TOP OF THE SHOTS: My Top 10 Screenshots of my Experience in the World of Dating Apps & Social Media.

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After a somewhat traumatic break-up back in 2013, I re-entered the mysterious, occasionally dark (and oftentimes hilarious) world of online dating, dating apps, and social media. It’s been a journey, to say the least. 

If you’re a borderline-feminine looking male who has the audacity to wear provocative clothing or post pouty selfies; then you can rest assured that you’ve laid yourself out on the metaphorical meat market.

While I am aware that posing with my legs open on the edge of a bath in a latex leotard with thigh-high boots may invite a particular type of attention, sometimes I still find the sheer unapologetic vulgarity shocking – and I’ve worked in the XXX industry for a decade.

So, for your entertainment, I have decided to share my ‘Top 10 Screenshots of All Time’. My ‘Top of the Shots’. I’m quirky, aren’t I? This could have easily been a fucking top 50, so if you enjoy this insight into my life online – let me know and I’ll do more.


10 | ‘The we’ve-never-spoken-before-but-i-want-to-use-you-like-a-masturbator guy’

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Do I really look like someone who likes to get fucked like a bitch? I hate that word. And now he’s given me a complex. Fuck.

9 | ‘The complimentary-but-still-pervy guy’

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What a charmer, eh? ‘Those lips’. Complimenting my lips is this gent’s surefire way of guaranteeing himself a blowjob. This guy’s fake name was Rodney. I found that funnier than I should. “Play it nice and cool, Rodney… Nice and cool”

8 | ‘The i-like-trans-but-you’ll-do guy’

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Trans* people are heavily fetishised on dating apps, mostly by close-minded men who don’t see beyond the mystery. They’ll have names like TS ONLY or ‘NO MEN’ but still message me. This guy can be found browsing Xtube for T-Babe porn in private, whilst arguing against basic trans* rights in public settings. May or may not jokingly proclaim to identify as a kettle.

7 | ‘The my-page-says-i’m-straight-but-i’m-not guy’

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This is surprisingly common. I think the general assumption is that most ‘straight’ men are dominant and want to use feminine men as replacements for women. I mean… a lot do, yes. But no, there’s always a fascination with the penis. I call it ‘forbidden fruit syndrome’. If you’re told enough you shouldn’t want something… you might just begin to crave it. See: Downlow Culture & Closeted Men.

6 | ‘The i’m-young-and-have-been-raised-on-porn guy’

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Aged between 18-24, sexually aggressive (in writing) and would be absolutely terrified of you in person. Will speak to you like you’re a piece of meat, but asks if he should take his shoes off when he gets to your front door. His Mum would be so angry with him.  His girlfriend wears too much highlighter. Definitely wants you to wear the stockings he saw when he stalked your Instagram.


Where have these messages come from? Over the years; TinderGrindrBadoo (from which I am now banned for life), Blendr (also banned), FacebookInstagramTwitter etc. etc. The list is ever-growing, and doing the job I do I am often informed of new dating apps, and opportunities all-the-time.

I’ll often find myself with a nagging feeling to grab my phone whilst at work or at home, just to check and see what the inbox is looking like. As a child of the Internet (born of MySpace), I feel it’s partially engrained in me. Refresh your inbox. Scroll, scroll, upload. Post and delete.

Am I possibly a little bit addicted? Yes. Will I be taking steps to change this any time soon? Probably not.


5| ‘The you-look-a-certain-way-so-i-assume-you’re-an-escort guy’

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£100? Lucky me! Ian is straight-to-the-point with his lucrative offer. This gent has looked at my pictures and assumed that I would consider this. This guy is a bit of a fucking bellend, isn’t he? Will the cost of the schoolgirl outfit be on top of the £100 or am I to cover my own expenses? Questions, questions. I always lose my expenses receipts.

4 | ‘The bizarrely-innocent-but-still-pervy guy’

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This guy probably hasn’t had a blowjob from his partner in months. He’s very frustrated and has heard that LGBT+ guys give better head. He’s joined the app, seen a face he think’s is pretty and assumes that face is his to use. He adds please because he’s a gentleman.

3 | ‘The REALLY-confident-for-whatever-reason guy’

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I found this message incredibly jarring when it came through. I mean, at least he rims… but come on. Note the two lines before ‘Please.’ This guy 100% expected a yes and to have a Uber booked within 10 mins. Alas, that did not happen. Calm down, Denise.

2 | ‘The i-would-shout-homophobic-abuse-at-you-in-public-but-secretly-crave-every-inch-of-your-body guy’

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This guy is the worst. He has no respect for you as a human. You’re nothing but a walking sex-toy to him, he’s seen PornHub videos featuring people who look like you and this is his moment. He’s downlow pansexual but likes homophobic posts on TheStreetsBlog and kisses his teeth at you on the bus; muttering ‘batty boy‘ as you try to walk across the upper-deck without tipping over (because the driver drives like a dickhead).

1 | ‘The this-message-should-really-offend-me-but-it-made-me-laugh-and-now-im-disturbingly-intrigued guy’

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I mean… A poet. A perverse lyricist. I screenshot this so fast that I almost gave myself carpal tunnel. Repulsive. Repugnant. Amazing.


Every screenshot is 100% genuine. And if you don’t believe me, I’d be happy to take a polygraph (so long as you’re paying).


BONUS | ‘The WOW-where-the-fuck-did-that-come-from guy’

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This one genuinely rendered me speechless. I mean… what the fuck do you reply with? Are we going to break the laws of science? Was I just 14km away from becoming the first man to get pregnant? I’m glad that he clarified that the babies would be black, because I wasn’t sure from the 15 pictures he sent with this  initial message.


p.s. The strange adverts below have nothing to do with this blog.

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My 11 Commandments.

1. Avoid any man that tells you he is straight, but you are ‘turning’ him. He is bad news. You are about to be taken on an emotional and sexual rollercoaster that is not worth it. You will repeat this pattern over and over and over and over… and they’ll never ‘come out’ for you. They won’t hold your hand on the high street. You aren’t going to introduce them to the family and the fairy tale will not happen. “This one is different”. No he’s not. Block him. Every time you want to reach out to him, masturbate. Every time you want to contact him, call your friends and tell them that you’re about to. They’ll remind you of how he made you feel. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. This is my number one point because it’s the most important.

2. Nothing in life comes for free. He isn’t your sugar daddy and that isn’t a present. It’s a contract waiting to be fulfilled. He will be so sweet and assure you that ‘you are different and no-ones ever made a rich man feel so special’. You are being used and patronised. Get a job. Save some cash. It’s hard but you’ll manage it. It’s not glamorous, it’s not edgy, it’s not ‘L.A.’ It’s subconscious self harm. Buy your own shit. You can manage it and you’ll love it more. If you can’t afford a Gucci shirt then you don’t need a Gucci shirt. Stop worrying about designer labels and how other people view you. Visit Charity shops at least once a week.

3. If he/she/they give you reason to not trust them; don’t. Don’t be embarrassed to question bad behaviour. Don’t let someone convince you that you’re being irrational for expecting clarity. As long as you’re being fair and have reason to investigate – do it. DO NOT, and I repeat, do NOT let someone convince you that your emotions are ‘psycho’. If you have a legitimate reason to feel insecure, explore it. Don’t bottle it up. It will come out as pure toxicity. On that note, don’t do the same to others. Don’t behave badly and manipulate others into not feeling OK to address it. Be accountable. If you fuck up, own it and move on. With or without them.

4. Try and save IT for someone special. The first time, I mean. As you get older there will be lots of time to throw it around. Trust me. Save the first time for someone you can look in the eye and admire. Someone you’re proud of. You may be 13 when you meet them, you may be 27. You may not be in love but it’ll feel right. Hold onto it because you’ll never forget it. It’s not always that easy but if you can do it, do it. One day you’ll want to look back and smile.

5. Use a condom. Have condoms on your person at all times. Keep them in your wallet, in your sock, in your back pack – just have one to hand. Do not let someone talk you into not using one. Common manipulation tactics are; “it feels better”, “I cant stay hard with it on” and the infamous “don’t you trust me?”. No. Absolutely not. Use a condom. Listen to your gut. Unless it’s telling you to not protect yourself. Don’t be embarrassed to buy them, because the cashier doesn’t care. She/He/They have sold them to a million people before you. Can’t face it? Go online; Amazon, Clonezone etc. Take pride in buying them. If you can’t afford them, go to a GUM clinic.

6. Which brings me to my next point; GUM clinics. If you’re sexually active, try and go every 3 months. This is your self-care day and your M.O.T. Make it your routine. It doesn’t matter if your recent sex has been protected or if there hasn’t been much at all. Set it into your calendar. 90 days = clinic. If you have a bad experience at one, try another. You will find one you feel comfortable at. You absolutely MUST go at least once every 6 months. But try and stick to 3. Be honest with your doctors. They’re paid to help you. They trained for years to help you. Ask them questions. They’ve heard it all before.

7. You will probably look back at how you look now in 10 years and think “I looked fine. What was all the worry about?”. Don’t compare yourself to others because you will never be like them. You can only be an improved version of yourself. Look yourself in the mirror every day and tell yourself that you’re special. No one else can give the world what you can. You are a unique entity and nothing can replace you. Stretch marks happen, everyone’s metabolism is different and your hair will never look like his/hers/theirs. Instagram models are not important unless you make them. Everyone has their 15 minutes. Stop trying to duplicate or copy what someone else has done. Stop looking for reasons to break yourself down.

8. Find a role model that worked their way from the ground up. Try to avoid the culture of ‘exposure is everything’ and instant fame. Reality TV is not real. Do research on artists, philosophers, and your family members (if you’re lucky enough to have). Take solace in the words and experiences of people you want to be like. Make sure you’ve read all of Maya Angelou’s poetry and can sing along to at least one David Bowie song. Your role model doesn’t have to look like you or have a similar beginning in life. Most things in life are relative and can be applied to everyone in their own way. Believe you can do it and every time you feel like you can’t; take your mind to a bad place from your childhood, and tell your young self why you’re going to make it through this moment. Do it for them (do it for you).

9. Laugh at yourself. Stop taking everything so fucking seriously. Most things in life are out of your control, so be a little more laid back. Don’t take it all so personally and try to develop a sense of humour about the bad things people say about you. For example; if they’re insulting your eyebrows… yeah I do look like a patterned rug salesman. Got wonky teeth? …yeah I’ve chewed a few pavements in my day.

10. Don’t ignore or reject him/her/they because they aren’t your usual type. You aren’t with your usual type. That’s why you’re single. So it’s not a viable option. Give chances to people that you wouldn’t usually. You might just be surprised. Sometimes our ‘type’ is a subconscious self-destruct mode we have to keep ourselves alone. You are not better than anyone else and no one else is better than you. Keep an open mind.

11. “I don’t rim / I don’t kiss / I don’t suck” – You don’t continue with the person that dares to utter these words to you. GOODBYE.

How did I get into the sex industry? Part three. Hello, Clonezone.

[continuing from PART ONE and PART TWO]

To cut a long, very complicated story short; Jessica was no longer with the business and I was gutted. I can’t discuss why on my blog as that’s confidential employee information and not my story to share. After Jess left, our working environment shifted quite dramatically and there was now a lot of tension in the air. My focus shifted from selling to work politics. My personal life, and who I was seeing had become a topic of gossip and I was rapidly becoming bored. I’m not ‘a victim’ in life but I know when I’m being treated differently because of how I am. Customers weren’t laughing or dancing with us anymore and the music was played much quieter. A new manager came into the store, reeling off stories of how strong they were, how they’d had people ‘die on them’ and my instant thought was “Hmmm… do strong people have to reiterate their strength or do they just show it?“. Also, if you’re so good, why are your staff fucking dying on the job? I’ve never been a fan of people explaining themselves in too much detail. To me, it reads fake and I instinctively reject it. Let your actions do the talking, mate.

A few weeks of bullshit followed, and on my days off a loyal work colleague would text me informing me that people were discussing the dating situation I was in – including the new manager, who seemed to revel in the ‘juicy gossip’. “What a sad old fuck,” I thought to myself. I still think that almost ten years later. I would come into work and people weren’t treating me the same, I wasn’t included in chats anymore and just being in that store was exhausting for me. It wasn’t an exciting sex-shop anymore, it was a central London retail unit. I appreciate that’s what a head office wants, but I felt short-changed. So, I decided to leave. I made my mind up, sent a text to my area manager and the new store manager, informing them I’d be leaving immediately.  I walked into the shop one evening, handed my keys in behind the till to my colleague Junior and removed the supplier information that I had personally sourced and binned it at Piccadilly Circus. As I was binning it, Alison Hammond drove past me in a car. I screamed frantically at the window trying to get her attention. Perhaps it was a sign… perhaps I need to get out more.

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The SOHO Hotel: Part of the Firmdale Hotels Group.

I left my job in June 2009 and went to work at The Soho Hotel as Switchboard Operator, with my previous hotel experience backing me up. On my first day, I was told by hotel management that I’d be referring to myself as Christopher, not Topher, as it may confuse callers. This instruction was duly noted… but instantly ignored. The team in the front office were really lovely to me, even after I shredded paperwork that was stapled; resulting in what looked like an electrical explosion and stank the room out for 8 hours. I answered the phone as “Hello Simply Pleasure a few times too, which went down as well as you can imagine. A few of the VIP guests that stay at this hotel are AWFUL and treat the front office and concierge team like shit. Sometimes it was unbelievable. I remember one particular man causing so much trouble that the front office manager sat with her head-in-her-hands crying. I wanted to go and grab one of my friends from Walkers Court and send them to give him a clip round the earhole… but I ignored those urges as I needed the money. Not everything is resolved with a fight. Grow up. Jumping from such an informal environment into a VERY formal, controlled environment wasn’t working. I wanted it too but it just didn’t work. I felt incredibly out-of-place and realised my heart was with the adult industry. I missed the shop and I missed the subject.

I had just turned 20 and had decided I was going back into a sex shop. In my spare time, I’d print out CV’s, make my way into central London and hand them out to every sex shop in central London and the surrounding areas. My ex and I were walking down Old Compton Street when I saw that the shop ‘Clonezone’ had a sign in the window, looking for a Wholesale Assistant. I had no experience with wholesale but wanted a job and knew I could blag it. I didn’t know much about Clonezone other than the Moschino underwear in the window and rumours about prostitutes living upstairs. My kind of place, I thought.

In my usual subtle and elegant style; I sent about 15 emails to the email address on the poster (to the point where I had a reply asking me to calm down that and my application had been received – don’t worry). I was eventually called into an interview. The interview was held in a beautiful modern glass office in SE1, right by Tower Bridge. There weren’t any rainbow flags anywhere and Village People weren’t playing. It had a sophisticated atmosphere that I really wasn’t expecting. I was used to sitting underneath shop floors in Soho with the smell of damp and no chairs.  As I left the office, I could feel eyes burning into me. I assume they were aware of just how many emails I’d sent to be considered for the position. I was the crazy one from the Clonezone inbox. I also realised halfway through, that the jumper I’d bought for the occasion was see-through and that my nipples were visible. I felt a coldness from the older man interviewing me and, not to my surprise, after a week or so, I didn’t hear back from them.

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The store back in 2010. Clipping of Lily Savage opening the shop.

I sent a couple of emails again… but no response. Fuck. I’d never been interviewed and not got the job. So, my job hunt depressingly continued until one day (a few weeks later) I was walking down Oxford Street with my CV’s in a plastic folder when my phone rang. It was a guy called Tony Woodward [Clonezone’s Store Operations manager] who wanted to know if I’d be happy to do part-time retail in the Clonezone Soho shop. “YES” was my answer. “We can’t put you on the payroll just now so for the meantime, you’ll invoice us for your time” – Ok, great. I’d never written an invoice before but I’d figure it out. This was my window-in and I knew it. I wasn’t subtle on the phone with Tony, as I wanted him to know how much I wanted it. I was expected at the store the following Monday. 64 Old Compton Street, here I fucking come.

I remember my first day as clear as if it was yesterday. I walked up to the shop (early) and waited outside, watching the food and booze deliveries happen all around Soho. People were hungover, hadn’t slept or didn’t want to be there. I felt like I was at home again and felt really proud of myself for getting back into a sex shop. No-one had turned up after about 10 minutes so I did a circle of the block, to take in those familiar sites again. As I came back around to Old Compton Street there was what appeared to be a guy opening the store, so I walked up full of beans and said “Hey man!”… it wasn’t a man. This was Sue. Of course, I put my foot into my mouth straight away. She quickly corrected me and continued with opening up. She didn’t care. She had an air of indifference which was intimidating to me. As soon as I walked into the shop behind her and heard the sounds of alarms being unarmed, the flickering of lights turning on – lighting up very flamboyant clothing, something inside of me clicked and it just felt right. Sue was followed a few minutes later by a guy called Rob and the store manager, Robert. Rob had immediately recognised me as wandering around the shop weeks prior and told me he had clocked that I was observing everything. I guess he either thought I was a thief, mentally unstable or wanted a shag. I instantly clicked with Rob, over our shared love of Madonna. Who we pretty much played all day, every day until Robert [manager] would interrupt to play a Eurovision compilation album.

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Lady Zsa Zsa (Robbie) during Pride in London. The old storefront and the new design installed in 2012. [Images: Carl@Armadale, elkame and Norman Craig]

I’d never really spent that much time around gay people, so it was an adjustment to me as there were SO MANY social references that I didn’t understand. I’d always have to have things explained to me, so would make mental notes and listen to conversations around the shop. I was innocent again. Just like at Simply Pleasure, I was absorbing everything around me in order to do my best. One staff member, in particular, was regularly quite bitchy towards me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Where I came from, you didn’t throw shade… you threw tables. I had to grow up. I used to bite back quite often, as I was very self-assured and it eventually levelled out. I had a crash course in gay and learned EVERYTHING. Very fast. I was super-impressed with the openness of LGBT customers coming to the till point and asking for things that would shock me. One guy asked me for a product that would “really open up my boy’s cunt” and I nearly collapsed. I was often kept upstairs on the floor of the shop which stocked fashion and novelties but really wanted to be downstairs. One day I had a chat with the store manager about sex toys and explained my interest in them. “Great,” he said, as he preferred fashion and had wanted someone to take ownership of the selection downstairs. He requested that I remerchandised the toys downstairs and make it my baby. It was mine if I wanted it. I did it with pleasure as it was a fucking mess and I absolutely loved it.

Within a few weeks, I was asked to move to full-time and was officially ‘given’ the toy area as my department by my manager. I felt like history was almost repeating itself, in similarity to what happened at Simply Pleasure and I was thrilled. I got close with my colleagues quite fast; especially Eddie (who was to become one of my best friends), Robbie (known as Zsa Zsa) and Rob. I felt at home in Clonezone. I have a strong memory of an older gentleman saying to be over the till point, after discovering I was new here. “Do you know this companies history?! This is an institution. It’s a shame that you’re going out of business”. Suddenly I panicked, as I’m thinking – wait – I’m not on the payroll… so perhaps this makes sense? I’m just filling a gap until they go? It turns out the company had just been saved from liquidation by a company called Libertybelle. The full-time contract I signed read Libertybelle, so I felt safe. PHEW. It had lost lots of shops and upset a lot of people. I didn’t know the ins-and-outs and my questions were often brushed off, as you could tell lots of my colleagues were still angry.

What would happen over the next few months, I’d have never expected. This isn’t cliff-hanger bullshit, I really would NEVER have expected it. 

Part 4, coming soon. 

How did I get into the sex industry? Part two.

There is something special about Soho. I’ve not visited anywhere else that gives me the same feelings of both curiosity and excitement. You never know whats around the corner. Soho brings people from all walks of life together, and its true vibrancy is brought by the lower-working class, the homeless, the outcasts and the artists. From the red light district to the music scene, fashion, club-kid, and gay scenes through to the foreign food institutions; Soho has something to appeal to all of your senses. It wakes up curiosities that you never know you had (Which can be a double-edged sword I think we can all agree.). It was one of the only places on this earth that you can get a £10 blowjob, bump into an A-list celebrity and grab some vegan Pho all within a 30-second walk. Soho is a different story today but we’ll get there.

Soho was again becoming my home and safe space. I seemed to know everyone, the right places to hang out, the areas to avoid and the right people to speak to if you had any trouble. On Friday and Saturday nights, I’d finish work at 1 am and looked forward to observing the chaos on Brewer St, Rupert StWardour St and Old Compton Street as well as of the connecting alleyways. This was before the nepotism-tinged arseholes at Soho Estates group had cleansed the area of its vibrant red-light culture.

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Walkers Court aka ‘Porn Alley’ in Soho. Pics: Luke Robinson & Matt Architecture.

I got to know the local working girls quite well and looked forward to them recognising me. I don’t know why. I guess it made me feel edgy. The T-girls would congregate on Walkers Court, and some of them took a shine to me. They used to call themselves ‘trannies’ so I used that term for them. I didn’t know any different. I had no idea that this could be offensive. There was also a popular club night that used to happen at The Soho Revue Bar & Madame Jo Jo’s called Tranny Shack. Fast-forward to 2017, where I think using ‘tranny’ would cause a few raised eyebrows, HuffPo and Teen Vogue articles. But back in 2007, it was used widely. There was a whole scene surrounding it. It took a bit of maturity and education to learn about the harmful nature of certain slang words. I’m still learning today.

The girls never told me their birth names, other than Shabazz. She had a down-low (DL) love affair with one of the “straight” drug dealers on Rupert Street, which lasted for what seemed like forever. They were incredibly sweet to watch as they behaved like an old couple. I saw him a few weeks ago actually (October 2017) still hovering around the area. I was very tempted to ask him how she was and where she was. I wonder if they ever ended up together? I haven’t seen her since 2009. I hope that she’s on a Yacht somewhere.

You get to know the locals when you spend 40 + hours a week in an area. The people you see wandering around that appear to be homeless… They are often written off as crack-heads, thieves, trouble-makers, etc. Which in many cases is true, but I got to know them if I could. Sometimes they‘d want £2 and sometimes they just wanted someone to talk to. These people have a lot of time to think, so it’s only fair to let them vent if you have 5 minutes. I genuinely wanted to hear it! They seemed interesting to me. Soho was full of eccentrics, too. You can’t forget someone like Snakey Joe. This eccentric man had moved to London and had quickly earned this nickname by walking around London with a python on his head in a sequinned disco shirt or completely topless. If you want to see a photo of him being told off for trying to approach Nelson Mandela with the snake: click here. Snakey was a constant presence in the store, with his loud voice and dancing. He could never grasp how to pronounce Topher so used to shout “TOBBBAYYYY” when he saw me. We all loved him. It was impossible not to. He was the unofficial member of the team and amazing for security reasons. I used to play ‘Rock The Boat’ by Hues Corporation on repeat as it was his favourite song. Drunk people visiting the shop loved Snakey. He’d drink Super Malt like it was water and protect the doorways of the shop (there were two small corridors on either side leading into the centre).

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The MODEL and PEEPSHOW culture that dominated the area’s ominous doorways.

Next up was Maggie. Oh, Maggie! How we loved her. An extremely petite, ferocious Scottish lady with an unfortunate addiction problem  fueled by a series of unfortunate events and poverty. Maggie was in her 40s and her only child (a son) was based in Iraq with the army. This amazing lady used to somehow have a new wig on every time we saw her; sometimes a white blonde bob, sometimes long, pink and my personal favourite  her frizzy orange combed afro. Sometimes she would come into the store chatty and other times distant, just wanting some cash. One day I was cleaning the entrance hall of the shop and heard loads of commotion outside, so (being nosey) I stuck my head outside of the door. Maggie had somehow got hold of a birthday cake and ran past me laughing with a new sidekick in tow, throwing it at the back of a businessman. It hit him between the shoulder-blades, exploding right outside of the Duke of Argyll Pub, covering people outside the pub too. She left a trail of the smell of LUSH bath bombs as she ran. I think she‘d been nicking. To say that I laughed would be an understatement. It took me almost 2 hours to stop myself from creasing. I never did find out why that happened.
Rumour has it that if you gave Maggie some money and told her the bits you liked the sound of in particular shops  you‘d get them for a fraction of the price. (Obviously, I never partook in such reprehensible behaviour) Ahem.

I never asked addicts what they were addicted to. It’s none of my business. I also never asked the homeless why they were homeless. It reached a point where you’d barely bat an eyelid at seeing some of them in the most outrageous situations. The sad part was when you stopped seeing them completely. I haven’t seen Maggie since 2010. No-one knows what happened, and I don’t want to know.

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SOHO BLUES (TV Show) documented the chaos, where you’d often see the locals up to no good.

The Red Light District in Soho was my favourite place to be. Listen, I‘m not going to pretend that all of the people I was surrounded with were ‘good’ people. I was well-aware of their reputations. It’s worth taking into consideration that nothing bad ever happened to me, even when there was ample opportunity for people to take advantage. I was taken care of or ignored completely. I was young and blissfully ignorant. I was often ending up drunk and alone and could’ve easily being led away, robbed or worse. I think most of them could sense my innocence and sincerity. Plus, no-one sits and brags about their illegal activity to a 19-year-old sex shop assistant, do they? I saw a few questionable things, and I definitely got asked to do unregistered porn films and offered money for sex acts. But other than that… it was all good.

RLD

The Red Light District as mapped by RLDM

Ok – back to the shop. Nothing phased me, at all. I very quickly got used to people openly masturbating in front of me and asking for sex. It wasn’t offensive, it was just irritating and embarrassing if it was in front of my boss. Sometimes it was entertaining and sometimes it got dark and morbid. I did my best to always keep a sense of humour about the working situation and often managed to find empathy for people, even if they behaved badly. Human sexuality can bring out the best and worst in people, so I did my best to not to judge. I still try today. Not always successfully, mind.

Work-wise, I was doing very well. I knew it and appreciated it. I took a fortune in sales and my ‘sales receipt’ was always the longest. I was developing my own way of interacting with people. I learned how to merchandise adult product, doing my best to assure that it was not intimidating. I’d always make a beeline for someone that looked embarrassed to be in the shop and get a sense of satisfaction out of relaxing them. Jessica (my manager) would empower me to make decisions; so I’d be choosing new product lines and overlooking the weekly store replenishment. I was studying what sold when it sold, and where items were best placed in store. This led to constant re-merchandising, which led to a vicious black eye from a falling cock pump. Also a dent in my shin from a falling lube shelf. We got there, in the end, though turning the store into a smooth shopping journey. Beginning with gentler introductory products, through to hardcore toys – then through to my department (Fetish, Lingerie, BDSM) and finally to the DVD side of the shop. We’ll get to the ‘DVD side of the shop’ very soon.

I developed a genuine interest in the product and the effect it had on peoples sex-lives. You’d see return-customers coming in monthly, treating themselves to new bits-and-pieces or simply replacing their old ones. I would always subtly ask people lots of questions, to find out what made them pick those products, what more they want from the product, etc. I was building up a mental database of information. I used to daydream about having my own line of toys one day. I already knew at 19-years-old that this was the industry for me. People used to come in and ask for me especially. For the first time in my life, I was the best at something and I didn’t even have to try that hard  it just came naturally. 

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In & outside of the store, with the famous SUPER MAGS sex shop next door.

I was meeting people from all-walks-of-life daily, and going for drinks with people that I‘d probably never get to know in typical situations. I remember having a lock-in at a pub on the corner of Rupert Street with a very famous female porn actress once and watching her get a man to remove a certain “luxury” feminine care product from her body with his teeth. Fun times. She told me I would make millions doing cross-dressing porn. I politely declined. Thanks though. We ended up staying out all night and I had to open the shop the next day, so I spent the day propped up against the wall praying since 6pm to come quicker. One of my colleagues took pity on me at 3pm and sent me home. That’s amore.

We used to have this regular customer who was around 6-foot-6 tall, must’ve weighed 20 stone and was pure muscle. He would always try and have a conversation with me but could never quite spit it out. He reminded me of a Bond villain and scared the shit out of me because he would always look at me like he’d seen an alien. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me or wanted to kill me. One day he kept coming in and out of the shop, gradually getting more and more wasted with each return visit. This happened to the point where he could barely stand up straight and came stumbling in. He came up to the till point, tried to grab me by the collar and tried to kiss me. He pulled me across the poppers, which sent loads of trays falling onto the floor and smashing. You can imagine the smell. In a few seconds, a massive brawl had kicked off with my colleague Steve and a few customers thankfully intervening. I dread to think what would’ve happened if those guys weren’t there. This man could’ve flattened me with half of his palm. He got away and we never saw him again. The shop smelled like Isopropyl Nitrite for hours. The most annoying thing was it happened in a CCTV blind-spot so I couldn’t laugh at the footage.

Another time I heard a drag queen drop a vibrator into her bag from the other side of the shop. So I approached her to remind her she had to pay for it or fuck off. As soon as I got close, she tried to leg it. In the heat of the moment, I grabbed her handbag but accidentally grabbed the end of her wig too… pulling it off and pins out of her scalp. This resulted in a punch-up in the dirty Soho doorway. Oh and by the way, I got the vibrator back. 😉

I got asked for child porn a couple times and both times chased the guys down, with one hiding in the alleys around the old Co-Op on Berwick Street. I managed to grab him a few times, after smashing into a lamp-post but he got away. We called the police, but to our knowledge they never caught him. We got asked for animal porn quite regularly and I was always shocked at how comfortable people were in asking. I’d have expected a bit more discretion when announcing your desire to see someone fucking a dog. One of my favourite things about working the DVD side of the shop (which I didn’t do regularly, as the boys usually had it covered) was seeing what films people would buy. It was never usually what you’d expect; therefore encouraging my obsession with the psychology surrounding sex. You never REALLY know and it fascinates me. Aspects of this industry can desensitize you but that’s something that I’ve never got tired of.

We served lots of celebrities and I even served a teacher from my strict Roman Catholic, Secondary School. I’d never tell who I served though. One part of working in this environment is knowing what TO share and what NOT to share. You have to have a level of respect for people’s privacy.

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Partying at Soho Revue Bar [Photos by DirtyDirtyDancing]

I had a bit of tough time adjusting from getting huge tips at the hotel job to working in retail. I wasn’t badly paid, but it was still a financial adjustment. I would take random shifts in independent sex shops on my days off and used to get paid to turn up at Soho Revue Bar. A guy from the club also took a shine to me and used to give me wads of cash. I’d like to clarify that nothing sexual happened, despite gossip spread by some desperate perma-tanned queens. Queens that had to buy their own drinks. Just saying…  I just used to sit, pose for pictures and chat with him. I actually enjoyed his company. He had amazing stories and enjoyed the fact I didn’t give a shit about his wealth. He’d make sure I didn’t pay entry, cloakroom, drinks and sort me a cab home. He even bought me a phone when I threw mine at someone during a fight and smashed it. We are still friends to this day.

I got used to hanging out in clubs with a fabulous mix of people; celebrities, escorts, footballers, DJ’s, drag queens, TV presenters and more. You never knew who you’d see on a night out, or where you’d end up and that was the appeal. My club of choice was Circus, a night put on inside of Soho Revue Bar on Friday nights by Jodie Harsh.

I also did some modeling for independent photographers. I wasn’t symmetrical enough to be signed and didn’t have the build for sample size clothes, so could never do catwalk or editorial work. My ass wouldn’t squeeze through a 28-30” waist even if I starved for weeks. I sold lots of my old designer clothes and mastered the art of getting drinks bought for me. I did what I did best, I blagged it and made it work. My boss was quite happy with my progression and used to treat me to lunch often, take me on extended breaks and open up to me about her tumultuous childhood and teen years. She was very maternal towards me and I guess I revelled in it. I used to spend a lot of time at her house in Watford. I had a loyalty to her, even though she did behave badly sometimes. She had given me the job, after all.

About 9 months into working with her, I got a phone-call to tell me that she had been very suddenly fired from her position.

Part 3 coming soon. 

How did I get into the sex industry? Part one.

I have always been fascinated with human sexuality and the psychology surrounding it. The thing I love the most about sexuality is the way that it opens up the vulnerable side(s) of the toughest people and allows everyone the freedom to explore. Plus, I like talking about sex. Ultimately your sexuality is free unless you solely get off on the addition of products… which is where I come in. We will get to that.

Let me give you some backstory. I’d walked out of college at age of seventeen, having experienced name-calling that had taken me back to those old feelings of being bullied. We had tried to fix it. I worked with the college (Christ the King sixth form in Lewisham) and the professors had actually put me into therapy. After a few months, it was just getting worse. I wasn’t safe and I wasn’t focusing on my work at all. “Fuck this“, I said to myself and decided I would work my way up into the workplace from the bottom. I was a good blagger and knew I’d manage. Do I recommend that everyone else does this? Absolutely not. Big mistake. But I didn’t have much of a choice.

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The impossibly chic St Martins Lane Hotel. The doorway I used to stand in all day.

I took a job as a bell-boy at St Martins Lane Hotel in Covent Garden after putting my photos on Gumtree, advertising myself as hardworking and ambitious (99% of replies assumed I was an escort). I got an email from a guy called Nigel, asking me to come and meet the team. This five-star boutique hangout spot was the perfect place for me to meet and mix with ‘names’ and figure something out for myself. I jumped head first into the work and actually enjoyed it. I worked with people from all different backgrounds, which was a treat for me. I earned a small fortune in tips on top of an OK wage, I met loads of people I’d seen on TV and made some lifelong friends in my colleagues. My job was basically greeting guests and helping them with bags to their room. I also helped out with concierge too, as I knew underground London spots for ‘cooler’ guests to explore. Due to the type of hotel it was, you’d get celebrities, business people and the fashion crowd staying, visiting the bars etc. It would be quite embarrassing sometimes when I’d be opening the doors to people I’d party with at the weekends. Though I’d swiftly lose the feeling of embarrassment when I counted my tips at the end of a shift. One day I took home £1,400 in cash. I walked straight to Selfridges, into Dior Homme and spent every last penny. After working at the hotel for a year, constantly doing alternating shift work, and having to turn up when other people didn’t bother – I decided that it was time to leave. I was 18 with bags developing under my eyes, so I needed to get out. I had cash saved up so I’d be alright for now.

With that in mind, my friend Leanne and I printed some CV’s out in an Internet cafe next to Tottenham Court Road station as I had decided that I wanted to work in a sex shop. I loved that subject and figured I’d easily make good sales, meet interesting people and work in Soho. This was before the Soho Estates scumbags had gutted and gentrified the area, so it was still a very edgy place to be. You’d walk down the street and bump into cross-dressing escorts, celebrities and young boys trying to sell you cocaine (which would, no doubt, turn out to be an empty and tightly folded lottery ticket).

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The iconic sex shops of Walkers Court & Brewer Street in Soho.

I went into every single sex shop in Soho, asked for the manager and handed them my CV. Back then (2007), there were about 15 adult shops in the area so I made sure each one had a visit. As I visited the shops, I realised how much the product interested me (and how I was not embarrassed to browse them).

That following weekend I was in Brighton with my friends Sessy and Becca. We were sat on the rooftop of a shopping centre when my mobile rang. It was my Mum who had informed me that ‘Simply Pleasure’ had called asking for me, and could I call the manager, Jessica back? My heart skipped, as this was the shop I was happiest about on my CV day. I don’t think that Mum was too impressed. I called Jessica that same day and arranged the interview for Monday.

I remember my interview as clear as it was yesterday, I turned up in an Alexander McQueen graffiti hoodie (paid for with hotel tips – who did I think I was?), skinny jeans and patent black shoes. I wanted to look confident and edgy. I ended up looking like a Spice Girls backing dancer. She took me downstairs underneath the shop into a bit of a dingy basement. I sat on the stairs as she sat on a table, we discussed my skills, she asked me about my experience, am I able to handle the ‘fucking nutters’ that come into the store? It stays open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, which I’d be expected to do. Jessica and I got along like best friends immediately. Abso-fucking-lutely, I said and started working on that Friday. Jessica was loud, strong, covered in tattoos and overtly sexual. She did not have a single apology for herself and I loved it.

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Jessica and I the day we decided to paint the shop neon pink. 2008.

On my first day, I was informed that I was in charge of the Lingerie and Bondage department. Including buying and merchandising. Wow, ok. I had no experience with either but this didn’t intimidate me one bit. I jumped in head-first, ordering a huge range of latex and PVC for the shop which sold out almost immediately. I used to print out photos of celebrities in similar (and sometimes the same) outfits and stick them next to the racks, to inspire people to buy the clothes. When Victoria Beckham wore Latex leggings, we instantly sold out and I began a pre-order service for the latex fashion. Rihanna wore one of our Honour Black & Red PVC bustiers during her tour, Kylie Minogue wore a HUSTLER tearaway mini dress and I got the exact outfit Geri Halliwell had worn in the Say You’ll Be There video into stock.

What I was doing (without realising) was analysing how people shopped, how they could identify with erotic products and what I could do to make it more accessible. I really enjoyed my job and felt pride when I saw couples (sometimes threesomes and foursomes) come into the shop and leave with a bag full of goodies, excited to get home to their beds.

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The girls in PVC & Latex. Using these images boosted sales massively.

I also built up a rapport with the working girls on Great Windmill Street and used to do them deals on lingerie, as long as they sent their customers to us for any accessories they wanted for their sessions. I used the keyword ‘vanilla’ which they’d mention during checkout for their ‘special price’. The ‘old bounce house’ as I called it, used to be next door to a Primary School, (as you do) and is now unfortunately gone. If only those walls could talk. I miss seeing those girls around Soho and often wonder what they’re up to today. One time I got threatened and was followed down Brewer Street, so I knocked on the door for help – and the girls sent their two security guys out to chase the guys off. I used to go for drinks after work with sex shop owners, escorts, pimps and adult performers. The kitschiness of it gave me a buzz. There is something really special about talking with these people (deemed ‘less than’ or morally corrupt by society) and hearing the stories of how they ended up doing that for a living. The ‘underworld’ of Soho had scooped me up a little bit and I felt protected. I used to walk through alleyways and instead of feeling scared, I’d be having chats with people I knew. If I was finishing work at 1am, I’d get a free minicab from Rupert Street home to Eltham. It was an exciting time for an 18-year-old boy.

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Great Windmill Street. The brothel used to be where the mustard & navy building is.

The store was located in such a good spot in Soho, far enough away from bars for people to discreetly nip in and out. I worked with two strong Ghanaian guys; Jonas and Steve, Junior, Dwayne, Rodger (a Dutch south-African tattooed porn star), another guy whose name I can’t remember but he called himself The Love Doctor, Jessica and a turnover of part-time staff. There was a Hammersmith branch which was managed by a guy called Lee, but the less said about him the better.

We had a real mix of customers, from curious tourists that had wandered up from Leicester Square through to pro-dominatrix goddesses. I had a very quick crash course in all the different facets of human sexuality and fetish. I learned to never trust that a guy carrying a leather satchel through Soho has his gym clothes in it… Ahem. It may be something else.

We used to keep a record of big sales by printing out a copy of the receipt and sticking it on a cork-board. My sales were always the biggest, something that I was very proud of. I had the ability to speak to anyone about their innermost secret desires and I genuinely enjoyed it. I don’t know where it came from but people seemed to trust me. It didn’t feel like ‘work’. The mix of staff in the store had a unique chemistry and customers picked up on it and wanted to join in on the fun. After 9 pm, we’d crank up the music so loud that people would walk in thinking that we were a club.

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On the ‘DVD side’ of Simply Pleasure in Soho. Sex Dolls, Fleshlights & R18 DVD deals.

It was in the first few weeks that I had my first ‘nutter’. A guy with very dilated pupils came stumbling into the shop and complained that the masturbator he had bought was ‘shit’. I explained that I couldn’t refund him but would happily exchange for a different product, as I just wanted him out of the shop. He went on and on about a refund, to the point that we were about to remove him. This was when he pulled the used masturbator out of his pocket and threw it in my direction. As he did, it bounced off the till and his sperm came flying out all over the till-point, luckily missing me by inches. A security guard from a nightclub around the corner was in the shop at the time, who swiftly dragged him outside and roughed him up.

Another time a guy came in complaining that lube had given him a rash and it was apparently my fault for recommending it. I asked him to explain what had happened; when he told me he didn’t like the consistency of the silicone, so had wiped it off with a Dettol wipe. You know that moment where you question if this is actually happening? “Do you think the rash is from the fucking bleach, sir?”. He looked at me blankly, turned and walked out. I thought I’d been set up for a prank TV show.

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The Gordon Ramsey affair situation. Has always pissed me off.

It came out in the press that Gordon Ramsey had been having an affair with a lady called Sarah Symond, who’d been ‘seen buying poppers’ (Amyl Nitrate, at the time) from our shop and taking them to a hotel for a session with him. Now, let me make something very clear… NO-ONE saw that lady purchase poppers but me, as I had served her alone when my colleague was on his break. I had packed them discreetly and she put them into her handbag. I didn’t tell anyone about this, as I had no idea who she was or what the situation was. Nor would I give a shit either way. People bought poppers every single day. How had the press found out? She must have leaked the story herself, in a desperate attempt for fame and attention… at the price of a family. Vile. That’s always bugged me, so I wanted to put it out there.

Work was always a lot of fun, but it was work at the end of the day. Managing my department was a 40+ hour a week job and I was having to learn the patterns of stock replenishment and when to introduce the new product. I was becoming very knowledgable about sex toys, and quickly. I was quite good at ‘prescribing the right toy’ for customers and earned repeat shoppers who’d ask for me specifically. I really felt like I’d found the industry for myself. Everything clicked into place.

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After finishing a days work back in 2009.

After about 9 months at Simply Pleasure, there was a management change-up with a new Regional and Area Managers introduced. I also encouraged my boss to hire my best friend Bonita, which eventually happened about a year into my employment.

We will get to what happened next in good time.

Part two coming soon.

…and then Myspace happened.

Back in 2005, I was 14 turning 15 years old. I didn’t have anyone around me that I could identify with and the reality of my surroundings was become more and more bleak. I was different. I stood out, even when I tried to be normal. I wasn’t the ‘chic’, club-kid kind of different you hear about in songs and see in movies… I just didn’t really fit in with anyone. The popular kids thought I was weird, the alternative kids didn’t acknowledge me and everyone else just didn’t really get it.

David Bowie and Madonna had made being ‘different’ seem so seductive, but all I was getting was verbal abuse and dirty looks. People would be nice to my face but I’d catch them giving each other looks as I walked past or spoke with them. I had always been incredibly aware of my surroundings – and it did nothing but hurt me. I wished that I wasn’t so aware sometimes. I got beaten up a few times, pushed around a lot in hall-ways, mugged of my first flip-phone (which I’m still pissed off about)  and earned the nickname ‘tranny’ which people would then prank call me shouting.

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Well Hall Road in Eltham. My first home.

I grew up in South-East London in a town called Eltham. My home town has a reputation for a few things; bad behaviour, ‘white trash’ people, racism and general xenophobia. Stephen Lawrence (an 18 year old black male) was murdered in Eltham back in 1993 when I was three years old. The murder happened outside of my childhood house on Well Hall Road. It’s one of the highest profile ‘racial killings’ to ever happen in the U.K, changing the way people looked at Eltham, and racism in general. I’d tell everyone I was from Greenwich.

I didn’t like my home town. I used to get so frustrated that no one ‘understood’ me that I would sit in my room and just cry.  The frustration used to tingle in my body like I was on drugs and I’d have little spasms. A mix of teenage hormones and being picked on had totally dominated my life. I was extremely introverted and didn’t like attention. I used to dread the queue at lunch time, as you’d have to stand next to all the kids that were seated and eating. But at the same time, I didn’t want to be like the popular people in my year. I didn’t really know what I wanted but it wasn’t ‘this’.

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Good old Myspace.

My brother had always been heavily into alternative music from Death Metal through to Grunge and Punk. I used to watch MTV with him and felt a connection to these ‘outcasts’, identified with their lyrics and I loved the way that they dressed. Through MTV I discovered the show ‘The Osbournes’ where I saw these colourful people that reminded me a bit of myself. I used to browse online forums for news on Ozzy and I saw a pinned post about Jack and Kelly Osbourne apparently being on a website called MySpace. I clicked through to MySpace and signed up. Apparently there’s a subculture of ’emo’ happening, and they all looked so pretty (at the time). This kind of worked for me. The boys looked like girls, so I was already half way there.

Little did I know, that this website was about to change everything.

The format was to upload a pouty, posey photo of you and give yourself an ‘edgy’ name. I picked xDear Diary My Teen Angst Has A Body Countx (a From First To Last song, the lead singer is now a little-known producer called Skrillex) and I began posing for my webcam. My hair wasn’t long enough to be considered emo yet, so I tied a black bandana around my forehead. In other pics I’d grab my blonde hair and pull it as hard as I could to create a fringe. I uploaded a few pics, sporadically sent around friend requests around to pretty people and kind of forgot about it.

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My first ever Myspace selfie. 2004.

A few weeks later, after checking my Hotmail inbox I noticed that I’d had a few friend requests and ‘picture comments’. I was bracing myself to read something really nasty, due to a bad experience where some kids from younger years in my school posted about me on a slut-shaming site that launched on the internet. It caused –all- the drama in Year 10. There were girls in my year that had a lot worse, with photos being posted. But all I noticed was the few lines insulting the way I looked and insinuating I put worms up my butthole. Yep.

I logged into Myspace and noticed I’d gotten a good amount of attention, and surprisingly enough… all positive. I always remember that someone had commented ‘hawt’ and I had to do an internet search to see what it meant. It meant hot. Wow.

One thing led to another and over the next couple of months I built up quite a strong ‘friends list’ (no-one I’d actually met in real life, of course) and a selection of photos that assured I appeared as mysterious and androgynous as possible. My ‘About Me’ was full of angst and was completely contrived, where I described that no-one would understand me anyway… so why bother. Over time, I got used to being told I was attractive. I had NEVER been told that by anyone but my mother. This was incredibly strange but the buzz I got was addictive. Though, in the beginning I was never sure if it was sincere or not. Either way, I felt happy that I’d finally found a tribe for myself.

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Mine and RibenaXcore’s photoshop skills.

One day, I was endlessly browsing through high-rated profiles and one called ‘RibenaXcore’’ who was a girl from Hassocks (near Brighton) who appeared to be ferocious, intimidating and argumentative. She scared the shit out of me, and I loved it. I nervously sent her a message and friend request, she accepted and we ended up on MSN Messenger that night chatting for hours. We instantly got on like a house on fire, as she appreciated my ability to clap-back at any comment she had for me. She told me that at the end of the month, her and a group of kids were meeting in Camden Market, and would I like to come? I was invited to sit with the cool kids. Her name was Emily, she looked emo and we were actually friends. We were going to meet in real life. Was I going to be a cool kid now, too? I was terrified.

When that day came, I remember speaking with my parents in the morning and desperately explaining how scared I was. I didn’t HAVE any emo clothes. All of my Myspace profile photos were of my face and shoulders. I had done my research and found that the ‘brand to be seen in’ was Famous Stars & Stripes, which was not cheap. I found out that there was a shop in Camden market that sold it and I absolutely must get a black hoodie with a red bleeding heart on it. It had to happen. I didn’t feel confident enough to wear tight jeans as my hormones had given me thick thighs and a big bum, something I HATED back then. Now, it’s a different story. Mum and Dad gave me a £50 note to go to Camden that day, (which I would never have expected, as we didn’t have much money) so I could buy the hoodie and have money left over for McDonald’s or whatever else I found.

I got to Camden early that day and found the market shop selling Famous Stars and Stripes. I got the hoodie and it looked good on. I instantly felt better. I slowly walked down to Camden Town station and saw Emily with a group of cool looking emo looking kids walking past. I panicked and hid behind a phone box. I couldn’t handle the pressure in that moment. I don’t think I’ve ever told them that I hid from them – there you have it.

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The day I met everyone in Camden. 2005.

I walked through Camden alone to try and build up some confidence, until I reached the food market in the stables. That’s where I heard a girl scream “TOPHER!” and spun around to look. It was Emily. RibenaXcore. This was it! I put on my bravest face and decided to act as confident as I had pretended to be on the internet. Emily was in a group of people and, to this day, I remember all of them; Yaz, Mog, Hannah, Adam and Holly Enright. I spent hours talking with these people I’d never met before and identifying with them in ways I’d never experienced. They weren’t like the ‘grungers’ at my school as they were very socially aware and wanted to look good. They seemed like a blend of everything I’d seen on TV and I liked it. It didn’t take long for me to have to stop pretending and just be myself. Other than a few tweaks here and here. As you do.

We ended up getting on a bus to Tottenham Court Road and stopping at Virgin Megastores. Downstairs in this huge shop (now a Primark) was a Costa Coffee. We joined a group of boys in a band and Emily had sneaked vodka into a Ribena bottle and was sharing it with me. I found myself (for the first time in my life) dominating conversations with an audience. We got thrown out of Costa that day and migrated over to Soho Square, where we joined a group of older alternative kids that were covered in tattoos. One was a guy called Mike Duce, who now fronts a band called Lower Than Atlantis. I was completely intimidated by all of them, but wouldn’t dare to show it.

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Some of the Myspace gang at The Astoria (now demolished) in 2005.

Over the next couple of months, I went from barely leaving my bedroom to being in Soho every single week. Each day I was receiving 10’s and sometimes 100’s of friend requests. We’d become popular through word of mouth, mostly because of our loud behaviour at gigs and house-parties. Over time I earned a reputation for being nasty and cutting. I guess I was angry at people for kissing my arse when I’d achieved nothing. Maybe it was a post-bullying thing, where I took it out on the people around me. My turn to give it back? I’m not proud of it and I still (to this day) cringe when someone says they knew me from MySpace days. I could psycho-analyze myself for hours but who knows? All I knew was I felt powerful, had people buying me drinks and agreeing with everything I said.

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Alcohol fueled teenagers with easy access to box dye.

Most of our time on MySpace is such a blur because we all went from nobodies to extremely popular at light speed. We weren’t as famous as Jeffree Star, Forbidden, and the other big names but we were very popular. More importantly, we were accessible unlike them. You could easily come to Soho on a Saturday and see us behaving badly. People seemed to want to be around us and we knew it. We drank litre bottles of Lambrini like it was water and there was always drama to observe. I carried a lot of guilt due to my behavior, but at the same time, I’d never felt better. I had finally found a scene that suited me and I had risen to the top of it. I didn’t dare tell anyone that I didn’t listen to emo music. I breathed a sigh of relief when electroclash happened. It was associated with the same scene and I loved it. Phew. No more avoiding conversations and awkwardly miming along to songs I didn’t know.

We got up to so much mischief and encouraged each-others bad behaviour. My memories blur from using hairspray in Soho once, when Lyndon light a cigarette which set my hair on fire; through to being carried by my armpits out of the Astoria for being too drunk, then swapping outfits with Emily so that I could get back in. My friend Holly describes the first time she met me. She approached a pair of legs hanging off the edge of the fountain (now demolished) at Centre Point in Tottenham Court Road. When she tapped the legs, I flipped up soaking wet from the water, put my hand out and said “Hi, I’m Topher” pretending that nothing had happened. I have no recollection of this. Emily’s behaviour had become notorious. You’d often find her with a handful of pashmina’s and a plastic pirate sword, running through piss-alley (the alleyways behind The old Astoria and Mean Fiddler venues), stealing drinks from poor, unsuspecting emos.

There had been a trend for girls (and boys) to put in wefts of black and blonde hair extensions, if they didn’t want to wait for their hair to grow. All of us were dying and cutting our hair all the time, so it never had time to grow. Lots of people had committed to that bowl fringe (we will come to that soon), without thinking it through. Emily was endlessly irritated by these hair extensions, so created ‘The Extensions Blog’. Now… to say that this blog caused drama would be an absurd understatement. This blog ripped through Myspace like a forest fire and earned thousands of comments from angry girls (and boys) who’d found that their photographs had been used. Or that Emily had just boldly name-checked them. She wasn’t shy, that girl and the blog earned her (and me, by association) lots of attention.

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The Nipple Shot and ‘THE Milk Picture’ by Titus Powell. 2006.

My photos became more and more provocative. I would confidently pose in underwear, dye my hair different colours, cut it different ways and be overtly sexual in a way that the other boys wouldn’t dare. Most people were confused by my sexual preference and boys were confused by how female I looked (pre-facial hair). I was treated differently from the boys and differently from the girls because I had earned my own position somewhere in the middle and protected it fiercely.

I broke my own attention-seeking records when I agreed to do a photo shoot with a photographer in Ealing called Titus Powell. I had come up with an idea to drink milk standing in front of an open fridge door and letting it drip down my neck and clothes. I imagined it looking like I’d woken up during the middle of the night. I posed in a Dodgers T-Shirt, green and white starred H&M underwear and nothing else. I was 16. That photograph changed everything for me. It ended up earning over 2,500 picture comments and being posted all over the internet. A company in America used it to promote milk-drinking in schools and it also graced the windows of a gay bar called Vavoom in Brighton. Within a couple of days, other boys had started imitating it. Within a few weeks it was everywhere. The truth was, I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t play any instruments, I didn’t have (or want) any tattoos, but I definitely knew how to create a strong image. I used my aesthetic and my manipulation of it to my advantage. I lost all insecurity in my appearance.

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Me, Val and Craig. 2005.

In 2005, we (as a group of about 25) went to Give It a Name, a music festival day, at Alexandra Palace. As soon as we arrived, the atmosphere was electric and continued throughout the day. Myspace people from all over the UK (and some from Europe) had traveled to the event, so it was a time to show off and further promote your internet personality.  I looked around me and everyone had the same black and blonde hair cuts which was driving me crazy because I felt like a clone. This was not the day to ‘blend into the crowd’. My friend Lyndon Blue was there with his hair dressing scissors, so I asked him to cut in a ‘bowl’ fringe for me. He did it on the spot in front of everyone, I was sitting next to my friend Mari and people were giggling as he cut away at my (now very long) fringe. I remember a guy looking in my face and laughing at me, a few minutes after it was done. A few weeks later… he had the same fringe cut in. I won’t mention his name as we are friends now but I saw you, bish.

Weeks later, I was stood with Emily (RibenaXCore) in Soho Square, also known as ‘my office’, when a young blonde girl came running up to me with a little notebook on a key ring. She asked me for my autograph. I got asked for my autograph. I actually got asked for my autograph. I’ll never forget that moment because we could tell she was being sincere. I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or if I felt sorry for the girl. One of my friends was quite nasty to her and I definitely didn’t prevent it. I couldn’t tell you why, as it eventually turned into a little bit of an internet bullying situation. I’m not proud of the way that we behaved.

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The Bowl Cut fringe by Lyndon.

Soho Square had become ‘the place to be seen’ if you were on Myspace. Its reputation wasn’t just prominent in London, it was known all over the UK. Everyone who came to London would come to Soho Square. But would they be welcome there? That was always a different story. Over the 2-3 years where Myspace dominated the internet, this was where we made our plans, had our fights, met new boyfriends, girlfriends and made memories. I remember a (pre-fame) Adele sitting with us, as Lyndon had brought her out. She was warm and friendly, and I think I remember asking to sit on her lap. Lyndon put her song ‘Daydreamer’ onto a Myspace profile and she’d been discovered by a record scout. What happened next is history. The Adele story doesn’t need to be explained, but it was exciting to see someone we knew, become a world-famous megastar.

The Myspace effect had completely altered all of our friend groups, personal lives, music tastes and confidence levels. I got free guestlist to shows, bought drinks (I was 15+), I got sexual attention, I had both ‘I hate Topher Taylor’ and ‘I love Topher Taylor’ Myspace groups. I encouraged both groups as I appreciated the attention.

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Perfectly contrived attention-seeking shots for Myspace. 2006.

People I’d never met would engage in public conversations about how disgusting I am, how I bullied people and how I looked ‘nothing like my Myspace pictures’. I’ve lost count of the amount of  people that still approach me to this day who thought they’d had an online friendship with me when it actually turned out to be someone using my photos. People made fake profiles to attack my looks and my words. My email account and profile got hacked countless times, I got my page deleted twice and people used to use my photos to catfish other people.

I remember when my friends were queuing for a My Chemical Romance show at The Astoria, I got into an argument with a group of boys who’d made a homophobic comment about me. The next day, I received messages from a blank profile telling me that a group of kids in High Wycombe had a bounty over my head and that I’d be dead within 365 days.

Whilst that queue was happening, the My Chemical Romance production team had informed the crowd that they were filming extra footage for the concert DVD and they were going to be driving a hearse down past the crowd. We were asked to look moody. Fuck that. As soon as that vehicle came within metres of me and Emily, she ran and jumped on the boot, sat gracefully and waved like the Queen to the crowds. All you could hear in Soho was me screaming laughing, cackling and trying to follow the hearse but I was doubled over in tears of laughter. That was the first time I pissed myself laughing.

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On Soho street next to ‘my office’ 2006

It was a lot. I didn’t know why anyone gave a fuck about me, but I certainly enjoyed it. Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed everything or if I am exaggerating. If anything, I don’t think I’m doing it justice.  How do you go from being a nobody 14-year-old to some sort of D-list internet celebrity? It was a very weird time and I really wasn’t aware of the extent of our popularity. I was too young to appreciate the effect my words and behaviour would have on people or on the internet. Thankfully, this was pre-screen shotting days so I could learn from my stupid mistakes without becoming the internet’s most hated person.

I was still in Secondary School for the first 9 months or so of Myspace. My online behaviour had become common knowledge and people knew that I didn’t ‘need them’ anymore. This invited quite a lot of negativity and in some cases, jealousy. Some of my childhood friends felt alienated by my new friend-group and found it hard to understand who this person was. The unfortunate truth was, I’d found something that had put me on the path to discovering (and accepting) the ‘real me’. It took me another 10 years to really understand who I was and what I wanted from life.

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My office! Also known as ‘Soho Square’.

I didn’t go to my prom because I went to Lyndon’s 18th birthday party at Popstarz in Kings Cross. I was 16 years old and woke up the next day in Ealing, at a girl called Kylie’s house. During Give It A Name, I’d met Kylie who’d recognised me from Myspace and she instantly felt like a big sister. Our friendship opened up new doors. But I’ll save that for the next blog.

Myspace had a profound effect on my life, my confidence and the way I looked at myself. I’d developed a strong sense of humour about myself, a confidence in my appearance and an understanding of people from all walks of life. Where I’d felt rejected by the gay scene, the south-east London scene and more, I’d found acceptance from goths, scene-kids and emos. I am so grateful to that website for helping my develop a circle of friends, which built into a network of contacts that I’ve used over the years to develop in work and in confidence.

Sometimes I wonder where my life would’ve gone if Emily hadn’t found me in Camden that day.

Part 2 coming soon.