[broken bar] ONDAGE, discipline, sadism and masochism -- perhaps not the ideal foursome for a dinner-table discussion topic. Yet BDSM is the acronym on the lips of Londoners at the moment, thanks to the erotic novels Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels by west London author EL James -- whose tales of billionaire businessman Christian Grey and his submissive lover Anastasia Steele have sparked an interest in spanking in the capital. It has sold three million copies across all formats and currently occupies the first, third and fourth spots on Amazon's bestsellers lists -- and a film is in the pipeline. Sales of sex toys are also up, with the UK industry now worth Pounds 250 million a year.
More than just a tickling with the end of a riding crop, by the time readers are two-thirds into the second book, Fifty Shades Darker, Ana is discovering her lover's range of weapons, including a "spreader bar with ankle and wrist restraints".
Writer Barbara Amiel, 71-year-old wife of ex-Telegraph owner Conrad Black, clearly reaching that same scene, was quoted this week as saying, "the question of whether it is truly sexually gratifying to have a Wartenberg pinwheel roll over your nipples while handcuffed to a stretcher bar with a ball gag in your mouth is something I hadn't really thought about in the sheltered life I lead".
It is perhaps this which has made the book intriguing to many to whom the eroticism of pain has never occurred. The result? Increasing numbers of Londoners flocking to S&M classes and clubs. We round up the experts educating the capital behind closed doors.
THE PROFESSIONAL MADAME CARAMEL IN a direct reversal of the Fifty Shades of Grey set up of dominant man and submissive woman, Madame Caramel knew she was a natural dominatrix when she met a man who begged her to spank him. In previous relationships she had always wanted to be dominant -- but her partners didn't like it. Now she is a professional dominatrix, who sees spanking as more than just a job and insists it can be good for you. "The spanker's brain releases endorphins, as well as the spankee's. It's very stress-relieving and exhilarating for both parties," she says.
"I'm here to accept people as they are and to listen to whatever fantasies or desires they have and to fulfil them -- but I do not have sex with my clients. The reasons people like to be spanked are different: sometimes there's the enjoyment of having a maternal figure, sometimes it's because of the pain itself -- but I love how people are able to let go in my presence."
Madame Caramel also hosts a club night, The Black Whip, and runs a kinky "dungeon-style" apartment complete with all the …