Lee is also willing to put herself out there for what and whom she wants (spoiler: it’s E. Edward), consequences be damned. In this era where vulnerability is in short supply, it’s refreshing to watch a character go balls-to-the-wall for what she wants in her personal life. This quality is also what helps E. Edward come around. Initially fighting his dominant instincts, and then ashamed of them, it’s Lee who draws him out, wanting him and his kinks.
“Secretary” was truly ahead of its time. In addition to taking a non-judgmental tone towards the kinky main characters, various scenes involve female masturbation and fantasies, frustration and miscommunication with a partner, and ambivalence towards making a lifelong commitment to someone. There’s also a very awkward sex scene with cringingly obvious desire differentials between partners.
This wider look at relationships is aided by the fact that women figured prominently in the film’s creation. “Secretary” was based on a short story in Mary Gaitskill’s collection “Bad Behavior.” Erin Cressida Wilson wrote the screenplay. It’s safe to say that “Secretary” would’ve been very different if women weren’t key creatives on the project.
“Secretary” creates a compelling portrait of a woman finding herself through her sexual kink, and allowing her partner to embrace his kink. It was a radical notion in 2002, and still a powerful message in 2017. Hopefully one day, this concept will be so commonplace it won’t raise any eyebrows.