Straya! Part 1 – Perth

March 1, 2016

Ok, let’s picture the scene. I’m currently sat at Kuala Lumpur airport after completing the first 7-hour leg of The Journey Home. Actually, I’m sat in a restaurant called ‘Grandmama’s’ in KL because the view is nicer than the other restaurants, they have free wifi and plugs. The curry Laksa isn’t too bad either! Although I have just bitten into something and I don’t know if it’s fish or vegetable..

I’ve got a cracked open copy of ‘How to Write Everything’ by David Quantik, open at page 4 where basically the advice is just write something! So I am. I have the inklings of show 2 running around in my head, and an email from Producer Nick suggesting we start cracking on with Slaving Away storylines. So writing anything right now would be a great start. I’ll try to include pictures, just to keep things interesting.

So. Here’s what just happened.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that finding myself in Australia took me by complete surprise.

Even though I had booked the tickets, paid my registration fee, took out travel insurance and filled in the relevant visa forms myself, it was still quite the shock. For the past six months it’s just been something nice to say, something to post about of facebook, an occasional irritant to get admin emails at 3am…

People asked me if I was excited, if I had everything prepared, and to a point – I did. I just never really believed it was going to happen. I was going to miss the alarm in the morning, my car was going to break down on the M3, they’d find something wrong with my visa and not let me in, border force were going to find miscellaneous seeds about my person and refuse entry. Something was going to happen – as it always does in my family – that would mean ‘A month in Australia’ just wasn’t going to happen.

But it did. And it was ace! For the most part…

I have to warn you, there will be some completely unjustified winging in this post. I’ve seen what people go through during fringes and I got off comparatively lightly.

I guess we should start with me bursting into tears when we landed in Perth. Like, literally…as soon as we touched down. I don’t think flying with Malaysian Airlines had filled me with total confidence, but they managed to not loose the plane or hardly any passengers! I think this relief and the dawning realisation that This Is Really Happening is what bought on the waterworks. The stewards patted my shoulder in pity and passed me a tissue, and I really wanted to say ‘I’m crying cos I’m happy!’ but I think what came out was just bubbly, snotty nonsense.

Before I knew it, I was off the plane, and even through customs without them accusing me of bringing in illicit flora (I didn’t bring in any, but I’ve watched ‘Border Control’ waaaay too much) and boom…I was in Perth! The bus was easy to find, and dropped me off in town, where it was a short walk to another bus, and then through the Perth Cultural Centre to my hostel on William st. Ok, I say short walks, but I was carrying about 30k of luggage in 30 degree heat having just left London on the brink of a hurricane.

So sweaty is not the word. This is the first picture I took as I was walking through the cultural centre to get to my hostel. So..trepidatious. I believe thats the word. Not one part of this face looks anything but.

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So..hostel arrived at, shower done, unpacking achieved and I explored the fringe grounds in the evening on the search for life, and something to eat. None of the restaurants were open past 10pm, so I ended up at the Budgie Smuggler (Which was the ‘artist’s bar’ / bit of decking by a bus) drinking a beer which went so straight to my head I could hardly stomach a second. I struggled through though. Cos I’m a little trooper.

The next morning, I was up stupidly early (5.30am early!) and made a plan of action – get food, see venue, find kangaroos. I caught a bus to Coles, and stocked up with far too much for just one week, but I was yet to learn that Australia is ALL about the eating out. I thought America was bad for it, but nope. And I don’t blame them, it’s just too damn hot to cook! I found my first packet of Tim Tams. The first of many…

Then it was time to explore the venue and have a tech rehearsal. Kangaroos would just have to wait.

I wandered up to the Pleasure Gardens, very pleased to note it was on a strip of road chocka block with strip clubs and porn shops – perfect! The garden itself was also a delight. All vaudeville and fairy lights.

(Sidenight – the manager at Gramndmama’s has just given me his card. Like…WTF? But hey…still got it)

pleasure gardens

(Image nicked from http://www.abc.net.au/)

Casa Mondo – my venue – was a 100 year old dutch theatre, and was perfect. A great size (95 seater) and Hannah and Tom who dutifully manned it did so with love and pride for the Old Gal.

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(By Old Gal, I mean the venue. Theatres are Ladies, dontcha know. Wasn’t referring to myself. Although I was nicely looked after too.

NOT IN THAT WAY!)

It was that evening I learnt the first lesson in Youth Hostelling – Don’t get pissed on your first night when you’re still off your tits on jetlag.One mislaid laptop (which wasn’t mislaid) and..well…let’s not talk about it…

BECAUSE THE NEXT MORNING THERE WAS KANGAROOS!!

So due to the ‘totally by surprise’ nature of my trip, I hadn’t looked for what to do whulkst in town. I had assumed it would be like Edinburgh Fringe where it was FRINGE FRINGE FRINGE 24 hours a day. But nothing Fringe started until about 6pm. Nothing.

I had the whole day free.

Unfortunately, the only resource I’d taken much notice of was the in-flight advert for Perth which was on the plane as we landed, which I’d seen briefly through my racking sobs.

But I did notice one thing. Kangaroos.

Free range kangaroos. Just hopping about on Heinessey Island – which was about a 10 minute bus ride from where I was staying! Water packed, lunch made, I walked off, and – despite my initial pessimism – ONLY WENT AND FOUND THE HOPPY BASTARDS!

And if you think that’s a few too many selfies to be taking with a kangaroo, you are WRONG.

Ok, ok…I guess stalking out local wildlife is one thing. The show itself is another – right? After all, I had no PR, no budget, none of my posters stayed up or uncovered for very long. No one had picked up the story from the press releases I sent…I was pretty certain I’d be in a hole.

I wasn’t. I sold out. Every night. (Ok, there were 2 nights where we got 94 out of 95, but that was still filled with fringe passes! So it counts…)

I even got nominated for a comedy award! I had great reviews. I was over the fucking moon!

AND THERE WERE QUAKKAS!

They’re real!

They all live on an island near Perth called Rockness. It’s an hour ferry ride away, and you’re not allowed cars, so everyones rides around on a bike; like a really good Sark. But admittedly riding a bike in 40 degree heat to find them was a quest in itself. Rockness is an amazing little island, but I think I bought the temperature of the Indian Ocean up by a couple of degrees when I had to dive in for a cool-off when the ole’ chub rub got a bit too much. Sorry, polar bears😦

 

So that was my week – seeking out wildlife during the day, nap at 5pm, flyering at 6pm, show at 8pm…

(Ok…remember that whinge I said I was going to have? Here it comes. Because I just can’t  let myself be happy. And this upcoming bit is only the start. I know I’m going to have to cut this short because a) I’ve now been in Grandmama’s for about 2 hours, and it’s been weird since the manager gave me his card. I just wanted his wifi, not the BE his wifi…! *tumbleweed*  b) I really need to do some duty free shopping. There’s a couple of birthdays which have flown by and I’d really like to get them something better than a giant Toblerone and packet of mini ‘Daim’ bars. and C) I’m well overdue my 5pm nap. I’m tired…so I’m going to do Perth as Part 1 and Adelaide as Part 2….which is where the shit really hits the fan. Stick around, kids!)

So here I was, different country, new people, on my own. The youth hostellers didn’t seem to know there was a fringe on anyway, and because my jet lag was getting me up at crazy o’clock in the morning, I was very happy to get to bed after the show. I tried the artist bar a couple of times, but couldn’t really bring myself to say much to anyone unless there was a clear indication that a conversation was being started. A crippling self conciousness rendered me mute unless they started first. Also, I still needed to sort out an aussie sim card, so it didn’t help that it would be the only time I could find wifi and catch up with folks back home.  Just not really helping myself by staring at Whatsapp for hours.

And the one time I did try was with a group of guys doing ‘comedy rap battles’ and one of them just kept repeating ‘Oh yeah, we’ve sold out every night. Every night, sold out. Just..sold out..every night!’ And I do not want to be that guy. Ever. (OK, ok…I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on social media. But mainly for PR purposes because People Like What They Can’t Have. Apparently.)

It wasn’t until the last night I actually bumped into people I vaguely knew, or could at least start talking like an actual functioning human being…

In the words of one of the 21st century’s finest philosophers- that is just so typically me. Oh baby, baby…

But I would heartily recommend Perth in itself. (And not only because there are cut-throughs in the town which mean you can get from one end to another just by walking through air conditioned shopping malls. Godsend when even the Aussies are saying ‘Strewth, it’s hot today!’) The beaches were gorgeous – white sand and clear blue water. Great for snorkelling and general dipping. And I think I might even have been inspired to invest in a good bike! A good one, mind. Not something that makes my thighs start fires in my pants.

(It’s now a couple of hours later. I’ve bought a thoroughly illegal amount of dirt cheap cigarettes from duty free with the leftover aussie dollars I had. I’ve run away from Grandmama’s, and have had to put a stop to spending much more as it dawned on me that I still need to get a taxi from Heathrow, and get from London back home.

I really hope you’re enjoying these thrilling interjections…Look, here’s a picture of me as I write this. You can see it’s all gone downhill…

20160301_201312

As to why…well….I’ll explain that part soon. Maybe whilst I’m on the plane. I dunno..

For the first time in a long time I wasn’t able to check in online and therefore choose a seat without anyone next to me. I’m nervous about squeezing into a stranger for the next 15 hours. Not least because flying gives me gas. Really, really bad gas.

And I’m already sweaty.

And very stinky.

Ok. I’m going now. All I’m doing here is typing my inner monologue and that’s not helping anyone.

Until next time, batfans!

ABN/ Foreign Resident Withholding Variation

December 21, 2015

Ok, so I’m going to Australia for 1 month to perform in two different fringe festivals. In order to not get taxed an extortionate rate, it seems I need an ABN or a  Foreign Resident Withholding Variation form.

I’ve written this blog for the benefit of fellow fringe artists travelling to Australia, and for the fringe itself to see what we’re up against. Dead ends, brick walls, archaic systems and no help on the so-called help pages. Plus we need a fair bit of information from the Fringe itself.

So if anyone can help make sense of this, let us know what we have to do, or has a PhD in Tax, do get in touch.

I’m not planning on making loads, and whilst in the UK there’s a threshold of how much you can earn before you get taxed, I can’t seem to find that for Australia. Anyway, I was sent this email – lets see where it takes me.

ABN & GST STATUS
 
If you don’t have an ABN, we require a Foreign Resident Withholding Variation from you. Please click on this link for more information on how to apply for a Foreign Resident Withholding Variation: https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/PAYG-withholding/In-detail/Foreign-resident/Foreign-resident-PAYG-withholding—non-individual-entities/?page=3
If we do not have an ABN or the Foreign Resident Withholding Variation at the time of settlement, we will be required by law to withhold 47.5% of your taxable earnings.

So I head for an ABN. I check the ABN Entitlement form here and there was nothing about foreign residents. It all seems to indicate I can get one, although it takes about 20 days and the fringe has given people a deadline of 24th December…


abn 1


On the application, however, I hit several snags.

 

 

On Page 2, it asks ‘Are you a resident for tax purposes? I don’t know, so I open up the help box.





abn 2

 

 

Oooh! A page that will help me determine if I am? Let’s click on that…

 

Aaaand it takes you to –

 

abn 3

 

PAGE NOT FOUND. Or, what I am calling, DEAD END 1

 

Ok, so let’s google. Am I a resident for tax purposes if I’m visiting Australia for a month?

 

So, according to https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/International-tax-for-individuals/Work-out-your-tax-residency, I am ‘a foreign resident for tax purposes’.

 

 

abn 4

Ok, cool. Back to the form. But WAIT! It asks if I’m an Australian  resident for tax purposes, but not a foreign resident for tax purposes…

So..err…I click…no?

 

 

 

abn 5

 

Let’s see where that takes us.

 

I get to Business Information, fill it out with the drop down box stating I’m in the UK, but it tells me I need an AUSTRALIAN telephone number. Now, I’m not there until February, so I don’t have one.

 

 

abn 6

So, I’m going to have to cheat, and put the only Australian number I know down – which is that of the Fringe. Sorry Fringe.

 

Anyway, at least I can carry on filling the rest of the form, hit the declaration, aaaaand –

 

abn 7

 

 

My Identity has not been confirmed? What does THAT mean?? I go to Fix Error, and it takes me to my details page where all the boxes are duly filled in.

 

 

abn 8

 

 

Click to proceed, it takes me back to the declaration. Click to
finish, it gives me the same error – my identity has not been confirmed.

 

Round and Round and Round we go.

 

 

abn 9

 

 

The error message itself says to ‘check the details held by ATO or ASIC’ but…as far as I know, they don’t have any details about me anyway. And there’s nothing I can see that tells me how I can check the details anyway. So…how do I confirm my identity????

This, therefore, is DEAD END 2.

 

 

I can see no way of beating the level boss, and will have to try a different path than getting a straightforward ABN.

 

It’s on to a Foreign Resident Withholding Variation form. Four lovely words which I’ve read over and over again and still don’t understand what they mean in that order.

 

So, back to square one. I head to the address on the email, which tells you about the variation form, but not so quick to point out where it is. Scroll down and I head to

How do I apply to vary the rate of withholding?

Which I’m assuming is right?

I go to the E-form, because printing and sending one in the post just makes me break out in hives. Only this is where a LOT of people are going to hit a snag, because it’s

  • not compatible with Apple Mac
  • not supported by Firefox or Google Chrome.

Now me – being of the creative sort – uses an Apple Mac. But I also have a windows laptop, just in case. And it still has explorer. Even though opening explorer still makes me want to kill those in the nearby vicinity.

Still. Show must go on, and all that. Best foot forward. Lie back and think of England…

So I’m now looking at THIS form – https://www.ato.gov.au/misc/formflow/forms/nat11097.htm?title=PAYG+foreign+resident+witholding+variation+(FRWV)+application+(E-variation)+2013

abn 10

…which is scary because the first thing it’s asking me for is a TFN or ABN number!

I’ve left it blank, and put my entity type as ‘Individual’

But when it’s asks for my name and my main trading name, I get

abn 11

..ANOTHER request for my ABN! So the only work-around I’ve found is to leave question 6 – payee trading name – blank, which might be awkward for anyone who uses a stage name.

(Question 10 – the country TIN code, you can use either your UTR reference from HMRC or your National Insurance number)

Anyway, I fill out section A, section B doesn’t really count for me I think, but section C is where the party is really getting started!

abn 12

21 – What is the payment for? Entertainment! Obvs!

22 – What is the reason for the variation?

Errrr…..the people at the Fringe told me I needed one? Where’s that clicky box?? Ok, so in my mind, the settlement form the fringe will have tax deductible expenses (such as travel and accommodation) AND the UK has a Tax Treaty with Australia…but…does it count?

It seems not when it’s entertainment or sport.

Oh.

Right.

How dare those brits come over ‘ere! Try to entertain us with their funnies and sporting prowess!

Anyway, here’s what the UK tax treaty says (Article 16 for entertainers and sportspeople)-

abn 13

Anyone understand it? Anyone? I genuinely can’t figure out what it’s saying. I’m guessing it’s saying the stuff we do in Australia gets taxed in Australia?

Lets see what articles 7 and 14 are on about…

Article 7 –

abn 14

I think I speak for all of us when I say

abn 15

Article 14, BTW, is Income From Employment. But I’ve lost the will to live so much that I can’t even click to it to get a screenshot.

But we have business expenses, right?! And this is Income form employment, so something must stand….right? I honestly don’t know, so I tick the box, and click . Because I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE TREATY BECAUSE I’M NOT A FUCKING TAX LAWYER.

So, question 22, I click Tax deductible expenses, because…I’m going to have tax deductible expenses!

But I click the Help box, and the help is not help whatsoever. In fact it says ‘If you have any questions, please send them in writing.’

*cries*

And of course, because we’re working with Explorer, this has to happen!

abn 17

 

So I start again. Again.

Question 23 – What is the required rate of withholding?

Umm…I dunno. Google?

ATO help page says – a Company pays 30%.

abn 18

A company. Nothing about individuals or sole traders…

But still. I’ll put 30%. Because by this point I honestly don’t know any better.

Question 24 – Australia & New Zealand Industry Code. (ANZ SIC)

Whaaaaaaaa….?

Again, google. Because it couldn’t possibly have a nice little helpful ‘Look up the code here!’ button. What it does have is a rollover box you need to be a speed-reader to catch, which tells you what page to go on without being so helpful as to give you a link. because that would be too easy.

But for those still paying attention, here’s what it says (please note it is giving it’s age away, and saying search for codes 2009. This forms technology is 6 years old. No one has bothered to update this form for six whole years) –

abn 19

Or just go straight to the ANZSIC code finder page, which could have easily been linked to, Australia!!!

I click to go to the next page and –

abn 20

 

I NEED AN ABN NUMBER!!!

So that’s if I click Tax Deductable Expenses.

I don’t have an ABN number because they couldn’t confirm my identity, remember?

So…the treaty? Can I click the treaty? Well..I could, but I get the feeling I need to be a sodding tax lawyer to explain why!

AND IT TURNS OUT THE TREATY OPTIONS ARE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TO THE TREATY OPTIONS I FOUND ON HMRC!! *CRIES FOR DAAAAAAAAAYS*

 

I’m going to pick one that sounds good. Double taxation.

abn 21

Yes, I know I spelt registered wrong. Im in the throws of a breakdown.

Section D-

abn 22

I don’t know when the first payment will be paid, I have to guess. There’s nothing on the fringe website. Same for last payment. Same for how much. Well, same for the whole bloody lot really.

32 – I take the average bums-on-seats (7, I think?), times it by the ticket cost, the performances, minus the fees being taken by the fringe, and hope for the best.

33 – Same, but I take out my accommodation and travel costs. Don’t know if I should, but I’m gunna.

Section F.

I’m genuinely stumped, but as you can see – I soldiered on and filled in all the parts I definitely knew.

We need the ABN, trading name, trading address, trading email and contact number.

And a bucket of gin.

abn 24

That’s it. That’s as far as I can get. I need the details from the fringe to continue on.

I hope this has been a little bit helpful in showing the archaic systems we’re ploughing through. If there’s any help out there, or anyone knows how I can confirm my sodding identity, that would be great!

So, you’re learning How To Feminist.

October 28, 2015

(This is dedicated to anyone who went to the Feminism in London conference. They discussed the Swedish Model, invited a panel of pro-abolitionists (3 of which pulled out) but not one sex-worker.

This is for you.)

feminismlondon

This week, a lot of people have been quite shocked to discover that Germaine Greer isn’t all that nice to Trans women. Well, strap in, my loves.

She’s been saying it for years. Honestly, her exclusionary feminism is nothing new and well documented. She is – what we call – a T.E.R.F. A Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist, as well as a S.W.E.R.F – Sex Worker Exclusionary yadda yadda yadda..

Unfortunately, this has filtered down through the ages to people who are currently trying to Feminist, and because they’ve read The Female Eunuch, the think it’s the right way to go. It also means that so-called ‘Influential’ feminists (i.e rich, white Hollywood celebrities) have taken up the battle and believe Feminism should exclude Sex Workers. Including those who ran the ‘Feminism in London’ event. (Ironically, one of the abolitionists has just written an article on why free speech is important. Plenty of sex-workers who would have happily gone to the conference couldn’t agree more! http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/06/feminists-doctrine-conference-free-speech)

Here’s what they believe, because it’s been In A Book:

BECAUSE WHEN A WOMAN SELLS HER BODY, THE PATRIARCHY OBJECTIFY ALL FEMALE BODIES.

*Snooooooze…*

ALL SEX WORKERS ARE BEING EXPLOITED! THEY JUST DON’T KNOW IT…!

Boooooring….

IT’S A PATRIARCHAL INDUSTRY! ONLY MEN ARE PROFITING!!

Ok..it’s true, I admit it. A LOT of my earnings went to men; my landlord, the guys in Tesco, and let’s not forget the various heads of multi billion pound corporations I have to give money to in order to..well…live, basically.

So this is for you. This is my handy guide for you Sex Worker Exclusionary Feminists, who might be finding out that it’s about time you started thinking for yourselves.

  1. Sex-work makes men think it’s OK to objectify women.

Let’s start with something basic – you might believe that sex workers are a manifestation of the patriarchy. You think every branch of them – from page 3 girls to street workers – should die in a fire because, to you, the men who see them then see every woman as an object for their amusement.

Yep, it’s a tough one. Been floating round for yeeaaars. But the solution is actually quite simple. Are you ready?

Men are doing it too.

Men have been sex-workers, models, topless totty, strippers, dancers, all of it, for just as long as women. And look at them – still running the world!

Women have been oggling at men, seeing them as sex objects, but do they have to justify it? No.

Case in point – David Beckham

Look at him, just look at him. In his pants, hands perilously close to his peen, and an advert that made his cock several feet bigger by appearing on a bus.

feminismdavid-beckham-appears-on-a-bus-in_5794169

He’s got an OBE, was on the Olympics committee, he’s a global ambassador for football….and he can still model in his pants and it’s not the worse thing that he’s ever done.

If a woman did that, if a woman of his fame and his calibre did that, can you honestly say it wouldn’t be held against her?

Abso-fucking-lutely-not.

I don’t want to live in a puritanical society, I’m putting that out there straight away. I don’t want to live in a world where the only way to have equality is that no ones revels in their body, that we all hide our skin, men and women. I don’t think many of us do want that. Instead, I want my female sport stars, presenters, members of parliament to be able to do exactly what Mr Beckham and his ilk can – enjoy safe, sane and consensual activities without fear, shame or judgement.

‘But look at Katy Price! She isn’t a sport star, she just poses for men to objectify her!’

  1. When women football players earn as much as their male counterparts, then we can discuss the rather humongous topic of why modelling is has become the go-to lucrative choice for our generation of young, fit, well-toned women.
  2. Love her or loathe her, she’s still a best selling author and has built up various fashion brands and £45 million net worth.
  3.  I wish I had a bigger list of successful models who have branched out beyond page three, but I don’t. WHICH IS EXACTLY THE POINT I’M MAKING. 

Feminism should be about equality. We should be able to do exactly what the boys can, only they don’t have a faction of their own gender telling them it’s wrong to be on a bus in your pants.

2) ALL SEX WORKERS ARE EXPLOITED!

Nope. We’re not. We’re the ones getting the money, we’re the ones setting our times, our limits, our workplaces. There has, however, been a rise in exploitation by outside factions –

The Police – This is a recent story from Ireland. Things in England are a bit better with the education passed to police forces thanks to resources like National Ugly Mugs, but I daresay that a lot of sex-workers don’t realise where they stand when it comes to reporting crimes, and what ISN’T legal.

“The first complainant’s statement said that she felt compelled to have sexual intercourse with the garda concerned because he was a member of An Garda Siochána involved in a prosecution which led to her conviction for an offence under s.11 of the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act 1993 and she feared further prosecution. – http://www.closeronline.co.uk/2015/07/police-officer-has-sex-with-prostitute-after-arresting-her

The Media – Ahh, another joy from America. ‘8 Minutes’ has been steadily making me throw up in my mouth. Basically, it’s as you might imagine – a camera crew raid various sex-worker locations and show their faces, recognisable locations for all the world to see. No one is winning apart from the TV show. “It basically coerces someone into a situation where they’re in front of cameras having a personally violating experience. It’s public shaming,” says Kate D’Adamo, National Policy Advocate for the Sex Workers Project.’ http://flavorwire.com/511253/appalling-new-ae-sex-worker-intervention-show-8-minutes-met-with-protests

All of which could be resolved by Decriminalisation.

Now, I’m not going to bang on about it too long, because I spend 90% of my time talking about it. Here’s just a summery of the basics – it works. It allows women to work together for safety, means the police in every jurisdiction will concentrate on finding the perpetrators of crimes against them rather than any misconceptions about what a crime against a sex-worker consists of, it will help reduce stigma. It’s NOT Legalisation – which would be a rise in stringent rules and regulations, possible licensing (so real names, and addresses on government file) and a rise in prosecutions against sex-workers – effectively trapping them into sex work. That’s exploitative. The Swedish Model (banning the buying of sex) leads to a rise in stigma, less resources for sex-workers, no protection from exploitative police or media outlets.

It’s a patriarchal industry and men are profiting from it!

Darling, that’s every job in the world.

Governments, businesses, banks…it’s all, sadly, run by men. The only job I’ve ever had where a man didn’t profit from the money I earned was sex-work. Even in comedy, I’m making money for promoters and venues, most of which have been men.

‘Then..then….sex-workers are making women objects, and THAT’S what’s stopping them getting the top spots in industry!’

Let’s go round again…Go back to Point 1. Remember? The thing I said about how men are sex workers and still running the world? There you go…

The basic fact is it’s not how a certain group of women choose to make their money, it’s how men are educated about women. How women are educated about women.

‘B-but…why can’t they make their money doing something else!’

It would be lovely to think everyone was educated the same way, could achieve what hey wanted to in life, didn’t have stigma following them because of what size or shape they were, how old they were, if they had kids or not…

‘It doesn’t have to be highly paid, why can’t they be cleaners? Admin? Stacking shelves?’

Welcome to privilege. Again, lovely to think we all grew up in healthy households, or we didn’t have physical disabilities, mental health issues, drug addictions, that turning up to work didn’t fill anyone with anxiety, we were all socially adept.

‘So sex-workers are either lazy or cray cray!’

Nope. BUt just FYI – those who do it out of choice are definitely NOT lazy. Just because you think ‘Hey,. I’m gonna do sex-work!’ doesn’t mean you’re going to be raking it in. It’s still a full time job, just with a few more benefits which I, personally, enjoyed. But that’s the same for any job. No one deserves to be stigmatised for their job.

‘Bu-‘

Nope.

‘They-!’

Na-ah.

These are women. These are women earning money. They are not killing anyone, they’re not hunting animals, they’re not global capitalists sucking the economy dry. They are not governments criminalising people, they are not armies shooting unarmed civilians, they are not dropping bombs. They are your sisters. Having sex for money is not what is killing the world. It is not a cause of sexism.

Talking about any woman and deciding on their issues without inviting them to discuss what they think is a solution is only damaging to a cause which has enough enemies. Instead, start thinking for yourselves. Instead of exclusionary, include all women into your thought process about feminism – no matter their age, race, orientation, religion, work, size…or even if they have a vagina or not.

The Making Of Slaving Away, Part 1.

July 8, 2015

Hello! Time for a blog post….because you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, young lady!

Now, I know most of you will be other comedians, just wondering ‘How the hell….?’, other will be sex-workers, wondering ‘What the fuck…?’ and the rest? Well, normal people just having a look. In which case, welcome! Feel free to browse, but please don’t touch the precious things of the shop.

Let’s start at the beginning, which is a surprisingly long time ago.

So for a very brief amount of time, I used to work In The Meedja.

My office

I worked for a well-meaning radio station, with a bunch of well-meaning people. I worked in the marketing ‘department’, which is to say a badly lit desk in the corner of an office – an office which, when people walked through, they’d say ‘Oh, is this an office?? I always thought it was a fire escape!’

I realise at this point I’ve lost half my audience by saying I worked in Marketing. You’re all throwing Bill Hicks quotes out – ‘Kill yourself. Just, kill yourself’. You’ll be pleased to know I didn’t last long. I went on to be a sex-worker, an altogether more moralistic line of work.)

Anyway, ’twas at this well-meaning venture I met Nick, Marcus, and other weird and wonderful characters. The kinds of people you can only find in an office-slash-fire-escape. Nick was a producer, and Marcus was captain of the ship as executive producer.

They didn’t really know what I did, apart from make MSPaint pictures and save them as their desktop.

The whole thing collapsed about a year in. Turns out I wasn’t very good at marketing…

Anyway, we all go our separate ways, and remain friends etc etc.

A few years later, and the whole Coin Operated Girl thing kicks in. Now, before you start going ‘Oh, so it was who you know….’ No! I begged and begged and begged Nick to let me work with him on various sex-worker related / funny ideas I had. Every week, he was met with a barrage of ‘we should do this!’ or ‘Hey, I had this idea!’ And mostly, he looked at me like this…

015

That’s about right – a cruel mixture of pity and extreme disappointment.

But I persevered, much to his chagrin.

So I go off on various adventures, and Nick goes to work for Unusual Productions.

Which is one of many radio content providers (those are the little production companies who provide radio stuff for the big people, like the BBC. It’s totes the law, y’know) Audible.com contact with a proposal for their new sitcom pilot scheme. They want new writers to come up with sitcom pilots.

So maybe my documentary idea about fish herpes didn’t work, perhaps my world service feature on the origins of Nutella wasn’t a go-er. But maybe…just maybe…

See, Nick knows that the current 50 shades nonsense of Dom types is portraying an idea that we all swan around in Mansions and keep our clothes immaculate.

He also knows me; he knows I’m happier with a pint of Becks in a t-shirt. He knows the day I step into a mansion will be the day I’m thrown out for trespassing. He knows there’s more chance of finding rocking horse shit than walking in on me with an iron in my hand. So, November 2014, we sent the one line proposal ‘Slaving Away – The Utterly Mundane Life of A Dominatrix’

And, having been filled such promises as ‘Don’t get your hopes up’ and ‘We just need one line for them to reject.’ I totally forgot about it. Or at least worked really, really hard to.

But they didn’t reject it! They wanted to know a bit more..and a bit more after that..by December we wrote a whole page proposal…by March we needed a writing sample, then a script…then…

Nick – ‘Lets meet, we’ll go over what we need in a script.’

In a commuter pub near Kings Cross, I met Nick and fellow Producer Shane.

We discussed, divulged and delved into what could be written, how, and why…what to include…what not to include…it needed to be done by the next week, so I was on strict instructions not to go to Wetherspoons.

They, however, fucked off to China.

Something about ‘other work’ or something. I dunno..jeeez….

So, I wrote a script. Not quite the current script, but it’s close. I made a story that I wanted to hear – one that included Domination, but also frequent trips to the poundshop. One that showed sex-workers do not live and work as islands, but we have friends and family around us. Some know, some don’t, and I wanted to show the funny side of what both of those relationships mean. I wanted a story to show what it’s like in London, where rooms are small and rent is extortionate so yes, you do often have to have a flatmate.

And I wanted that end-of-the-pier humour because that’s what I grew up with. Listening to old-school shows on the radio, going to ‘Vicar, where’s your trousers!’ with my nan. All that cheesy, Carry-On, gag-filled buffoonery. I openly admit it’s not God’s gift to comedy, it’s not clever in it’s post-modernism, but it is fun..and it’s playful. And, frankly, it made me laugh. My sense of humour looks up to the gutter.

It’s also not political, because the call was for a sitcom. I want to make you laugh first, and there will be plenty of thinking later. I worry constantly that everything I do has to come with a ‘decrim’ message, but then I have to remember that the way I live, how I make my money, my career is being a comedian. Through that, I can be an activist and point people who want to know more in the right direction to those who can explain it a lot better than I ever could.

And that was my script.

I was very pleased with it! Until I met David.

Now, David Spicer is a script editor par excellence…

David – Have you read it out loud?

Me  -Of course!

David – Out loud..not just mumbling through your lips.

Me – Umm…

David – *Sigh* Sit down…

And we read it. Out loud. And my god….

If I can pass anything on to anyone who wants to write a sitcom, it would be to read the damn thing aloud!

Not just the first bit, and not just skimming it with your lips vaguely moving. Get your mouth open and get the words out. It creates a whole new beast.

I’d avoided alliteration, but there were moments in sentences where I questioned the whole English language. Wondering if I had ever found going from S to an F to a D so hard…or trying to say ‘There are only..’ without feeling like a Thunderbird puppet. I swear you will never hear anyone in a radio play saying ‘There Are Only’. It’ll always be ‘There’s only’, or they’ll only say it if they’re a Bond Villain and. They. Are. Annunciating. For. Effect.

We talked about the characters, who they were to us in real life. Who they reminded us of and what they would be like in the situation…it was quite the process!

But it was still there, stronger than ever. And formatted in a correct and appropriate manner.

I realise at this point you could probably do with a cup of tea. Also, I suspect I’ve answered a lot of questions about How a sitcom is commissioned…but I’ll explain a little further.

It’s not who you know. Nick is my friend, and is therefore one of the hardest people to impress. (And, in actual fact, it turned out that Shane was the one who decided to get in contact, so nyer!) But it is about making people aware of you. Production companies get calls for commissions all the time – sometimes they know the right people to talk to, other times they don’t. So if you do have a specialised area, a USP, get something down on paper. Get something written, or record it on to your phone. Introduce yourself. ‘Waaaa, I can’t believe no one came to see my show!’ Did you tell anyone about it? ‘Waaaa! I put it on facebook, so obviously the commissioning editor of BBC comedy should have seen it!.’

*Facepalm*

I sent hundreds of emails to production companies to see Coin Operated Girl because I have always, always wanted to do something in audio. TV, I’m not that fussed about. But radio lends itself to so many imaginative opportunities! The only reason I ended up in a fire-escape radio station was because I loved the medium so much.

You may feel the same about theatre, or TV, or film. In which case, it never hurts to hunt down other opportunities within it.

Ok, preaching over. And, in fairness, I have no idea how the other writers got to hear about it, so I may be talking completely out of my arse.

But anyway, about that tea….

So that’s the Why. Coming very soon will be the How, and that’s a lot more fun!

‘Do What You Love and Let It Kill You.’

January 22, 2015

Yesterday, I got a statement from the bank.

This isn’t unusual, obviously. But it was the annual dividends statement from various savings, funds, ISAs etc. The one’s I’ve always ignored and let them get on with whatever it is they do in the hopes I don’t spend it on comic books and sweets.

Only once a year, they remind me they exist, and that whilst I’m holding that envelope they are Schroedinger’s savings – either blossoming happily or wilting away.

I didn’t open the envelope. Still haven’t in fact. I know I have dipped in more than enough times over the past three years and to see it being dribbled away because of some coked up hedge fund manager not knowing the worth of Orange juice futures would just kill me.

Well then, you say, take more interest! Look at them from time to time and play the stock market.

And my answer to that is No. Shan’t.

I don’t know what I’m doing enough to even consider it. Plus the heart palpitations I get from my Big Annual Envelope is enough to see me through, thanks.

Because the truth is there’s a lot on the line for me here. This new direction into comedy isn’t just some kind of whim, it’s….well, it’s everything. My name is out, personal details, my life, my sex life, my deepest thoughts and inner desires are all on the line. I’ve risked everything and now I wake up in a sweat and have to take myself to hospital with panic attacks because I have no other choice than to make it work.

And then I read this.

James Rhodes Guardian

From The Guardian

And I realise I’m not alone.

I realise this could possibly work.

I realise that all I have to do is The Work.

No one will do anything for me. I have no agent, manager, promoter, PR rep. I have no ‘people’, no producer, no contacts. Just a virulent, slightly aggressive wish to succeed. Because…I have to. What else can I do? ‘Hi, I’d love to come and work for you. Try a quick google and you’ll see I was a sex-worker for seven years and a comedian for the past three. Two career paths that every employer just loves to see on a C.V!’

I have to go to shitty New Material nights and practice 5 minutes in front of an audience made up of 20 bored comedians. I have to drive two hours to an out of town gig, say yes to a random festival, find out when the next intake for a comedy festival is going to be, apply for Buttfuck-on-sea’s 2 day fringe, keep writing to promoters, keep writing to theatres, keep hoping that someone will discover this tiny show by a girl they’ve never heard of will sell out their venue if they just give it a shot.

I have to read the painful articles on facebook and twitter, watch Sex-Worker’s rights dwindle away to keep reminding me we can all make a difference. We can help someone out there…hopefully. OK, maybe Bob and Carol have no idea what’s going on in terms of Sex-Worker’s right, they just want to see a funny show. But maybe they might come out and Start A Conversation. That would be pretty cool.

90% of my day is admin. Writing and creating is a luxury that seems to only happen at 3am, just as I’m dozing off but end up having an imaginary conversation in my head that I need to write down there and then, otherwise it will be lost to sleep.

This will kill me. The panic attacks, diet of motorway Ginsters and energy drinks aside, I’ve never worked so hard for such little financial gain. My savings dwindle, my phone rings everyday with a call from my credit card company, and I get texts from others offering me more.

But fuck me….. it’s worth it.

On the road again…

January 19, 2015

Well, the January funk is well and truly over – there’s some exciting plans afoot for February, and I’m pretty please to be expanding my ‘repertoire’ (tongue firmly in cheek, there)

I’m going to be doing some actual speaking of the public type! I shied away from doing the Leicester Comedy Festival this year, but Leicester has still drawn me back to it’s welcoming bosom in the form of the Red Project – a series of films exploring Sex-work in the media. Check it –

5th Feb – Guest speaker at the launch event for Leicester Red Project – Pheonix Cinema, 4 Midland St, Leicester.

 12th Feb – Guest speaker at screening of Terry Jones’ ‘Personal Services’. Pheonix Cinema, Leicester

 26th February – Guest speaker at Cambridge Debating society

 28th February – Hosting ‘Comedy On The Rock’, Portland, Dorset. (www.portlandcomedy.co.uk)

 And then I’m going to be able to help the lovely people out at the National Ugly Mugs scheme by doing a fundraiser for them🙂 It;s a fabulous honour and something I’ve always wanted to do from the start. So COME ALONG!

1st March – ‘Coin-Operated Girl’ fundraiser show. Proceeds go to National Ugly Mugs, support for sex-worker safety.

7.30pm – Kraak, 11 Stevenson Square. TICKETS HERE.

Exciting, innit?!

Now I just have to figure out what to say…

 

It’s all coming back to me now…

January 11, 2015

So I was talking to/eating ten tonnes of cheese with a friend last night, and we got talking about how life is going in general.

It’s not bad…but obviously there seems to be room for improvement.

I took myself down to the emergency department on Thursday morning after I nearly feinted in Tesco’s the day before (glam) and waking up with an inability to stop shaking. On the bus down (because I still had the wherewithal to realise I was NOT going to pay £4 an hour for parking) my arms felt fizzy, and the heart attack I keep being told I’m going to get seemed like it was well on the way.

***Spoiler*** it wasn’t.

Those in the know might well recognise all these symptoms as a panic attack. Which it was. Not my first, but one of the worst. I don’t get them very often, and certainly not when anything in particular has triggered it.

I was sent in to see the GP, and she sat me down for a little chat.

Doctor – So, what do you think has triggered it?

Me – I don’t know *sadface*

Doctor – Are you particularly stressed or anxious at all?

Me – Yeah, I guess. I’m self employed so it comes with the territory.

Doctor – What do you do?

Me – I’m a comedian.

And I promptly burst into tears,

There you have it folks, that’s where I’m at. I’m doing the thing I love, what I’ve always loved, what I’ve always wanted to do and now that I’m attempting it full time, I’m breaking down.

I think it’s because 99% is admin.

I have so many ideas, so many things that I want to do, but by the time I’m done photoshopping for flyers and posters, filling out applications for festivals, calling theatres and asking for tour dates, messages clubs for gigs, and all the millions of shitty, fiddly things I need to do in order to stop me feeling like I’m swimming through treacle, I’m exhausted.

Obviously, I didn’t say all this. I just said ‘Yeah, it’s all going OK’ and crammed more Stilton into my mouth to force down the feelz.

But it IS going OK! Next month I’m doing talks for Leicester Red Project where I get to introduce a fabulous film. I’m debating in Cambridge. I’m doing a fundraiser for National Ugly Mugs. I’m literally doing everything I’ve always wanted to do – making a living and helping other people through a medium I love. Comedy. So why so serious?

I think it’s because I’m just not making the time to be creative. And during the conversation, my blog came up.

We both used to be prolific bloggers and tweeters, but we’ve just slowed down. Now all our posts seem to be ‘Gosh, haven’t done this in a while’, and that’s really disparaging. When I write, I want to be writing something. But maybe that’s not the right way to think about it? Maybe I should just blog for bloggings sake? What say ye?

I feel like I’m in a coming-home rom-com when I log on. I dust off the cobwebs, take a brief look at the dumbass comments I’ve gotten (and the nice ones, thanks!) and think I’m just better off IRL. I’m a Reece-WItherspoon-New-York-lawyer come back to her home town to sort out The Old House, and instead of going back, I stop and fall in love with my old high school boyfriend and realise that being Reece-Witherspoon-New-York-lawyer isn’t half as good as being Reece-Witherspoon-cupcake-maker. The Blog is The Old House. I’m going to give it a lick of paint and get back to shooting the shit on the porch with a beer.

So yeah, even if I just end up writing about old rom-coms, it’ll be something.

As for me? Well, I’ll be fine. Especially as life as a comic isn’t actually that far removed from life as an escort –

Edinburgh2015

It’s nice to know that someone, somewhere, still wants to see me in my pants*.

*This, by the way, is a reference to ‘Single Comedians Trying To Impress You’, a show I took to Edinburgh last year featuring…well….single comedians trying to impress the audience. On our last night, we did a ‘swimsuit’ edition, all the comedians, and even some of the audience, in our pants. It was genuinely glorious! And, it seems, will return in 2015!

My experience of Fat Activism. By an ex-Fat Activist.

April 1, 2014

I went to a talk last night about ‘Fat Performance’. As a Fat Performer myself I was hoping to come away inspired, motivated, and with new friends having networked my arse off. I packed everything I needed – a book and pen for notes, a wallet-popping amount of business cards, and exclaimed my excitement for it on all my social networking platforms. As a founder of a Size Acceptance club night and performer of a 5 star show, those are not insubstantial plugging platforms.

However, as I walked out at the end, I felt more alone, depressed and utterly despondent about the Size Acceptance movement – and what it was to be a part of it – than I had felt about anything I had achieved over the past few years. I went so far as to send a text to a friend saying it felt exactly like school – all the cool kids not wanting to let anyone in. How was it I was made to feel like this by the very people who were supposed to be on my side? With a subject that should have left me feeling breathless with hope for the future, rather than drowning in sorrow that I ever thought I could – or should – be part of this movement?

At the bottom of their press release was the tag line ‘What Weight Watchers and Slimming World don’t want you to hear!’ and the promise they would be flyering outside local groups. The ironic thing is that I’ve been made to feel much more welcome at slimming groups, and have left feeling more motivated by them than I ever have at any Fat Activist meet that I’ve gone to. And as for flyering outside groups? ‘Christ,’ I thought. ‘They just don’t get it.’

In order to promote Fat Activism and the Body Positivity movement, we cannot keep belittling and berating diet groups and those who go to them. The movement should be about loving our bodies, and accepting what a person chooses to do, or not do, to the skin they’re in. Fat Activism has to keep up with the changing attitudes of groups like these and see they are promoting a healthy mind and a healthy lifestyle, just like we are.

Let me explain a bit about myself – I’m an 18 stone stand-up comedian, wit a 5 star show that’s all about my 7 years as a plus size sex worker – we’ll come on to why that’s important in a bit.

I also run a Size Acceptance club night where we welcome anyone of any size to drink, dance and dress up. It’s fair to say that right now, at age 32 and a half, I am having the most fun I’ve ever had, and I am trying desperately to get as many people as I can in on the action!

My size is something that I have let define me. I couldn’t help it. Up until a few years ago, I would have been upset by that, but I’ve turned it to my advantage. I’ve travelled and seen the Size Acceptance movement grow throughout America, and I’ve tried to get more involved in it over here by starting Club Indulge.

I put off becoming a comedian for a long time as all I had was fat girl jokes. I didn’t want to go on a stage and just say what everyone was pretending they were thinking. (I say pretending, I am of course referring to the guys who blow out fat girl jokes to their mates, then rush home to spuff themselves silly over BBW porn) Brecht said ‘Theatre should seek to change the world, not to show it’, and in my 5 minutes of stage time, that was what I hoped to do.

I – and indeed many of the people who know me and have seen my work in action – would have said that these themes of changing societies view on weight in my comedy and my club night have made me something of a Fat Activist. But then I tried joining ‘the gang’ and it was obvious there was no room at the banquet. In fact, it seemed on more than one occasion that they turned the lights off and hid under the table in the hopes I’d go away. See, this wasn’t the first time I’d tried..

A few months ago there was a similar talk on Fat Sexuality. (See, this is where the Sex Work bit is important). Among the discussion table was a Sex Worker rights activist, a Porn site founder, and a blogger. All of them classed themselves as Queer women. Now, I have absolutely nothing against this. But I would have liked to have seen some variety. A straight man or woman might have been nice. I’d written to them a few months in advance so see if they would like anyone else on the panel – I think 7 years as a 25 stone escort would have sealed the deal. But they said they were full. But still, I was excited by the event and wondered what they had to say. I also wondered why they had chosen the speakers they had.

When one of them started speaking, she opened with ‘So..I’m not really sure why I’m here. But most of you in here know me. In fact, I think I’ve slept with half of you’

And a cheer went up.

My eyes rolled. I was hoping for a real discussion, I wanted a bit of a grilling. I wanted passion and argument and defense for the right to have a Fat Acceptance Movement. Instead, it felt like this was just going to be some people holding court in the pub with their mates.

It’s easy to preach to the converted. Sure, I’d love to get up in front of ex-lovers and tell them Fat is Sexy. But instead, I have to get up in front of Bob’s stag party, Dave and Janine from Slough, Debbie and her mates who’ve had a few, George and Javier who saw it in Time Out and thought it might be a talking point at their dinner party…none of these people know me. None of these people have slept with me. None of these people even like me. I’ve got 60 minutes to persuade them that fat girls are sexy, and that Sex Work needs to be decriminalised for the show to work. If I can change one mind, then I’ve won.

And I am winning. Like I said, 5 star reviews.

None of the Fat Activists have seen my show.

At the same discussion, someone asked the question of how to get involved in the Fat Activism movement. It’s really not that hard – support plus size designers, write about Plus Size things on your blog if you have one, or just come to a Plus Size Event.

My hand shoots up. I begin talking about Indulge. But I see eyes rolling. Interest faded. Is that a shuffle of embarrassment?

See, they have a problem with Indulge, mainly because of my predecessors within the ‘Plus Size Club’ circle.

Yes, there’s more than one. Unfortunately, they don’t have the best reputation. Seen as a cattle market by the girls, and an ‘easy place to pull’ by the boys, these nights consist of girls arriving in groups for solidarity, and men leaning against the bar, hawk-like in their determination to spot a fatty that’s come out from the herd. They prey on the weak, the young, or the desperately drunk. Eyes lift no higher than cleavage level, and when they spot one they like, they swoop in and cling onto their victim, only to discard them if something better comes along. Worsened by the anonymity of the internet, and the assumed desperation of the women, I have known men who have arrived with ‘girlfriends’ only to meet another ‘girlfriend’ there.

That is not my club.

My club is where men in three piece suits hand out homemade bunt cake, where living dead cheerleaders prowl at halloween. Great dresses and fab hair are rewarded, fancy dress and glam encouraged. My club is where I will drag single men away from the bar and force them to talk, and anyone with an attitude is left outside. This isn’t a club for single men, it’s a club to be Fat & Fabulous in. I don’t market it as a straight club, I don’t market it as LGBTQ, but I do have to market it as something, and that’s where it feels like I’ve been shunned as the Red-Headed Stepchild of the Fat Activism Community. What they seemed to have assumed is that I would want to make a facsimile of what I’ve experienced, and not think for myself and act out on plans to make something new and different.

Someone asked me what ‘the right term’ was the other day. It was an averaged sized journalist, and she said she felt weird about using the word fat. I asked her that if she ever finds the term we’re all agreed on using to let me know. I have to use all of them. Imagine marketing my club (for market I must. As much as I’d love to spend all the money I do on throwing a party, some cash has to be made somewhere) is like a game of three cups, one ball. Imagine each cup as a google term, and the ball is a potential customer. I have to use all three cups to make sure I’ve covered that one ball. Difference is that at the end, even I don’t know where the balls landed…

Are you ready? Round, and round, and round they go…

Cup 1 – The F word

So, in my experience, people over 40 don’t like the word Fat, because Fat was always used with a negative connotation. ‘Fat Cow’ ‘Fat Fuck’ etc. Still is, as you can imagine. So most people I know over 40 prefer the term BBW (Big Beautiful Women). In their (and my) lifetime, BBW was the one phrase, the one light at the end of the Fat tunnel. Let me tell you from my own personal experience that when I found out I wasn’t just fat, I was a BBW, it was like a whole world opened up! That term saved me, and it’s saved friends of mine, from thinking we’re alone.
However, Fat is now the word most people under 30 are trying to reclaim. But, much like the N word, is still something that ‘outsiders’ feel uncomfortable using. God bless them, it can be confusing. My heart went out to Wayne Sleep on ‘Big Ballet’ when he said ‘Well, we’re using fat girls – they won’t mind me using the word ‘fat’ – …’ Uh-oh…what happened the next day? Yep, they rallied against him. I sat agape as the whole saga unfolded.
I don’t know why I was so surprised though. I walk the same tight rope.

Cup 2 – BBW

Girls under 21 do not like the term BBW. It has been appropriated by the porn industry and as such they feel it has objectified fat girls and encouraged seeing us as a fetish. I was once accused of being a pimp because I had described it as a BBW club. Without ever stepping foot inside, they had become convinced it was full of leery old men who – when not stalking BBW clubs – did nothing but pleasure themselves over pictures of fat girls on the internet.
Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that pleasuring oneself over pictures of any girl on the internet is a major hobby for 99.9% of the straight men out there, so I thought it a bit unfair to hold that against them. Not only that, but it takes a lot of guts for these guys to turn up, often alone, and try and talk to ladies.
If they really were just fetishists, then surely they wouldn’t come to the club at all? It seems like a major effort, as well as a waste of money, to just come and stare when you could be doing that from the safety and anonymity of your computer?
I couldn’t help but think that by proclaiming clubs like this to be full of fetishists, she was doing her, and her fat sisters, a genuine disservice. Is it too much to think that for the guys in there that it’s a genuine preference, not a fetish?
I couldn’t help but think sweeping generalised statements like this only help to propel the stereotype that a fat girl is a fetish. If you don’t want to be a fetish, stop thinking the men who fancy you are fetishists!

Cup 3 – Plus Size.

I can’t say this without thinking of my nan.
Plus Size is Evans in the 90’s for me. The only place I could shop for clothes, and this was well before they had figured out that people under 55 need clothes bigger than a size 18 too. My family were also very poor, and the plus sizes were always a lot more expensive than normal ranges, as such most of the things I wore were hand-me-downs….yes, from my nan. My early teens were filled with a haze of pastels and polyester, my wide feet demanded nothing but sandals, with socks in the winter.

It would make a modern-day blogger cry.

(We didn’t have internet shopping. The high street was bereft of anything over a size 16. I resorted to clumsily making my own clothes when I hit college, becoming a goth because it was easier to hold things together with safety pins than actual hemming.)

What is plus size anyway? Size 18? 16? Christ, I’ve known people a size 12 convinced they’re plus size!
Plus size isn’t your body. Plus size is an intangible concept that changes from shop to shop. You might as well ask what time you are. I have clothes in my wardrobe that are size 14. I have clothes that are a size 24. Each fit just as comfortably. I see people who have lost a massive amount of weight – either through dieting or weight loss surgery – and rather saying how they feel about the amount of weight they’ve lost, they look disheartened because they’re not at the size they wanted to be.

However, plus-size seems to be the winning phrase…so far. But again, it will no doubt ignite hostility in someone out there because…well, why sit back and enjoy a good thing when you can have an argument about it on facebook?

This issue is my real bug-bear. It’s this inability to take something and make it ours, and make it work for the whole community that annoys me. There is a community there, we just have to work together and make compromises. Don’t shun something just because of the way it’s described. See it, experience it, read it…whatever it takes, but try and understand it before automatically assuming what it entails.
I raised this question of community at the Fat Performance talk (again, fully stocked with ‘Queer’ women. My services once more declined – even having had shows at the same festivals and on the same stages as one of the performers. And also as someone who spends each night in a car with a different selection of comics, discussing performing to a finite detail. I perform on a nightly basis. I am paying my dues) Someone had just finished speaking about it so it was hot on my mind and I blurted out a half phrased question before I was brusquely told ‘Let’s keep this to performance only questions.’

Ummm.. it is performance based. But it’s also community orientated. Because there is a community, I just don’t see Fat Activists trying to be part of it. I see Fat Activists being part of the Fat Activist Community, but not reaching out to the general Fat Community at large. Like I said – they’re preaching to the converted.

I was trying to find out if this performers’ experience of ‘the community’ was based on age range. I was genuinely interested to know if he had received backlash from using the term Fat, and I was hoping to find out if it held true with my theory – that it was a generational thing. He said his negative experience of Fat Community had more been based on jealousy. ‘Oh, I’m fatter than you’ was more the game. I tried to explain a bit more about my experience of ‘the community’ to get across more what I meant, but was shot down by the chair.

But at both of these talks, none of their experiences reflected mine, or my friends, or even my customers. I didn’t feel like they were connecting with the average Fat Girl On The Street. They were connecting with their audience of friends, but it feels distinctly counter-productive, and margionalising an already margionalised section of society. ‘Because that’s just what happens. In every ‘community’ there’s always groups’. I’d been told that twice now. Both time by Fat Activists. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of saying ‘That’s just the way it is.’ they said ‘Hey, I’m sorry you feel like that, what can we do to help? How can we change this?’

Overall, when it came to fat performance, ‘Just Do It Yourself’ was the end message, topped with ‘Fuck everybody’ from one of the panel. I don’t think fucking everybody really is the key to being a fat performer, or even gaining confidence as a fat person. I think it’s small, positive steps. I think it’s reaching out. I think it’s talking to someone and starting a dialogue with somebody when they’re obviously trying to reach out to you.

As it is, ‘Just Do It Yourself’ has pretty much been what I’ve been doing these past few years. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to carry on like it though. I was hoping to build relationships with other performers, other activists, maybe collaborate on some of the big dreams I have when it comes to fat performance. But with cards still in my wallet, I walked out disheartened that it’s a motto I’ll have to keep living by. Such a shame. As one, I can only show the world. As many, we could have changed it.

Fat Performance and F.A.F.A.F.Rs

March 31, 2014

Tonight I’m off to a talk on Fat Performance by Scottee.

I’ve always been interested to see the break-through performers who are larger than average, as back in my day the only people I got compared to was Dawn French, Jo Brand and – once – Hattie Jaques.

All comic actors. There were no serious, larger female actors. For a man, it was never newsworthy, but for a female? It always seemed to hit the headlines. And even when it was one of the aforementioned plus size alumni, the papers would always have to describe them. ‘The rotund actress plays a vicar…’ ‘The curvy brunette appears in this theatre…’

When I auditioned for drama schools at 18, I was told it would be pretty useless as I’d never get a lead role. It took me until quite recently to figure out that actually meant ‘You’d never get a lead role on anything so we’ll never get recognition for training you.’

It’s Ok. It only took me 12 years to get my confidence back to get on a stage…after realising I was just going to have to make my own leading role.

But there just weren’t lead roles for fat girls. I’ve been in three performances of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and I played Bottom every time. Because that was the funny part, that was the big part… (Even though if they wanted to be historically accurate, larger girls should have been playing all the lead roles as the Greeks thought fatties were Da Bomb, yo.)

Even now it’s hard to find fat actors appearing in anything that aren’t F.A.F.A.F.R – Fat Actors For A Fat Reason. Especially when it comes to the humble featured or guest part.

Y’know the ones…the extras who have a couple of lines, or the Victim/Baddy of the week. They’re not repeating characters, and they’re certainly not main. They’re just the one’s who pop up. For A Fat Reason.

I notice them.

I notice them because I know, I just know that their first scene isn’t going to be their only scene. We’ll come back to them, and it will be For A Fat Reason.

Case in point –

So I’m watching House of Cards last night, and some people are demonstrating against an educational bill. Lead character Zoe pops over to get an interview, and she heads straight to a specific one.

‘Hello,’ thinks I. ‘A fatty on the front row?   photo 1

‘Hmm… my spidey sense is tingling…’

And right enough! A few minutes later, our dastardly hero comes out to ruin the protest by offering free food from the opposition. And who’s the first person to cross the picket? That’s right…

 

photo 2

Bad Fatty!

photo 3

There’s a few others that they’ve scattered in for good measure. But this girl obviously ignored the brief and decided to just look fabulous. Good on you…

photo 4

And lo…HollyUnderwood is happy.

 

photo

 

This kind of F.A.F.A.F.R shit happens all the time. Next time you watch anything with a plus size woman (yes, woman. Again, being fat is something men can totally get away with. Like going out with skinny girl and not get accused of being someone’s fetish), just wait for the storyline that meant they had to specifically get a fat girl in.

Cos heaven forbid we have a fat girl on TV just because she’s a good actor.

 

 

 

Boy for Rent (BBC Documentary)

February 2, 2014

This wasn’t a documentary.

This was – at best – an opinion piece.

At worst, one’s mans struggle to overcome his preconceptions and prejudices

**SPOILER ALERT**

He never manages it.

I was looking forward to this. I enjoy documentaries about sex workers. When I was working it was a great way to hear a) if I was doing it right and b) know that I wasn’t alone in the various daily joys and frustrations. It’s still a feeling that sticks with me when I see something coming up on TV or – like this – radio. However, I’m always let down when they refuse to see Sex Work as Work, and this was no exception..

This was one of the worst pieces of ‘journalism’ I have ever heard in my life. The whole thing is just one man completely unwilling to let go of his prejudices. The BBC is supposed to broadcast balanced opinions, non-biased reporting…but this? Puh-lease…it might as well have been presented by a 18th century puritanical Bishop screaming ‘Heathen! Heathen!’ and demanding our execution at the gallows.

There is a tone of condescension throughout. an air of unwillingness to believe what he is being told, even though it comes straight from the horses mouth…Ok, getting carried away…

Let’s start at the beginning.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01pcwzd

BBC reporter Mobeen Azhar meets Josh Brandon, our hero in the story because Josh is a male sex-worker. (Not only that, but he’s actually Male Sex worker of the year, although at no point does anyone mention that. No, it can’t be possible for us to have actual acknowledgement of a job-well-done) (BTW – My heckles are already up at this point having read the description on-line, and their insistence of putting speech marks around ‘brand’ and ‘service providers’. Would it have made any difference to have NOT used them? No..)

bizarre_magazine_42214_7(Image from Bizarre Mag)

Mobeen explains that Soho is the heart of theatreland, trendy bars, great clubs etc. Finishing with ‘It’s also home to London’s sex industry.’ Well, Mobeen, it might interest you to know that the reason why it has theatres, trendy bars, great clubs..is because the sex was there first. So..first request…could you not make it sound like it’s a blight on the landscape, and not one of the main reasons why tourists flock to the area – bringing in their cash – every day?

But he doesn’t like to beat around the bush, we’re straight into how much money Josh makes. A nifty £30,000 (props to Josh!) for a month in New York. Well, he is an award winning sex worker so..why not? Mobeen is amazed by this, but the documentary doesn’t go into what Josh would have had to pay for out of that – accommodation, flights and advertising are the first things that come into my mind. All a hefty sum. And, let’s not forget, throughout all of this every worker in Soho needs to pay for their ‘lush central London flat’. That’s going to add up..

And tax.

Our reporter is ‘astounded’ by how much money Josh earned when he went to Germany and asks ‘Can that really be the case for a typical male escort working in London?’ Well, no. Because that was made by the Male Escort of the Year when he wasn’t in London. He was in Germany..There’s a clue there. Also, our Josh seems pretty business savvy – he’s set up a loyalty scheme, and seems to have a close connection with clients – as we’ll come on to. Being a sex worker isn’t just about putting an ad in the paper and hoping people will show up. Many I know of have great regulars because they’re happy to talk to them outside of ‘office hours’.

Sex Workers get more when they’re in a new place. They’re a fresh face, at it were.

So he goes to meet Tommy, from Sao Paulo. Tommy’s a party boy, who loves a bit of clubbing and parties, and he’s also gone into sex work of his own free will, generally to make enough money to keep up his partying lifestyle. And why not?

Again, he asks how much he makes, how many clients he’s seen…reiterates that Tommy’s already seen two clients today (again, in his ‘amazed’ voice.) And…this is where it gets a bit weird..asks him to show him the money, not only that, but to count it. Errrr…bit weird, Mobeen. Not entirely sure why that’s necessary. Maybe it’s for dramatic purposes, but I’m left more with an image of him sat, pimp like, cigar in hand as he leans forward….’Count it.’

Awkwaaaard Peeeenguuiiin….

We leave the piles of awkwardly counted cash behind to meet Del from the Terrance Higgins trust, and they’re discussing the increase in foreign nationals and immigrant workers turning to sex work.

I like Del. He speaks with impartiality and experience. He also – quite rightly – points out that they’re a charity, so they don’t always see the positive side of sex work. However, he’s not dismissing it in any way, he’s speaking quite positively throughout the whole interview. Unlike some people I could mention..

‘For months now, I’ve been asking Josh to introduce me to one of his clients..’

BACK THE FUCK UP!

HOW is that any of your business?? Why can’t you – as a reporter – go out and find clients willing to speak? Use the might of the BBC to put out an ad somewhere saying ‘Hey clients of sex workers, come speak to us!’. Don’t spend months asking someone to introduce you…that’s both rude, and lazy. And what comes next is just…unspeakable.

And goes a long way to explaining why clients wont want to speak to the media..

(As a side note, please note the way he phrases it – ‘For months now, I’ve been asking Josh to introduce me to one of his clients..’)

So, this chap is one of Josh’s most loyal customers. Bill. He’s an older guy and our reporter assumes he has money just from his clothes. He was married, and has adult children. Bill’s telling him that homosexuality was illegal when he was young. I feel sorry for Bill – of course it was. We have a tendency to take these things for granted now. In a world where homosexuality is open, free, being fought for, no less, Bill comes from a time when getting married and having kids was how he spent the best years of his life. Now he’s older, he finally has a choice..! Hooray!

Oh, wait..

‘Do you feel like you’re genuinely Josh’s friend?’

What??

Where does this question even come from?! Bill’s told him part of the payment is for the company. If he’s one of his most loyal regulars, then yes – company is part of it. But does Josh now have to start asking him our for a coffee? Take him to senior citizen sundays at the cinema? What do you want him to say to this? It seems like such a bizarre question that doesn’t need to be asked. We all know this is a transaction. Would JOsh say hi to him on the street? No..because he may not want him to, and both SW and client know this. It’s part of the deal! Would Josh call him an ambulance if he suddenly had a heart attack in his flat? Yes! Because that’s a) being human and b) part of the ‘friendship’ that does actually exist between a SW and a regular. But to sit there and ask ‘Do you feel like you’re genuinely Josh’s friend?’ just seems like he’s deliberately trying to stir something, and disprove the affection Bill obviously feels for him.

‘Do you think it’s fair if someone called you a Dirty Old Man?’

FUCK OFF. JUST FUCK OFF. Get the fuck out of my ears. How dare you a) ask that, of an old man whose just spilled his heart out, telling you why he feels the need to see a Sex Worker and b) Have absolutely no thought for how any of these questions would impact on him seeing Josh again. This is still we’re livelihood we’re talking about. You spent months asking for a client to speak to, and you practically call him a dirty old man?! I’m filling out the Ofcom form right now. What a horrible way to treat an obviously nervous interviewee. I object.

Bill, to his credit, comes back with how everybody’s having intercourse. He agrees he’s a dirty old man, but I think that’s more because he’s been made to feel that way. After all, his generation would think he’s being dirty, just by seeing another man. I, however, think he’s being rather brave.

Again, another ‘Some people’ question..

‘Some people might see it as being exploitative..’ Do you mean you, Mobeen, do you mean ‘I see it as exploitative, but I’m saying ‘some people’ so it sounds like I don’t have an opinion and we can broadcast this’? Jesus, stop saying ‘Some People’. Who? WHO would say that Bill, who grew up bi-sexual, and never had the chance to explore his sexuality until he was a lot older and finally got the chance buy paying Josh (someone he wouldn’t be able to without the money element, let’s face it) who would say that’s exploitative?

I’ll tell you what’s exploitative. These fucking questions!

‘He obviously feels there’s an emotional attachment than just sexual gratification.’ You know why? Cos there probably is. We do have those, you know, emotions. It’s not all about just opening legs or bending over.

Urgh, and now the usual ‘Does having sex with strangers take an emotional toll on him?’

No. Simples. Can we move on? Seriously, does a chef follow his best made meal out, watch people eat it and ask about it afterwards? No. Josh equates it to a one-one-stand, Mobeen – for some reason – wants to equate it with having sex with a partner. Garghghgh!

Josh explains that he let’s clients go if they fall in love with him. Again, Mobeen uses his best ‘amazed’ voice. Not sure what he’s expecting..that we get married and present them with an invoice? No, Josh knows it stops being a positive experience for them so quite rightly sets things straight. Again, props. He also says – and this is the bit Mobeen really could have taken note of when he was talking to Bill – ‘I love being friends with my clients’. And that’s why you have a flying penis, Josh.

Mobeen seems to reluctantly admit that Josh has it all pretty sewn up. But rather than focusing on the positives of this, we’re back to Tommy (whose only been in England three months, and doesn’t have English as a first language. I think anyone would find any job tough in that situation) who has – apparently – found it hard since day one. Hmm….

I would suggest he found his first appointment tough (only because the client didn’t want to use a condom, so Tommy told him to leave. He did. I’m struggling to find the drama) but obviously not the whole time he’s been working otherwise…wouldn’t be working. But Tommy seems ok to just chuck ’em out.

‘Josh has gone out of his way to portray a positive picture of his work’

What?! Wait.. how? How has he gone out of his way? By finding the client you asked him for? By answering your questions? I have no idea in what way he went ‘out of his way’. Maybe he’s just trying to reiterate that he’s not being exploited, and he’s enjoying his work because you seem so dead set on not believing him.

‘Although it’s tough to overcome my own preconceptions…’

NO SHIT SHERLOCK.

I really don’t think you should talk to any sex workers ever again.

Back to Dell, I’m clam. Dell explains it’s harder for SW to tell friends about a ‘bad day at the office’ because of the stigma. Yeah.. in a way, it’s true. But that’s what twitter, blogs and SW friends are for😀 Dell is a hero, and explains that male SW are very clued up and organised (so are females Del, but it’s OK. I’ll let it slide)

Mobeen has left Del (all too soon, I want Del! I want Del!) and says he met one escort in a cafe who begged him for money, saying he’d do anything for a tenner so he could get a hit of meth. Well – and this is not a great leap here – I would say, Mobeen, that you met up with a drug addict there, not a sex worker. Drug addict. You can tell because he would have probably stabbed his gran if he had the option.

And now we’re on to part two where we’re going to ‘see the bad side of escorting’

WHAT?! You mean… you’ve been trying to portray the good side all this time?! This was you being positive?!

Poor Josh just doesn’t seem to stand a chance. You’ve accused him of ‘going out of his way’ and being ‘evangelical’ about the positive side. Maybe he has to be, because you’re not listening to him. Because he knows that ALL reporters try and spin sex work into a negative.

Jesus, I don’t think I can stand part two. Not when there’s been absolutely no recognition of the positive aspects..

And note – part 1 = 20 mins. Part 2 = 30 minutes.

Yeah, really fair and impartial, that.

Part two opens in the HIV clinic. Josh reiterates he always uses protection and seems in fine feckel throughout the whole thing. Maybe this wont be so bad after all! Oh…wait…

Mobeen’s spoken to a nurse and he has the audacity to say ‘But surprisingly, a majority it seems, are keeping safe!’

Oh DO FUCK OFF!!! Of course they are!!! Sex workers aren’t stupid, or willing to risk their health! ‘SURPRISINGLY….’ what’s so surprising about it?! Do tell me.. WHY IS IT SURPRISING? Why is it SURPRISING to YOU?!

Micheal, the nurse who sounds like Morrissey, says he hasn’t seen a rise in HIV with the sex workers/gay porn star etc..but he has in the general clinic.

HA!!

WE WIN!!

Fuck yeah!! Go Sex Workers and your sexual safety! High fives all round!!

The rest of you gen-pop, USE MORE CONDOMS!

Urgh, now we’re on to bare-backers. Mobeen goes to the internet for bare-back sex. He wants to know how many will do it so he makes calls. Well done rent boys, and especially the one who hangs up and gave him the lecture! ‘Now, if you want to look at that positively’… yes, yes I do, because you obviously don’t. It shows that when you call them up they say they’ll do it. But…well, some can be tricksy little hobbitses, and not always keep their promises…

But no, instead of saying ‘Hey, only a few said yes’, he’s gone to the safety of sex work bashing and focusing on those 12…Why didn’t he go to the one who gave him the lecture?!

Nope, he’s gone off to Paris for the obligatory sob story…from a guy who didn’t see he had any other option as he had a medical condition, so couldn’t work. Finding himself in a job he didn’t enjoy, he took to drugs.

Seriously. This could be about any job. I don’t know anyone who gets through a job they don’t enjoy without something. My call centre days are a blur of ‘2 4 £5’ bottle of pinot.

Anyway, he’s addicted, and still has to sell sex. But can’t be too down on it if he keeps going back and fourth between London and Paris. To me, this all seems more like a damning indictment on the health care industry and the lack of decent rehab for the poor guy, rather than sex work itself.

Josh is back, and he’s got it sorted. Clever boy has his exit plan all sorted. Sex work is WORK after all. Personally, I think that whole part could have been a documentary in and of itself..!

Another sex work entrepreneur explains about ‘Hook-ap’. Another guy I’m liking, completely shot down by a question of morality.

Urgh.

Seriously, this app, and this guy, sounds so much more interesting than that question deserves!

Ohhh maaaaan… Josh is taking Mobeen to meet his family. I don’t want to listen anymore😦

I have every faith in Josh and his family, but if this goes the same way as the interview with the client..then…

Before I can finish the thought, Josh snr has his head totally screwed on, and Mobeen could seriously learn from him. Same as the brother. But the ‘Some People..’ questions are back! *Takes a shot*

‘Some people would say it’s irresponsible..

Some People…

Some People…

But where are those people? Where have those people been throughout this whole documentary? ALL the people (bar the French guy who hates escorting so much he does it in both London AND Paris) have pretty much said ‘It’s good, I like it.’ Or ‘Let them do it if they want to’.

These ‘Some People’ of which you speak…they’re not sex workers. We are, and we’re fine. YOU, however, seriously need to look at your prejudices before making a documentary like this. srsly

Penultimate word goes to Del, who wants more sex workers to pay taxes. Fair enough Del, some do, some don’t. I can say the same about a lot of self-employed professions. But he points out that in order to do that, they need to feel like they’re more free to do so. Good point.

Mobeen seems to have gotten the point, at last. He’s seen the days of pimps and managers are dwindling as we manage ourselves via the internet. This seems like one drop in the ocean though…his condescension throughout the whole thing has left a big black mark.

Finally to Jos-

Oh no… a ‘Some People…’ question.

*Takes a shot*

This was painful to listen to. Sex worker or not, I could still hear the tone of voice, the attitude, the condescension throughout, and it made me…not angry, just annoyed. Annoyed that even with a whole hour of people saying ‘Hey, we quite like it’, the BBC still think they can that this was ‘balanced and un-biased’ programming. That even a podcats about sex work has to be filled with ‘Some people would say…’ questions, without actually talking to ‘Some People’ to see if they would say it. And when they do talk to ‘Some People’ they don’t actually say it at all.

The rudeness to the client, the shock at finding out more gen-pop has HIV than sex workers. The leading questions. The sweeping statements. All of it…just…

Close your moth, your prejudice is showing.


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