Going to the Chapel of Lust

It's a (marshmallow) peep show

The last time I went to a bridal shower, I had to miss the Folsom Street Fair.

While my friends and partners were waving their freak flags high in leather and latex, I was in Pennsylvania, sipping weak cocktails in a drafty Martha Stewart-inspired barn and trying to explain my life to people. It was hard to find a way to answer questions about sex work that didn’t get the day sidetracked by a scandalized cousin.

It was stuffy and WASP-y, yet also managed to take the title for “event with the weirdest, edgiest activity I’ve ever seen”: The bride and groom sat in front of the dozens of guests as the groom’s mother interrogated them about how well they knew one another. For each question they got wrong, they had to place a marshmallow in their mouth, which resulted in quite the predicament. (This was much too much drool and gagging for a family event.) I’m pretty sure I was only person in the room who was creeped out by the casually incestuous public humiliation scene unfolding before us, yet I still felt like the weird guest from crazy, kinky San Francisco.

Last weekend, I attended the first shower since the marshmallow incident. The girl who I consider my sister even though we don’t share one drop of blood — save for the couple of times one of us had to fish bloody makeup sponges out of the other’s vagina after an appointment where one of us had, once again, successfully convinced another client that whores never menstruate — is getting married in June.

Alongside her big, Jewish family and the ragtag collection of perverts, pin-up girls, and prostitutes who continued to show up even after she stopped working, we celebrated inside the beating heart of the city that brought us together.

I met my ho-sister within my first few months of dancing naked in North Beach. She was backstage taking a pack of adult-sized diapers out of her locker in preparation for her shift in the “Private Pleasure” booth, where we negotiated private fetish shows with patrons from behind a glass window. She had mastered the fetish hustle, and her latest expertise was in the AB/DL (Adult Baby/Diaper Lover) genre — something that, to be clear, has nothing to do with pedophilia, and which is ultimately not as creepy as it sounds. But at that point, I had only ever heard about such things on Jerry Springer.

I remember being struck by how matter-of-fact and unashamed she was, and I wanted to be that way so badly I could burst. She talked plainly about sugar daddies, as well as her experiences in the city’s dungeons. Her life sounded like so many of my fantasies come to life; we became friends almost instantly.

I became close to many of the girls I met during my first year dancing, in that fervent, summer-camp way women bond when they’re doing something new together. We navigated the transitions from the peep shows to porn sets, to brothels, and beyond. I remember feeling this kinship with them that felt unbreakable. We were like the Babysitters Club, subverting the patriarchy through our business savvy and becoming best friends for life.

I was naive. I remember how hard my heart broke the day someone told me, “Siouxsie, those girls aren’t your friends.”

There have definitely been fights and feuds over the years. And the truth is, some of us have liked (and always will like) some people more than others. But these are the people we move through life with — the people we see at weddings, showers, graduations, and funerals.

As we sipped Champagne and I watched the bride receive her lap dances and lingerie, I was reminded that while we probably won’t all be friends forever — as I had initially envisioned in those first, idyllic years of our careers — we are now far more than friends.

This work has bound us together in a way that is just shy of sacred. The trust you feel with another person when you ask them to be your safety call, or to look up close between your legs to see if you have any toilet paper on your vagina — those bonds are forever. Those bonds are just shy of family.

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