. I'm all about shameless self-promotion.

Wouldn't this book look perfect on your virtual coffee table?
East End Girl is the story of Kirsty Logan who ups sticks from London and moves 3000 miles to Colorado in pursuit of the perfect spanky lifestyle in Corbin's Bend. It doesn't work out quite as she expects and she struggles to fit in. Her self-destructive behaviour threatens her whole future in the community. But the lovely spankos of Corbin's Bend - and one especially lovely spanko in particular - help her to find herself. Not entirely through the medium of spanking, I hasten to add. But there are a lot of spankings in it. I know you expect nothing less.

The especially lovely spanko's name is Logan.
There are seven other amazing books in this collection by amazing authors like Constance Masters, Tara Finnegan and Maren Smith. I have reviewed the books in this collection here. And here. Also here. I talk about this series a lot, to be honest.

So while we all twiddle our thumbs in impatient expectation for the next Corbin's Bend arrivals, reacquaint yourselves with the heroes and heroines, spankers and spankees, Heads of Household and Takens in Hand of Corbin's Bend.

And if you haven't read any Corbin's Bend yet. My goodness, you have a lot of catching up to do.

I'm back!

It's been a while but I'm back, ready to dust the cobwebs off this site and get it back in shipshape spanking order.

Or hide the dust at any rate

Stay tuned for exciting spanky spankness. You know you want it.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Duke of Burgundy

I feel like I should put a *MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT* at the top of this post. The Duke of Burgundy is not the sort of film you can spoil exactly. It's not a whodunit. It's not like I'm going to give away the fact that the main protagonist was a secret alien cyborg from the future all along. But I went into this film without knowing anything about it at all and that's an approach I'd highly recommend. So, if you haven't seen it, I reckon you should go away, watch the movie and then come back and read the review below. Because, apart from anything else, I do talk about the ending.

Peter Strickland's 2014 lesbian BDSM romantic drama The Duke of Burgundy is not the film I expected it to be. It certainly isn't the film that this trailer thinks it is.

All those bits in the trailer hinting at sexy sex times and BDSM punishment? They're pretty much the most explicit scenes in the film. The Duke of Burgundy isn't a no-holds-barred explicit lesbian fetish-a-thon. At least not in that way.

Why do the makers of trailers do that? Deliberately create a trailer that promises a completely different film from the one that it actually delivers? Surely you just end up with with a bunch of disgruntled cinema-goers.

"What the hell was this?" your hypothetical cinema-goer might say, "I expected lots of naked girl-on-girl action and explicit BDSM pervery! Instead I got some kind of arty-farty slightly surreal portrayal of a struggling relationship. I barely even managed a wank. Two stars!"

There's a lot less of this sort of thing than you might imagine.
With that out of the way, I want to make it clear that The Duke of Burgundy is a very, very good film. Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) and Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) inhabit a slightly dreamlike world set in no particular time period or geographical location. Our first introduction to the two central characters is when Evelyn arrives at Cynthia's front door to be told, very sternly, that she's late. "I'm sorry," says Evelyn. "You will be," Cynthia replies. Cynthia then rebukes Evelyn for sitting on the sofa without permission before instructing her to clean the study. We see Evelyn scrubbing floors while Cynthia lounges around drinking wine and reading with a haughty demeanour which makes her look every inch the unforgiving Mistress. Evelyn, meanwhile, looks cowed and slightly terrified. She begs permission to be allowed to leave once all her housekeeping duties have been performed. That permission is denied.

It quickly becomes apparent that nothing that we have seen can be taken at face value. Evelyn and Cynthia live together. Far from being abused, Evelyn is having a delightful time. And she is the one who is calling all the shots. The Maid-and-Mistress scenes we have just seen are meticulously orchestrated fantasies of Evelyn's which are played out again and again throughout the film by the two lovers.

As we see the same scenes being re-enacted throughout the progression of the film, the nuances of the participants' performances begin to shift. Evelyn may be having the time of her life - scrubbing floors, washing her Mistress's knickers, enduring some kind of off-screen water-based punishment - but it becomes apparent that Cynthia is struggling with her role as a Domme.

At first, I assumed that Cynthia had originally been up for the D/s lifestyle that she had adopted with Evelyn. (We are, tellingly, never shown the beginning of Evelyn and Cynthia's relationship. We never get to hear the conversations that led to Evelyn's extreme submission fantasies being fulfilled.) Then I thought that she had once been into it but had become bored with the arrangement. As the story progressed, however, I understood that being the 'D' in a D/s relationship had never been Cynthia's thing. It was just something that she was prepared to do in order to keep her lover happy.

As Evelyn pushes to take her submissive role further - Human Toilet! Being manacled and locked in a wooden chest all night! That sort of thing! - Cynthia finds it increasingly difficult to be the Dominant that Evelyn wants her to be.

As far as understanding the nature of a D/s relationship, this film provides a very one sided view. Evelyn and Cynthia's relationship is not a healthy one and the D/s aspects are clearly dysfunctional. We're mostly watching two frequently miserable people in love with one other struggling to find a way in which their relationship might survive.

It's frustrating to watch as a kinkster because only Evelyn's actions are motivated by her kinks. Cynthia's reasons for participating in the whole BDSM set-up are a lot more vanilla. This film doesn't attempt to shed any light on what makes a Dom tick.

Which is annoying for me because that’s the half of the dynamic that I would like to understand better. I don’t really understand what a Dominant gets out of the arrangement. I get where Evelyn is coming from. I can relate to it. Not to the extent she does or the extremes she wishes to take it, admittedly, and her kinks are definitely not my kinks. Mine involve a lot less housework, for one thing. But the bossy sub thing? Yeah, I get it. I’ve mentioned before that all the subs I know tend to be fairly opinionated strong-willed types. We have to be. We are people who have negotiated how to get exactly what we want. You don’t manage that if you’re a bit of a pushover.

Evelyn controls the role-playing between her and Cynthia by means of handwritten cards, giving detailed instructions of exactly how she wants her Domme to behave. Again, Evelyn’s cards are rather more thorough than anything I would come up with. The scenes are scripted to the exact word. Cynthia even has masking-taped ‘marks’ on the floor so that she stands in exactly the right position when reprimanding Evelyn. I have no intention of taking it to that level but I have been known to provide some fairly detailed instructive texts describing exactly what I want during the times I’m ostensibly the one following orders.

There are certainly moments of humour in the film. (In a wry smile kind of way rather than full on hearty chuckling.) There’s a scene where Evelyn and Cynthia have an appointment with a kinky bed manufacturing lady (Fatma Mohamed). Having discussed the options of building a bed in which Evelyn can be restrained while her lover sleeps on top of her, Evelyn is then brought near to tears with frustration when she realises that there’s no way that such a bed can be manufactured in time for her birthday. Wracking her brains for a way to keep her customers happy, the carpenter says “Would a human toilet be a suitable compromise?” Evelyn’s face lights up and her look of excitement and joy is wonderful to behold.

(Although, what was up with Kinky Bed Lady telling her clients that she had recently supplied a similar item of furniture to someone else in the neighbourhood and supplying enough details that Evelyn and Cynthia could easily work out who she was? What way is that to run a kinky bed business? Have you no respect for client confidentiality? Surely the Number One rule in the Bespoke Furniture For Perverts business is absolute discretion.)

The admissions of infidelity that occur when Cynthia finds out that Evelyn has been cleaning another woman’s boots are also a moment of bittersweet comedy. They just sound so absurd. “There was just some scolding. She said a few harsh words. That was all, I swear!”

You don’t get the impression that Strickland is any way mocking the BDSM lifestyle, though. Evelyn’s unusual needs and desires are absolutely central to the film. There is no doubt that her desire to be commanded, subjugated, constrained and punished are absolutely key to who she is.

Which makes Cynthia’s increasingly faltering ability to meet those needs all the more heartbreaking. In one key scene, Evelyn demands that Cynthia talk dirty to her while she masturbates. Cynthia attempts to start the conversation by telling Evelyn how much she loves her but that isn’t what Evelyn wants. So Cynthia gives Evelyn what she wants. She tells her that she’s her maid, that she belongs entirely to her, that she must do exactly what she’s told or else she’ll be punished. Evelyn keeps pushing. “More, more!” she says. And Cynthia falters. A look of panic crosses her face as she says “I don’t know what else to say.” “Just go back to the beginning” Evelyn tells her. So Cynthia tries her hardest, tells Evelyn what she needs to hear in order to reach her climax. Then post-orgasm, Evelyn tells Cynthia “Next time, try to do it with a little more conviction in your voice.” For fuck’s sake, there’s really no pleasing some subs.

The film’s ending is slightly ambiguous. Acknowledging her partner’s distress in having to enact the role of her Domme, Evelyn reassures Cynthia that they don’t have to do it, anymore. That she would be content with a vanilla relationship with her. Because she loves her and anything else is just an extra. However, the very last scene of the film is the exact same Mistress/maid scenario with which the film opened. I did wonder if this was a flashback to earlier, happier times. But, you know, I don’t think this film actually had any flashbacks. It felt like there were because of the way the pair re-enacted the same scenes over and over again. But I think the film was actually entirely chronological. I would need to watch it again to check.

My interpretation (and other cleverer and filmier people than me have agreed with this when I have discussed it with them) is that Evelyn and Cynthia’s attempt at a non D/s relationship failed. Evelyn couldn't live without it. Cynthia couldn't deny Evelyn the thing that made her so happy.

I would absolutely recommend that everyone watches this film. And not just kinky people. It was hugely critically acclaimed. It’s beautiful and sparse and exquisitely shot. The soundtrack sends shivers up your spine. Regardless of whether you’re sub, Dom or entirely oblivious to the fact that people get up to these sorts of shenanigans, you will find yourself drawn into the claustrophobic, slightly unreal world of two people who are in love and who are desperately, sometimes clumsily, trying to make that love work. Just don’t go expecting a full-on wankfest chock full of lesbian sex, bondage and watersports. Honestly, it’s not that kind of film.