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By Ashley Spegel

At first glance, you’d think she was a sales associate for Banana Republic because her attire isn’t at all what you’d expect of a dominatrix — at least the clothing you can see.

“I’m wearing polyvinyl underwear,” she says nonchalantly, “it amuses me.”

Over the past three years, Mistress Alicia has been disciplining Torontonians with whips, chains and restraints, and says that making men crawl is what she does best.

She is a part of the growing subculture of sexual fetishism that is stripping itself of its taboo demeanor and spreading over into the mainstream. “I receive about 15 phone calls a week from different people requesting my services,” she says. “The variety of fetishes I perform is exciting because I like to experiment, and it’s fun living out the fantasies of others while being a part of them.”

Feet, hosiery, braces and belly buttons may not get your blood flowing, but they’re guaranteed to get someone off.

After all, they’ve been stimulating warm and fuzzy feelings since 1887 when fetishism became popular.

Originally introduced as a scientific psychological term, fetishism was considered to be a pathological illness which caused the sexual admiration of an inanimate object or body part.

But with the sexual revolution of the 1950s, led by sexpert Alfred Kinsey, fetishisms’ outdated classification went limp and it ripened into what it’s known as today — a sexual preference that’s perceived as unusual.

Leather is one of the most commonly fetishized materials by both the straight and gay communities. Its association with authority and kinky sex has stimulated the growth of a worldwide leather subculture.

“We have customers that come from all over the globe, from as far away as Europe and Australia,” says George Giaouris, president of Northbound Leather. “We sell everything to fulfill all fantasies, including waist-restricting corsets, leather pants, police shirts, floggers and crops.”

Modern psychology assumes that fetishism is either conditioned or imprinted into the individual, or is the result of a traumatic experience. Heredity and brain construction are also considered to be possible explanationsfor why each individual is aroused by a specific fetish.

Jane*, a fourth-year nursing student, says her fetish is domination and submission.

“I really like authority figures, and sometimes I’ll make my boyfriend dress up as a fireman,” she says. “I like to be controlled during sex and dressing up makes things more adventurous.”

Sexual role playing ties into one of the most popular fetishes: bondage and discipline, and domination and submission, or BDSM.

BDSM incorporates pain, physical restraint and servitude, and includes sensation play — in which the brain’s sexual and pain stimuli overlap, driving one to associate pain with pleasure.

“The exchange of power, where the woman is controlling and the man is submissive, is what my clients savour,” says Mistress Alicia. “I use props, like leashes and whips, and they add to the whole experience to achieve the most pleasure possible.”

Not all fetishes involve sex and many rely heavily on human psychology to achieve sexual gratification — which is why Mistress Alicia enjoys being a dominatrix.

“Sex isn’t the best part of a fetish, it’s the titillating and the anticipation.”

*Name has been changed.

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