SARAH CONSIDERS HERSELF a great cook and she's always wanted to run her own restaurant. Fate has blazed a different trail for this local woman who, among other things, operates a thriving dominatrix center called, plainly put, "The Center." Mistress Sarah--in the business of professional torture and humiliation for some six very odd years--is more than happy to address the pros and cons of House File 1413, proposed on March 14 by Rep. Tom Workman (IR-Chanhassen). (Workman, you may recall, is the fresh-faced Republican who got thrown off the ethics committee last year for violating confidentiality rules--but that's a different story.) The unprecedented bill proposes a new penalty for habitual DWI offenders in Minnesota: public flogging.
Other than the miniature cat o' nine tails that hangs on her key chain, Mistress Sarah looks like one of the crowd at a state fair, her plaid shirt hanging loosely over a black tank top, her neck adorned with a plain gold cross. Her face is clear and flushed and she looks more like a young farmer's wife than a fiftysomething dominatrix. At our first meeting, she apologizes profusely for being late; she had to make an emergency trip to Menards to get some lumber for one of the torture racks she's working on. Pulling at some of the numerous rings on her fingers, she explains wearily, "I have been doing this now for five years. I was approached by it. I myself come from a real tough lifestyle. I've been out here since I was 10 years old, taking care of myself. My mother's an alcoholic and a drug addict and my father died when I was 10. I've got five grandkids. I'm going to make a video for my grandchildren to let them know the truth about what I do. I want them to know later on. Then they'll know that they have the most awesome grandmother ever."
We speed away towards M. Sarah's dungeons, located in a quiet North Minneapolis suburb where she's lived and worked for six years. "We're very quiet. No one in the building has ever known that we're there. I know that they might have questions, but no one really knows. I have it set up so quiet in there--I have carpet on the walls, extra layers of carpet on the floor, one wall is all brick. My friends all know but society doesn't. I live in my own little prison." Despite this sad sentiment, it's clear that Sarah is not unhappy. "I love power!" she laughs, gunning her noisy, rust-bitten Oldsmobile through the quiet streets. In the driver's seat, Sarah is a force to reckon with, which could explain some of her resentment toward drunk drivers. "I've been fined unreal for parking and traffic tickets. I've gotten 20 of them in the past year, so they took my license away. Shit, a drunk driver doesn't even get that!"
M. Sarah's apartment could belong to anyone's grandmother, give or take a few carefully sealed-off rooms. Resting her can of soda on a coffee table that spills over with playing cards, a game of Yahtzee, a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and hard candy, she apologizes for the mess. "I've got my hands full between the business, the girls, my family--and that's why this place is such a disaster. It usually isn't that bad, but I've had a long week."
With this, M. Sarah escorts me into her dungeons, which seem to be the perpetual focus of home improvement. Sarah designs all of the equipment she uses, and points proudly to an impressive array of racks, flogging benches, an isolation tank, an adult baby crib. "This room is for cross-dressing. It's got everything--shoes, makeup, dresses." Sweeping her hands against the garish and over-sized dresses, she explains sweetly, "They like to look pretty. Now also... " She unlocks the next door. "This is the big room." She climbs into a closet. "I designed this with three doors for a reason, because then the girls can reach in at any angle. There's hooks on here, and hooks on here. I open the top one and I can slap them in the face, or if I just want to mess with them, I can open the middle one and pull at their titty restraints like this, or I can open the bottom one and just kick them, or do some cock-and-ball torture."
The next room is also a dark mess, the corners filled with diapers, Ben-Gay for extra after-whipping pleasure, prods, and dildos. I stare doubtfully at a particularly heavy looking Andrew's cross, which M. Sarah claims her girls flip the customers around on. She looks me square in the eye and says, "We've got mistresses as skinny as you that could pick a man up and throw him across the room. They work out every day in that room. You're whipping, you're lifting, you're putting people up and down, you're using your arms, and you're very strong."
The tour completed, M. Sarah sits to consider Rep. Workman's proposal, and decides that she would take the job of County Flogging Commissioner for $35,000. "That's a decent income for anyone. With drunk drivers, you're looking at a lot of obstinate assholes. Take them in when they're drunk--because this is what I do to my clients when they're drunk--put them on the stock, and you dump buckets of ice water on them. Talk about sober that son of a bitch up!"