An online collaborative research residency supported by Live Art Development Agency.
The project In the past ten years of working online as a webcam Dominatrix, I have made over 130 short ‘pay per view’ porn clips. Most featuring me talking to camera about the fetishes of ‘homo conversion’: forcing my clients to be gay, or ‘Sissyfication’: enforced cross dressing. The irony being I’m genderqueer Dyke who’s often read as straight in the mainstream world.
One of my most visibly queer spaces has been online with my clients, visitors who often address me as ‘Sir’.
My collaboration is with a client I’ve known for many years and formed a friendship with. Still, despite friendship the collaboration raises issues about work, paid or unpaid, of economies, class, and visibility. Normally we see each other in person for a few paid hours a month. Now we will spend time together virtually making the film.
This diary is without dates because in Lockdown it is always Wednesday or Monday or surprisingly, Friday again. The days blur but also recording a creative process does not begin or end within the dates of an awarded residency. Since the middle of March, I’ve been inside. I forgot to mark the exact date. Before lockdown I had begun to talk with ‘Giani’ (my client) about making a film, assembling something from my sprawling collection of pay per view porn clips. Initially when I proposed the collaboration I offered to pay them ‘in kind’ with BDSM sessions for work they would do on the collaboration. An extension of our usual relationship of Dominatrix and client. Giani declined saying it would ‘Change the dynamic’. They accepted the artistic collaboration.
During lockdown my social circle has changed. In many ways I’ve had better access to people, workshops and events. In my usual energy deficit, disabled world, in a London where getting anywhere on public transport takes at least an hour. I’m usually exhausted by the time I arrive somewhere. Lockdown meant my choices got wider. I went to a lot of workshops and events.
Influences I’ve attended the Queer BDSM Berlin/European communities online workshops, both as participant and teacher. LADA’s Summer Program, most noted being the livestream lecture by Ron Athey, and the study room guide ‘Tantalising Glimpses’ written by Fat Activist and Live Artist Charlotte Cooper. A number of workshops organised for and by Alumni artists of Future’s Venture, focused on artists who are working in radical ways with communities. The article ‘Jeriko: On Sexuality and Liberation in Ableism’ had a huge impact on me. Written by Christine Bylund Swedish academic, crip and kinkster, it named succinctly and explored many ideas around agency and forced intimacy. I Also value conversations I’ve had with the artist film maker Yoshi Khwaja, founder of Digital Desperados.
Pink Homo at that stage of lockdown where I think if I don’t make something I’ll go completely crazy. I shoot my first piece. In general that has been my relationship with art. How to stay sane. Late at night it’s cold, I set up lights struggling to get everything into the small space of my bathroom. Balancing my laptop on a stool that in turn is balanced on a chair. Electrical leads winding around all of it. I spend ages getting into drag worrying about how shit my make up is, how terrible I am at this femininity. Finally I’m ready to shoot. I climb into the bathtub adjusting the lights, trying to get everything right. When I’m about to press record I realise I’m standing in a wet bath, barefoot and surrounded by electrical equipment. I climb out squeezing past the stack of gear, quickly go and put on sneakers, then come back to begin.
I laugh about this ‘sudden’ online life because as a crip and a sex worker, I’ve been living this way for a long time! I know very well what it’s like to have the majority of my social life online. As a ‘Cam Girl’ (sic) I’m a professional at maximising my angles, lighting my chat room, finding ways to optimise my streaming rate, hosting and chatting online. That (and my tits) is what has been paying the rent for the last ten years.
ANOTHER CHAPTER: (in which I ditch my previous statement about not dating entries.) Above this line was written about events previous to August 2020, material immediately below was written in late September.
Now that it’s all over, I kept meaning to write a bitter mouthed entry: ‘Now it’s all over’ because even before lockdown ‘eased’ I could hear helicopters overhead, police sirens and the roar of crowds. I live in a party neighborhood, people come here to have a good time. While I’m indoors feeling like a curtain twitching weirdo. Fuming because a simple walk around the block means dodging hoards of drunk people carrying plastic pints glasses full of beer. A zombie apocalypse. There are divisions apparent in how peoples lockdowns look: between crips and ableds, young or old, people who have to go out to work and people who can work from home, those with jobs and without, in grey economies or legal, with recourse to public funds or not. None of those categories is absolute, as I listen to different communities I am part of there are different stories. In ‘The Bunker’ an online support group for people who are sheilding or choosing an extra careful lockdown for health reasons; at first people are exchanging tips, discussing concerns about online shopping or getting PPE. As lockdown eased there was increasing distress at being forgotten about.
On sex worker Twitter this morning it’s a mix between nudes, the usual questions about ‘how do you like my new shoes/sunglasses/outfit’ or ‘why don’t you buy me this leather garment/pair of high heels’. Sandwiched between hilarious comments about the Trump vs Biden debate. In the early days of the pandemic SW twitter was a place where I watched others like myself financially freefalling, wondering how the hell to make a living. Many didn’t make an easy transition to online work. It’s not the same job, there ARE many points of crossover. Everyone will have their own viewpoint from which they’ve experienced the pandemic. Sex worker Twitter was one of the places I got my news from. Where I watched sex workers debate how to return to in-person work. With the call not to shame sex workers who did work during the pandemic, to be aware of peoples different situations. Sex work is one of the places in which I have heard the clearest critique of work articulated. All work.