Night of the Senses

After I had been to the Erotic Awards I wasn’t sure if monogamy was such a good idea. Fuck For Forest and Rock Bitch both described to me how living in a sex commune was where it is at. Based in Berlin and Scotland respectively their invitations to sample their lifestyle did intrigue me, and I’ll admit, the incredibly stunning members of 90s feminist rock band Rockbitch known for performing live pagan sex rituals at their gigs and always naked, plus their fine tuning to the anti-feminine mores of society, felt tempting. Fuck For Forest seemed young by comparison, like very horny continental elves who looked like they might live in the woods! They said Berlin however is where they reside due to the leniency and opportunities for artists there (their public sexual antics have presented problems with authorities.)

I was invited by my friend Estelle Riviere to be one of her models for her Monsterlune fashion show. This was a great honour as her clothes are supremely unique, quirky and erotic; as well it is a big pleasure to hang out with her and all the other models.

me trying on my costume at Estelle’s

Fellow model and friend Lucy Castro

Backstage at Night of the Senses

Estelle’s clothes are characterized by what she calls hoods, or balaclavas! Most with tiny eye holes lend the wearer a minor disability which felt apt for the evening. I was not very confident about where the edge of the stage was, but the main emphasis was to revel in looking strange and sexy. She chose each costume for the 15 of us modelling individually, so they somehow expressed us all. My outfit was one of the least erotic while Lucy’s displayed Japanese art-porn, Jon had a long dangling cock, James wore pussy pants and various offered some nudity. Creating original clothes is Estelle’s passion and it was wonderful to share in her show experience and learn from her natural and relaxed direction. This was an art project as much as a fashion show and all the models are her friends, some who have modelled for her several times and traveled to do so. They are mostly fellow life models and artists who are part of the club scene she enjoys.

This was no ordinary fetish experience; The Night of the Senses raises money and awareness for disabled people to enjoy sex and relationships via the Outsiders charity. Wandering about the busy venue many differently abled people were enjoying the festivities so that a high level of accessibility felt normal. That alone was mindblowing and felt like a pretty awesome vision of the future. I mean I have worked in very accessible places before like the National Theatre, and I never saw such a high proportion of disability there. The atmosphere of inclusivity was like a warm embrace for even the rarest of fetish club attendees such as myself. I used to frequent those haunts back in the 90s but unfortunately never stumbled across this one until now (this was the 25th anniversary! It used to be called Sex Maniacs Ball.)

With free and open sexuality so high on the agenda it could have felt daunting if one is not looking to explore that. For myself it was a huge privilege to be among these people and witness their world, meeting new people with radical lifestyles. Unlike when I was younger I did not feel the need to experience so much at first hand; I could appreciate more as an observer. In any case there were plenty of shows designed especially for that.

I have wondered about the viability of open relationships and it was inspiring to meet groups of people who have made them work as what they call polyamorous relationships in communes over several years, in fact at least 20 years in the case of some of the members of Rockbitch. One of them described to me how it began by one woman falling in love with another and gradually more becoming involved in the romantic and sexual union of the group. There used to be men involved, but now there is only one who I also met. Others are welcome to join if they meet the criteria of the commune, though apparently men generally can’t hack it. I’m not surprised; both Alex and Suna who I met radiate immense power which could be quite intimidating if you don’t really know what you are about. No longer playing or performing as Rockbitch, they remain in commune pursuing individual projects and helping to host the Erotic Awards which has long been their supporter and friend.

Fuck For Forest have a site where punters pay to view erotic images and home-made porn with the proceeds going towards saving the environment. I thought I would do my bit and posed for their lens. In my usual life I am used to being more nude-friendly than others around. On this night I was surrounded by nudity as celebration and normality, nature.

There are so many awards categories, including for sex workers, writers, porn/film makers, activists. This is not the first time I have come into contact with the clash that is part of the firmament of contemporary feminism (anti-sex industry) and pro-sex worker activism, which is also differently feminist. I can appreciate elements of both argument. The sex industry as it stands rarely honours women who are a large part of its currency as it ought to as the Goddesses they are. To vilify the industry however and demand its closure, does nothing for the women who gain a great deal from their jobs there. And I know from 1st hand experience how working in that industry can offer a sense of liberation. Laws need to change, but to empower the workers, not close it down.

There was an air of solidarity at this event that tantalized one’s expectation. As Grayson Perry has said of it “the good people in a gloriously murky industry”. Beautiful and natural people all around, being themselves as fabulously eccentric and relaxed as they are. Smiles and welcomes, introductions from strangers which it was perfectly fine to decline, but weren’t we all having a spectacular time! There is extensive description of the Erotic Awards philosophy on their website which I reccommend for appreciating immensely their joyful ethos, (eg Sex-positive vibe rocks!!

My boyfriend has noted that I am somewhat impressionable. Every time I go away a few days or visit an unusual scene, it is as if I absorb my environment, for a while ready to take it on as my own! He says that like a method actor, I am a ‘method-lifer’. I like to think I keep the parts that are helpful and fun. It is true that I am ever curious about what other folk are really like. If I get a chance of an audience with some fabulous types I am most obliged.

Guidelines for Joining the Sex Industry

Ever since I started talking freely about my past in the sex industry people have asked me ‘how do they get into it?’

I think if you want to get into the sex industry, you just do it. You shouldn’t need to think about it too much; it’s very much a doing thing.

It helps if you don’t mind the idea of casual sex with strangers. In fact any aversion to that will be a definite hindrance and I would give the sex industry a miss. You could try juggling, hot air ballooning or just wash dishes. It depends what you want to get out of it.

When I got involved, to be fair, I did think about it a bit. Gramp complained to Mum that I looked like a prostitute, and she’d made a prediction concerning my in turns insane/whorish then star-studded career to be. Guess I went with it. And given my wardrobe and bent for casual, mindless sex, it seemed most natural AND lucrative. Being dumped horrendously by my first love kick started the proceedings; from there I developed an obsession for going home with strange men.

You might want a special website or business cards these days. That did not occur to me in 1995. I just went with the flow. And being young and pretty daft I didn’t mind being employed by assholes. I thought it might be character forming. And you get to meet more people, and there’s less organising, when the truly important matters in life are about dancing and getting wasted on Saturday night to a very select soundtrack. I wanted to live!

But your own business is another matter entirely. Do you masquerade as something legal or does that even matter? What can you advertise and where, and who do you want to attract? What if you don’t know anyone in the industry? I believe if you really want it you’ll find it.

If it turns out you actually are looking for a few decent lovers and a new income, escorting may not be the answer. It comes down to selling sex, so you must remember not to dress that up too much. You might be lucky and get some fun clients. But they are not the same as lovers.

A good exception is when a woman becomes a state employed sex healer, like for wounded ex-soldiers. In this capacity a bond may be formed. She may teach him how to appreciate sex.

So if you wanted to go about selling some sexual healing, it may be more rewarding. Of course you’d have to be pretty confident about what you were selling. You could promote yourself as available for mending broken hearts. You could mention that due to the intensity of your work, you can only manage a few customers at a time, and they must be carefully selected by you so there is a good match. That way you may guarantee quality and integrity. You could suggest examples of people you think you could or would like to heal. Maybe they would be ill or disabled, older, have suffered some catastrophe or been at war. Doesn’t sound like a lucrative market, if a very appreciative one. But you never know. If it makes you happy, there will be a way I say. My recommendation for discovering yourself, who you want to be involved with when doing this work, and why, is to write freely from your heart and try to describe as best you can what you want to express, the role you want to fill, the whole purpose.

If it is a political statement, that alone may not carry enough weight. If it’s emotional, get to the bottom of it. But most of all if it does seem to be your niche, try to describe what you would get from and give to, how you might experience your encounters in this domain. Words of this order, not too fancy either, may be what you put on your site to let people know what you’re about. It just helps to know clearly, have a picture of it working well.

I would love to hear from people with more experience of this than me. There is so much I don’t know.

Drawing From The Past (written 18 months ago) ~ Dedicated to Old Friends

I remember my last day in Soho; Kez was on the door and I was the only girl around. There would normally have been two of us, but the Sunday afternoon shift was particularly insidious. It was a come down to top them all off; just as the drugs were wearing thin, you had to wank off some desperate middle-aged loser. After, I would sneak through the door at the back of my room, into the old theatre space where at one time real shows would have taken place; the curtains, pillars and feathered props now stained and dusty were all that remained of the original Soho Cabaret. Not merely lewd acts performed one on one in under-decorated, poorly lit back rooms. Behind a pillar I tightened the tourniquet and pierced my arm; only a few hours to go, or perhaps not for once. I told Kez I’d had enough and he was sweet. A couple of years older than me and of slight build, he was unusually sensitive and to me seemed unlikely for a doorman of an illegal sex industry establishment. Still, like so many employees of that scene, he was born around it. I would pay him my rent plus a generous tip and then he could close since no other girl had shown up.

I took the opportunity of letting big fat Jimmy – the Glaswegian boss – know of my intention to ditch the job when he descended the stairs from the street. He predicted defensively, “You’ll be back. You’ll definitely be back. All the girls always come back to this job.” I said, “I won’t,” and was sure that I meant it, all the more sure for his affirmation. He didn’t know what was within me, what potential I held. He could not see that, otherwise he wouldn’t have been managing peepshows and brothels.

There was a degree of planning involved. I had flights booked, and I knew change was in the air; I’d never flown before. Ok it was to Amsterdam, so no great departure in ambiance, but subtle change. This time I’d walk round the notorious red light zone and I’d be a tourist, just a tourist; not a product for hire. I’d swap injectables for smokables, and I’d smoke in public with everyone else. I’d meet people too, and they wouldn’t know me or what I’d done; just a girl on holiday by herself for the first time.

I was lucky, and not for the last time; I was not from that world and I did not belong there. Yet for a while it fed, clothed and moved me, its alternative corruption infecting my growing mind. So overt was its otherness that the appeal engendered liberation, I had allowed myself to deviate from tired conventionality of suburban middle classes. In those dens of neon cocktails and painted ladies all types of men would enter to sample whatever was available, most remarkable to me was the broad spectrum of male type. Not what I had expected but although particular types proliferated, all classes and races were represented. I even had one customer of the ‘new man’ category, and he was so charming that he refused the offered favours and asked to merely talk with me, not dirty just real.

I could see that Kez was my male counterpart for that year. Bright and alert his blue eyes flashed as he questioned me. Brought up by a heroin addicted father he was staunchly averse to drug use. My own use was borderline, not fully trapped or forced to horrendous measures I engaged in a lifestyle that distanced me from many for a long time to come. But I had arrived on the scene with a ready-made visa to leave at some given point. Prior to my first shift at ‘Girls Girls Girls’, I had completed my A levels. Generally poor but when the grades came through a couple of months later, an A in English Lit was all that really counted for me from that time in the 6th form. I could have continued unhappily to take up my place at the University of East Anglia in English and Film, but around the time that I first tried injecting in the Spring, a new friend, Chris, asked me what I wanted to do with the following year. I responded that I intended to be a junkie, and so it was; and surely that was where I could learn most since there I would open myself more freely and as I felt, have the greatest chance of undoing years of socialisation and the negative affects of unhappy upbringing. I was not lonely or in bad company and the people I met interested me for their difference as well as norm-breaking vitality. Generally intelligent, their backgrounds seemed truly diverse. Drop outs and misfits from all walks of life congregated at the Slimelight in those days – an appealing mixture of the very upper class and utterly working class, many eastern as well as northern Europeans.

My last customer was an Indian chap who expected to get it all for £1.50, the misguided fool, but what aching pleasure I took informing him that he almost got what he wanted (not actually true) except that I had just at that exact moment quit and there was no one else to do the job! If there had been any doubt in my mind that today was my last there, he had quelled it.

How a girl like myself stuck it out there as long as I did may be down to certain chance factors. I don’t think I would have lasted so long in a conventional lap dancing venue for example. I don’t have that sort of pin-up feminine appeal, and alongside those sorts of ladies I don’t generally fare so favourably; I cannot always be bothered with much make up and rarely make time to shave my legs. At the Soho Cabaret one had greater freedom and could even play one’s own choice of music in the room. True – the sex acts were more full-on than mere dancing requires, but I could appreciate the irony of being accompanied by Ministry’s ‘So What’, Hole’s ‘Teenage Whore’ or Therapy’s ‘Teeth Grinder’ instead of being forced to listen to the usual inane shit. There is a particular variety of cheesy nineties dance music, the chart sort, tracks such as ‘Scat Man’ that to this day bring a shiver to the back of my head, as they were part of the looped soundtrack in ‘Girls Girls Girls’.

I don’t recall the other girls too well; on a busy shift we wouldn’t see each other much. One lady was my age now and had presumably been doing that in some form or another since her teens. Her brother she told me was a rent boy in Kings Cross. I just didn’t know anyone else like that and mature and kind as she was, I knew I never wanted that life for as long as she’d done it. But she probably didn’t know too many drop out would be students, or maybe she did. Certainly in the dancing establishments a wider variety of women worked, but down in the Cabaret, I’d have to say it was more down and out. Few were open about their drug habits although I remember Baz, another abbreviated doorman, this time of characteristic stocky bouncer-like build, claiming to be addicted to ecstasy. Not a drug famed for hooking one, he said he required at least ten a day and regularly took scores. Baz was eager to find a willing female to join him in Amsterdam working in a sex club, performing ten hours a day for a tidy sum. None were tempted, apparently not even his girlfriend.

A good shift would see me rolling home in a taxi with £500 in my bag – I’d never seen so much money before. It more than paid for my relatively cheap habits. Once a week, our dealer would visit on a Wednesday evening. A pattern quickly emerged of thereby staying up till Friday before resting in time for the weekend’s madness. Clubs on Friday and Saturday, maybe a gig on Sunday, sometimes I found it exhausting, I was not made even at that age for such relentless tumult. The emotional fall-out was contributing to my weakness considerably. Obviously I had fallen out largely with my family, mainly Mother, and whilst on one level felt such enormous relief at being shot of them and having found a new family, on another I was less strong. There was despite huge claims to genuineness, a lot of superficiality going on in that scene (The Slimelight) unsurprisingly. In the first case there was undeniably a pressure to be hot, incredibly sexy, at all times in public i.e. with friends, clubbing and at work. My identity was enmeshed with my appearance and also being suitably flirty and perhaps outrageous. I think I am naturally more introverted, and that time was a test to that personal aspect.

Secondly, despite mutual fucked-up-ness, fellow clubbing friends seemed to be less extricated in awkward emotionally trying employment. Some had been there before I knew them but their use there had fortunately expired. Unemployment may have been healthier, but never having had money, I indulged in a kind of independence. Looking back I see that I must have substituted real independence for a very compromising financial one. And what I had not counted on was how much more difficult it would be to actually re-enter the ‘middle class’ world of college and meaningful employment. I changed, and subtly my esteem reduced. Yes, I achieved a sort of would-be fame within the scene as desirable, model female, but to very few really. Drugs gave a missing confidence its first voice.

There were the effects of being sex symbol to an older male crowd. I used to marvel at the high proportion of beautiful women around, it could be a lovely and fascinating place to look at people, the Slimelight. Bold as I tried to appear, various wanted a piece of the action, and those close enough did their best to dig a portion out no matter the damage. I found my main partner quite a head fuck though it is apparent to me that I was easily his equal if slightly less knowing. To be the ‘boyfriend’ of one so wanted and even vulnerable for a lack of direction cannot have been any picnic. To this day I do not think anyone has taught me more. He had lived it all and more before, so his seven years senior to me could have been twenty-seven. It took me many more to get over him for I am sure I think that I may never be in quite such strife as I was then.

Hard as it has been to re-integrate, one beauty of such a past is that from there any improvement may be more easily appreciated. When I realised I could hold down a straight though dull job ushering at the National Theatre, I stayed for years unsure what else I could do. It was nigh on impossible to get sacked from that position as long as you didn’t try to work whilst blatantly drunk, disregarding sick audience members collapsing in the auditorium!

What had occurred with Mum? I remember her mental deterioration more than physical and on learning of her condition felt certain of karma. I had wished her dead since so young and now she was dying, already dead inside, if she had ever lived. In the evenings she’d scream, in the loft I’d drown her out with Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend. Irreparably unhappy, her minute world could only descend to angry ranting. I checked the music press for gigs, and set out on a night of adventure as her hatred drove me away. I found no mirror to my own sense of dereliction in those around me at school, so I went it alone in order to find new company.

Jimmy was right; I did go back. Only a few months ago I was posing naked in Wardour Street to a room of twenty-somethings, mainly men; however it was the life drawing group at the Moving Picture Company, an animation studio. I recalled my very first experience of nudity in that area. Ok, I’d worked the clip joints in my underwear, but before employing my best female friend and I, Jimmy wanted to see us stripped entirely naked in his office on Frith Street. It was simply to ascertain whether we had any unsightly scars or tattoos and lasted seconds.

They used to call her ‘the Amazon woman’ as she stood tall in a doorway on Rupert Street telling most people to fuck off when she was supposed to be enticing them downstairs. Her long red hair, striking height, menacing make up and revealing attire constructed from bullets and metal plates, together with attitude earned her such reputation. She didn’t last long in those jobs and quickly had to search elsewhere, probably for the best. She got involved with a new boyfriend shortly after beginning at the Cabaret and he didn’t react well to such vulgar means of earning, so soon she missed enough shifts to be sacked. I stuck it out alone; well, someone had to pay the rent, and unlike hers, my parents were not sending emergency cheques. Her fall out with her folks was less personal than my situation, rather religious in substance. From an obscure Christian sect her upbringing had been sheltered, so her rebellion was ideological more than emotional. Her Mother wrote imploring, loving letters which she unreservedly rejected but I could see the problem was actually less deep.

She was an extreme character, enormously attractive in so many ways. In the beginning we grew closer and closer, protecting and teaching one another. She was quite awesome to behold and her mental capacities matched up to the image. With no time for fools, she believed the world would end imminently, as soon as whichever world leader pressed the little red button. She condemned those who had children and was convinced the whole world could only be woken up by putting enough acid in the water. Other forces were also at play and our differing agendas became apparent. In some ways she was brighter than me with less heavy burden dragging her down. Simultaneously she was childish and arrogant, developing strong bitchy tendencies which eventually distanced her from many. That included me, and we never really got close again. I will always have respect and admiration for her single-mindedness and ambition. Today she lives in Jerusalem, teaching cello and singing to Palestinian children. She’d never played or sung before she left the scene.

I met her at the right time for we both needed to move and at 18 could benefit from each other’s company. A friend found us a basement of a warehouse which we rented under the guise of artists for our studio. Flouting the contract we moved in, installing cooker and bath. We knocked down plasterboard walls to create largely open plan space and a thousand square feet were decorated with unique artworks and particular lighting. Trawling the fetish clubs we drummed up business for our becoming dungeon; bankers and judges visited for punishment and humiliation, and this was the side of the sex industry that interested me most. Paid very well for what was at times surreal and often fun, we invented abstract games to employ our slaves. They longed to be feminised, pissed on and beaten; we took pleasure in providing the pain. One gentleman requested to stay for an entire weekend; well, that was a mistake. After a while we got so bored of him we couldn’t be bothered to keep up the act, and he left prematurely disillusioned!

To clarify: if domination was so financially rewarding and uncompromising mentally, why did I maintain my seedy job in Soho? Because, being a dominatrix was fun sometimes, but if I’d had to make more of an effort or done it more regularly, it would have been like any other job, and inconveniently it was in our home. It was illegal and with men visiting more frequently we may have aroused suspicion and needed full time security – not just boyfriends lurking in the bedroom. Four years imprisonment would have been standard. Soho gave me a more convenient stability.

The rest of the time our home was populated by various of our cohorts, and was a fantastic venue for parties. Our acid punch was highly memorable and I made many new friends on these occasions. It is the dancing and the celebrating that I miss most from that time. I have at times gone back to visit – the clubs that is, since that home was lost long ago. It will never be the same as when my hormones pulsated vibrantly to those industrial beats, my emotional heart feeling the earliest signs of independence. How I connected to that place, those people! At best euphoria, and not always drug induced.

Chris would deliver me to Brewer Street in the afternoons as I rushed to my position. So much of this city I saw from the back of his motorcycle, speeding dealer to den, Soho to Angel. I felt safe whatever risk we took; he alone I trusted, but also betrayed, though, in such circumstances who could blame me?

His story moved me, made mine seem innocuous; how dangerous! To save such potential, for I adored him and knew he was made for far better things; yet how I unsettled him! He knew me too well and rebuked that I might learn myself better, for my own sake.

In the end I became tired of the endless rounds of junkies arriving, mostly males, so geeky. I could do without, and a new job waitressing twelve hour days altered my pattern and introduced me to another world. I desperately needed to move on and took whatever opportunistic move life granted. It came in the form of a random Italian.

So I ask; what can one do when one has been trained so effectively in making a living by removing one’s clothes? Is it a disease and treatment available? Or will it end my days naked, only my body to store my secrets?

I seem to occupy a place just marginally, barely significant, inconsequential. Sometimes I feel most alive these days as I take Mum out in her wheel chair; whirl her on a dance floor or smash through commuting bankers to hold up a bus. Yes, my Mother and I have come a long way since my teenage rebellion and the beginning of her Multiple Sclerosis. The right things have been said, but sometimes it’s so hard to put the past behind you. I went to drama school unready for precocious and sophisticated young ladies fresh from privileged homes; when the whole point of drama is to connect, I floundered, little commonality between us. I graduated but my main achievement was putting myself in therapy; the stress of the final year saw me retreating weekly to a women’s group for those struggling with drug problems. Many drama students find that time a life changing one; it hardly registered on the scale after my formative years, and I didn’t know how to share that. I did try; my final practical dissertation was an attempted physical theatre piece, inspired by my Soho/Slimelight gap years. Not casting from my classmates I enlisted Chris, my ex, to tell his tale with me, as well as Rebecca, my sister, who was just starting at the same drama school.

A very good old friend, Chris, drawn by me the other day.

Re-Modelling the Past

Getting my kit off for the first time to model, was not actually the first time for me. As a teenager I worked as a stripper amongst other more dubious professions in the sex industry. It’s hard for me to relate to many women’s anxieties of weight or other physical issues; due to my background however, I’ve certainly had self esteem problems connected with my actions and society’s judgement. Loads of women dip into the sex industry to support themselves so it ought to be less taboo.


Trying life modelling was a revelation as it was like reclaiming my nudity in a more positive, less pressurized setting. Staying still is a challenge, but being left to your own thoughts is a far cry from performing sex acts in a dingy Soho backroom.

I came to relish the basically innocent and positive appreciation one gets from being a life model. It is not devoid of sexual undertones but these are muted and quite under control.


I was just in my 30s when I started life modelling so there had been a good decade since my earlier escapades. I hadn’t realised how I had become inhibited about my body, but after modelling a while I did feel more vibrant and attractive. When you are in long-term relationships or not in any at all, you can forget the thrill of being found exciting and gorgeous; so being admired in some sense by artists may restore that.


On a fundamental energetic level, simply having all those artists’ attention on you for several hours can give you a boost, like they are filling you with energy. As they get immersed in their painting it’s like they fall in love with natural beauty of the body and at this point it doesn’t matter what you look like. I know this apart from what they say, from having tried life drawing myself. When you see the model in a pose in which you discover beauty, the pleasure you elicit from finding a way to capture that on paper is enormous, and you feel such gratitude towards the model. Further, without knowing the model or anything about them, you can share quite an intimate moment.

The beauty of a pose may be derived from nothing conventional, but simply consist of body shapes and the way light falls and illuminates.