From stripper to dominatrix: I've worked in the sex industry for 25 years

‘How did you get into this?’ That’s the question I was asked most often during my time working in strip clubs. Other popular queries included: ‘How does your boyfriend/mother feel about you being a stripper?’, ‘Do you do extras?’, and ‘How do you cope in those heels all night?’ The problem with being asked how I got into stripping was the implication there was something wrong with my career choice – I resented being asked. Usually I would change the subject or, when pushed, tell them how naughtiness was innate in me, that the word ‘whore’ ran right through my spine, like Blackpool through a stick of rock. But my job as a stripper began the way most jobs did in 1995: I answered a newspaper advertisement. It said: ‘Dancers wanted. You will earn up to £600 a night. No experience necessary.’

Pornography doesn’t need to be a dirty word

Walking into shot, I pause to exclaim over the delicate beauty of a small china vase, before pushing my hand deep into its recesses. The script dictates I must then struggle and wriggle for 10 minutes to extricate my hand. Ten minutes is an eternity. I try not to watch the clock on the wall. I look out of the window, at the passing commuters, and vaguely wonder if, when they hear the word pornography, they could ever imagine this. I wonder how and why the chap who’s paying for this clip became interested in women getting their hands stuck in vases; all my porny friends have also been asked to make this film. Did his mother get her hand stuck at a time that coincided with his first erection? Does the vase represent a vagina, a throat, a urethra? But sometimes a vase is just a vase.

My Body is my Business

My Body is my Business follows the life of Clara - a fictionalised version of the author herself – as she travels through a 25 year career in the sex industry. Clara leaves Oxford University to become a stripper, then moves through webcam work, porn, OnlyFans, chat lines and domination, while a succession of men come and go "Sex workers aren’t allowed to tell their stories. We are allowed to be victims or survivors, but never real, three dimensional characters. The rest of the world want to save us, then condemn us to minimum wage slavery and obscurity. Perhaps that isn’t always the boon and the delight people like to believe. I’m well-spoken and well-educated and have chosen to sell my body out of desire, not desperation. We live in an age that’s pro-sexuality, but weirdly anti-sex: fancy whomever you please, that’s encouraged, just don’t talk to them, touch them, ask them out, take pictures of them. This book is the antidote to all of that."

We Don’t Need No Education

Melissa Todd makes the case against sending kids to school. I’m enjoying the way we’re all in agreement now, post-Covid, that education should be voluntary, a suggestion I’ve been making for decades. Only people who want to be taught should be. For most people, after all, education is a mocking cruelty, teaching them only what they’ll never have. Study hard, be patient, diligent, learn self-control, delayed gratification, fail anyway. Their near-inevitable floundering has nothing to do with the

Research Copyrighted Characters

Who owns the famous characters of literature? Could you write a novel in which Dracula begins a tempestuous affair with Jane Eyre, their luxurious liaisons financed by Shylock, their every whim anticipated and met by the unflappable Jeeves? I’d read that. But would the work be legal? There are no easy answers here, no straightforward guidelines, and the situation is compounded when considering international markets. In the US, for example, authors’ inventions and claims to them tend to be guard

Melissa vs Matthew: DFLs and DFAs – benefiting Thanet or not?

Last week Matthew and Melissa debated the merits of the grammar school system. Melissa was firmly against, Matthew in favour. Our poll shows that just under 52% of you agreed with Melissa, 46% with Matthew and the remainder undecided. This week’s debate looks at the migration of people to Thanet, from London (DFL – Down from London) and further afield (DFA – Down from Anywhere). Recently I met a chap who’d moved from London to Ramsgate a few years back. “Wonderful area, wonderful views”, he s

The Best Advice I've Ever Received

At birth, we become writers. The moment our lungs fill with air, we gain an idea of desire, which is plot in its simplest form. Someone wants something. That’s a story. And of course, along with our story we crave an audience to hear and respond to us. In a year or so we have some rudimentary idea of sentence structure, and then we’re unstoppable. Invention is easy. Writing is easy. We tell ourselves stories all day long. She’s snappy because she’s jealous of me; he’s carrying flowers because he


I got shortlisted for an award recently. Kent columnist of the year. Feels weird to be talking about it, borderline indecent, but I’ll have to get used to it, because they sent me a giant cardboard oblong that screams #KPBA FINALIST and asked me to make some “creative content” with it, then plaster the resultant images over those new-fangled time-wasters, Twitter, TikTok and the like. I’m keen to oblige, but giant oblongs don’t make me feel creative, and anyway, screaming “Look at me! Aren’t I c

An Inspiration

About 6 o’clock, just as Melanie came to the end of her day’s work and grew aware that she was hungry, someone knocked at her door – a timid knock, signalling someone of no importance. She went to open, and saw a small, thin girl, bespectacled, earnest, holding a clipboard. “Please, if you have a moment, I’d like to talk to you about a lottery for the RNIB, to help the blind, you know – only £1 a week, and you can win up to £25000!” The speaker appeared to be about thirty; she was dressed with


“Write about anything!” said the email, and at the word “anything”, my mind wandered away. When you can have anything, there’s only one thing left to want: the joy of being denied it. The masochist knows this, and writers are all masochists. Why else devote your days to a task so hard and thankless? I took to twitter to ask for inspiration – I’m insanely lazy – and some wag suggested I write about inspiration. So here goes. We tend to associate creativity with freedom, but often creativity thri

Spotlight Charles Darwin

It’s more than 160 years since The Origin of Species was published, but its legacy continues to resound and ricochet like a stubborn genetic mutation. Written predominantly at Down House in Kent, it came to encapsulate and represent a staggering cultural shift, with transformative implications for art and literature. Suddenly science, not God, could be found at the centre of creation, so that creatives had to relearn everything they’d ever known overnight. Today’s equivalent might be our suddenl

Spotlight Karl Marx

Thus spoke Karl Marx, on the distorting, alienating power of wealth, when it becomes omnipotent in human relationships. It’s an illuminating quote, which reflects and represents much of Marx’s thinking around capitalist economic systems, and the profound and negative impact they have on society. Marx is a difficult thinker to read and understand, in part because of the extraordinary breadth of topics he covered, much of it taking the guise of commentary on contemporary historical events and phi