When I first arrived at the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) I filed into one of the few empty stadium seats left save for the neck busters at the very front. The place was packed for The Art of Sex & Seduction: Ceremonies of Love & Desire, I realized all eyes were pointed to a tiny, gray-haired woman immediately below and in front of me. She looked more like a gentle octogenarian nun than a famous dominatrix known for her cruelty. But every once in a while there were flashes of unflinching harshness delivered with a toothy, thin-lipped grin–there was a reason why people seemed to either tiptoe or burst into fits of uncomfortable laughter around Catherine Robbe-Grillet all night. She could turn even the most accomplished Tinder Queens amongst us to puddles of prudish mush.
Fifty Shades of Grey is out in theaters today, amidst a flurry of criticism that its portrayal of BDSM closer resembles domestic violence than a consensual erotic relationship. In search of an authority on the matter, we ventured over to East 13th Street to spend an afternoon with The Baroness, a dominatrix and latex clothing designer who, rumor has it, once spit-roasted a man for three and a half hours.