I’m featured in this programme: Journalist Nichi Hodgson asks whether there’s scope for an ethical code for producing porn
Trans activist Jane Fae has been blocked from speaking at the Feminism in London conference, because she holds positive views on pornography. This, despite the fact that her speech had nothing to do with porn. Read Natacha Kennedy’s scathing article…
Myles Jackman is a lawyer driven by the need to overturn Britain’s ludicrous and censorious laws about sex and sexual expression. He often works pro-bono and is now reaching out for support in order to continue his work. Please follow the link below for more details.
Stripper and activist Edie Lamort appeals for funds to support the East London Strippers Collective’s upcoming London exhibition. Please support!
Go on, Put a Pound in the Jug!
Let me introduce the (ELSC), that’s if you haven’t already heard of us, and tell you about our next wildly ambitious but amazing project. We have been together for about a year and a half, putting on talks and parties and generally self-organising. We are part event production team and part political organisation, with a social media following and press interest.
What are we doing? As we are all creative types, we are putting on an exhibition called the , at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch, from 22nd October to Halloween. We are holding this event to celebrate the art that has been generated by the East London strip scene. The costume, the dance and the visual arts that have been created by dancers from their experiences. There will be photography, film, installations, costume and performances along with events, workshops and a closing party. Artists will include:
There will also be a program of events during the time we are at the gallery to educate people about our world and celebrate the talents of the dancers. These will include a fashion show, as costume is very important part of our experience, an as we are frequently studied, a , the class, an with the artists and , a and a .
Why are we doing this? For several reasons; we are visual artists, who also happen to be strippers, and want to show our art, we are creative performers who want a platform to do our thing and we wish to challenge stigma. The striptease industry that we all know and love is unfortunately in a sorry state now. This is for several reasons including recession and a very badly written and punitive law that came about in 2009. This was designed to wreck the industry and is doing exactly that, but was drawn up with no thought given to those working as dancers, our rights and working conditions were ignored. Ultimately we’d like to see this law reviewed however the first thing we have to do is combat the negative narrative around us, a tough call I’m sure you’ll agree! But what better way to do it than to run our own event celebrating our art and performance?
People talk about things being ’empowering’ and the ELSC is exactly that. We have all stepped up to the mark as producers, filmmakers, marketers, photographers, costume designers and all round businesswomen.
What can you do to help? In short, donate to our fund and then share it far and wide. We have 1780 plus Facebook followers and if they put a pound in the jug we’d be laughing however they don’t all get to see our posts. We are on the Facebook naughty step after having been reported for side-boob and banned twice therefore we are not allowed to advertise as we have been classified as ‘adult’. In reality our photos and shows are no more risqué than burlesque but misinformation and prejudice abounds.
You may have just read this with interest, you may click on the links (I hope you do, click away!) but whatever you do don’t just ‘like’. If you think this is a good idea contribute some money, we have a pound in the jug option if you are skint or a £1000 option if you are a fancy pants high roller, and share all over to help us beat our advertising ban.
Thank you darlings! X
Yet another academic study has cast doubt on a commonly made accusation against pornography: that it causes misogynistic attitudes. This accusation is often thrown to imply that porn leads to sexual violence – although many studies have already dismissed this idea.
For entertainment value, the quotes from comedy anti-sex feminist Gail Dines are worth reading. Among other things, she’s concerned that people might be having threesomes.
Many fans of pornography might even be ‘useful allies’ in women’s struggles for equality in work, income and public office, the researchers argue
See below the video for text that inspired the making of this film.
He wrote to me;
“Why am I writing to you? Beauty, nakedness, curiosity. Or a thousand other reasons. I don’t know, really. That I’m selfish is a big part of it. And also that desire makes me – not just me, I think it goes for everyone – feel more alive.”
I nicknamed this customer Nosferatu. He was tall, skinny, lanky and dressed in a funereal way, but more than that, he had an intense, preternatural stare. One of those people that looks at you and you feel like they are reading your mind, looking straight into your soul and you cannot hide from them. A laser beam stare. You can ‘feel’ their gaze even with your back turned. It was part disturbing, part flattering, he was highly intelligent and could see through all the smoke and mirrors of the role you play as a dancer.
“I think we’ve evolved to treasure female beauty because it’s so potent and also so transient. Cultures all over the world have this metaphor of flowering or blooming. Men’s physical capacity for action has the same characteristics. It’s compelling, and it runs out. Male strength and female beauty in their prime are existential, I’d say, if I were pretentious, which I am. They symbolise what it is to be alive in a way that childhood and old age don’t. We’re drawn to them when we see them in others. That’s my excuse, anyway.”
‘I hope you don’t mind me coming in and talking to you? It’s just there’s no one else I can talk to like this?’ he said to me one quiet, mid week shift. He’d been my customer for a few months by now and was a clever and interesting man but not happy at all. ‘Can I have your email address? Can I write to you, I used to write for a living.’
“I’m writing to you because you’re very pretty and it’s good for my ego. Because, you’re clever and funny. Because women’s beauty is a precious thing that, as a man, you feel absorbed in and to some extent entitled to when you’re in your twenties and thirties. Then in middle age it ebbs away from you. Some men cope with it by using emotional maturity or some other magic. I don’t know where they get it from. I’m one of those men who really, really misses it.”
And so he began sending me the most well written and intriguing emails to my dancer address. He had previously worked as a screenwriter for BBC, ITV and HBO. He was thoughtful, articulate and prolific and would come to see me dance regularly, both for the erotic visual thrill and warmth that was missing in his life, but also reaching out to connect on a intellectual level, finding us girls who dance fascinating.
We spoke at length, it’s always nice to have an intelligent customer, you are actually interested in what they say, as opposed to fake giggles and feigned interest. I told him about the campaigns we’d done to defend striptease and it conjured the image of Marianne, like it had done with us. She seems to be our mascot in many minds.
“You remind me of that famous painting from the French Revolution. The woman Marianne leading the mob to righteous slaughter, Delacroix I think. It wasn’t just the public sexuality. There’s something about the way you hold your head, the inquisitive-but-knowing gleam in your eyes. You scared the shit out of me. The moment I saw you I wanted to spend the rest of the night talking to you. Maybe it was the lighting. Maybe it was the supernatural powers that come with being a dancer. (Maybe it’s A Tale Of Two Cities being on the radio that’s made me think of that painting.) You looked bonkers and the only sane person in the room, all at the same time. That sounds bad, probably. But it felt like charisma.”
After working as a writer for a few years, he followed the rules. He got married, had kids and then retrained, getting a sensible yet unfulfilling job in IT. He was a bit of a polymath, with a masters degree in pure maths from Cambridge but a talent and track record for writing aided by a very clever mind. Perfectly articulating the thoughts of the middle aged lonely customers who come to strip clubs on their own. His emails were like the echoes of the lonely, mixed in with guilt and lust.
“Every now and then I get a flashback to the first time I saw you, at Charlie’s bar. You’re looking sideways and I can’t tell if you’re going to throttle me or just wait for an accomplice to stab me in the kidneys. I’d take either as long as you were paying me attention.”
I started replying to his emails, they were interesting, and this provoked a slew of prose and poetry, musings and theories, that I have archived, noting that they clock up to over 50,000 words. That’s how much he needed to talk. He felt his life was in a feedback loop that he would never be able to climb out of. This air of despair and reluctant acceptance of his fate added to his peculiar and intense ways.
“Fifty years after the Salem Witch Trials and halfway round the world, a Wittenberg professor called Georg Bose was making a name for himself with public experiments. I heard about him on the radio this week. He’d stand a beautiful woman on a cake of resin and hook her up to an electrostatic generator, then invite men in the audience to kiss her. When they did, a spark would fly from her lips. Or he’d gradually charge her up in a darkened room. The air around her would ionize and glow with a saintly blue light. He’d deck her out in a pointed tin hat and the light would focus to a halo. Bose embellished the stunts with wacky poems and crackpot theories. The shock of the spark was male, the gentle luminosity female.
“Animal electricity” became a hip term for lust.”
Funny how stuck we all are on the Madonna/whore thing. Here it is again as halo/spark. In The Crucible it’s wife/witch or something, I can’t remember. While men are just men. There’s something pretentious I could say about this twoness of women and oneness of men and how it affects you and me but I don’t know what it is so I’ll shut up.
We all have to make choices in our life and by doing so you may need to sacrifice a part of you. He had the family, the nice home, a wife and three kids but at a cost to himself. However he loved his kids and would never leave them, but the strip pub was the place he could come to reconnect with that part of himself he thought he’d lost. In the end his foray into our demi-world, answered his questions and saved his marriage. He stopped coming in.
“For me, the most interesting aspect of the whole debate is this: there are women who like to undress in front of men they don’t know. How should these women be regarded by the rest of society? How are they different from women who write for a living, or men who sing? All these people are drawing attention to a part of themselves that they love, and working hard to make the best display they can.
Should authors be stigmatized for selling their psychological truth on the open market? Isn’t what good writers are offering every bit as intimate as a bare bum? Men might read Jeanette Winterson and then go home and expect their wives to bare their souls too. Why is soul stripping respectable and body stripping not? I’ve watched you on stage and I’ve read your emails. When you dance you might not have any clothes on, but when you write you’re truly naked. It’s always baffled me that fear and hate, loneliness and longing, greed and love are seen as less shocking than boobs and pubes.”
A less interesting question but one you might want to have a pop at is if beauty is commodified, where does that leave the ugly people? Speaking on their behalf, I think I can say it leaves us where we’ve always been: reliant on our wits. Not great for the stupid ugly people, but no one suggests shutting down the universities to level that playing field, do they? And the commodification is an effect, not a cause.”
Sex sells because people really, really want it already. I don’t think ugly people mind beautiful ones, anyway. They’re nice to look at, after all. We just wish there was one in the mirror.
All this rich conversation has not gone to waste. Another dancer and I are in the process of filming the world of strip pubs and one day at someone’s house, the subject pulled out a box of letters customers had written to her over the years. She’d kept hers like I’d kept mine.
We put the message out ‘has anyone got any letters from customers?’ Many came back with saved letters, poems, cards and emails. The need to connect, the cry of please listen to me.
Think of the children!
In a sign that the times, they are truly a-changing, Channel 4 looks at porn as sex education, rather the eternal ruination of our children’s souls. What a shame then, that the UK government is currently looking for draconian ways to stop all under-18s from accessing online porn.
Sex in Class aims to fix Britain’s blushing attitudes (and high teenage pregnancy rate) with help from a leading sexual health expert
A wonderful article in Vice from Frankie Mullin: As sex workers are pushed out by gentrification, London is selling people a twee, sanitised facsimile of sleaze.
This Tuesday I appeared on a panel at the National Theatre to debate pornography and its cultural impacts. Joining me in the red corner was the feminist porn producer and performer Pandora Blake. In the blue corner were Heather Brunskell-Evans of Resist Porn Culture (an apparently new anti-porn group; don’t we have enough?) and Kate Smurthwaite, the comedian, writer and anti-sex feminist activist.
It wasn’t the easiest of debates; not because of the subject matter, but because of some heckling from the anti-porn speakers and certain members of the audience (Pandora recognised at least one audience member from other events – there were clearly a number of activists in attendance). This gives reassurance: when one has evidence and reason on one’s side, heckling is unnecessary.
Of course, nobody ever admits they’re anti-sex, for obvious reasons: if you’re trying to get people on-board with an anti-porn message, looking like a fundamentalist doesn’t help your cause. So when I chose to talk about the anti-sex, rather than anti-porn movement, my choice of words was questioned. In attempting to answer (I was cut off more than once), I pointed out that Smurthwaite, appearing in an anti-porn guise at this event, is a supporter of a variety of other, puritanical causes. I had printed out a tweet of hers in preparation for the event; when I tried to read it, Smurthwaite shouted over me, and threatened to walk out if I read it (I backed down – which I regret, in hindsight).
So here is the tweet which Smurthwaite (@Cruella1) was so determined should not be heard:
@gingerrobbers is a stripper, and as I interpret the above, Smurthwaite is blaming her choice of career for women being raped.
This is, of course, a disgusting thing to say, and surprising from a feminist, since it blames rape on women’s behaviour, rather than on rapists. It’s also a lie: there is no evidence that strip clubs and other forms of sexual expression cause men to commit rape.
Blaming sexual expression (and thus, women who undress in public) for rape has always been a feature of anti-sex feminism. Catharine Mackinnon, an American pioneer of anti-sex feminism, actually went so far as to suggest that a rapist/murderer should be freed, and instead the porn industry put on trial, because he had watched porn prior to committing the crime, and so was not responsible for his actions.
It also demonstrates that the ‘anti-porn’ label is misleading. I have never encountered an anti-porn feminist who is not also anti-striptease, anti-prostitution, or anti-sexual expression that goes far beyond what most people would consider pornographic.
It is for this reason that the anti-sex campaigner Gail Dines coined the term ‘pornification’, which is popular today in the anti-sex movement. It is designed to imply that all sexual expression, however soft, is somehow pornographic in origin and intent, and so proof of the insidious influence of porn across our culture. Thus, Beyoncé music videos, Page 3 of the Sun, sun cream adverts and lads’ mags are all examples of ‘pornification’… created by the river, the torrent, the TSUNAMI of filth that (they say) bombards us on a daily basis.
So if a person attacks every possible known instance of sexual expression as harmful and dangerous, how could they not be anti-sex? I have always wanted to ask Dines, Smurthwaite and their colleagues in the Porn Panic industry to explain what expression of sexuality they would find acceptable; perhaps a Ministry of Smurthwaite could be established to approve erotica that – according to the puritans – does not demean, degrade, objectify or otherwise ‘harm’ women. One suspects it would be a small, sad and sexless library of content.
So I don’t apologise for referring to such types as anti-sex rather than simply anti-porn. I use the term with care.
I’ll be taking part in this panel discussion about the play We Want You To Watch. If you’re in London, feel free to come down, listen and contribute. It will, no doubt, be a lively debate!