"That's it," snaps the willowy blond in a sequined miniskirt after the premiere of Secretary. "I'm finding a man to take me home and spank me tonight." "I think that a lot of women feel they can really relate to this character," says Maggie Gyllenhaal. She plays a wallflower who blossoms under the tutelage of her lawyer-boss James Spader. Indeed, judging by the reaction of Manhattan singles, the paddle may be this fall's must-have accessory.
"Women in New York are realizing that submissive in your sexual life does not mean submissive in your everyday life," says Emily Kramer, co-founder of the roving feminist strip club Cake, whose Website has fielded hundreds of e-mails lately from powerplay-curious women.
"My fear was that the spanking would turn people away," says director Steven Shainberg, "but we found that women in particular were responding incredibly well to the screenings."
Like the twentysomething brunette who got so turned on by the film that -- after knocking back several vodka tonics at Lot 61 -- she dragged her date home in search of a spanking instrument. Unfortunately, all they came up with was a (new) toilet brush. "It was fun," she says, blushing, "although in hindsight we could have used a spatula." Publicist Dina Wise, 29, is another New York woman who admits that she's consumed by visions of a Sharpie-wielding Spader.
"Women are finding that the most egalitarian is not always the most erotic," says the pioneering Daphne Merkin, who was roundly spanked for her 1996 New Yorker essay on the delicious joys of corporal punishment.
"I'm much more into the idea of a dominant woman, but I've tried spanking and I really like it," says Claire Cavanah of sex-toy shop Toys in Babeland. In fact, after a spike in inquiries from women, the store is releasing Spank Me Santa -- an S&M starter kit with a leather paddle and furry handcuffs. Good idea, since apparently toilet brushes chafe.