Clarke Hayes

Sex and Society: A short visit to hell

The reality of the sex industry is no fantasy

Several years ago, in another lifetime it seems, I played a porn star. In fact I played the Pornstar, in a fairly successful little two-hand play called The Dyke and the Pornstar. The piece gained a deserved reputation for being daring, risqué, even provocative. It was described by one critic as being ‘artfully performed, and sexy as hell’ and it was nominated for something called a UK Freedom Award. (We didn’t win.)

Though it played unashamedly on the tactic of shock and awe, we in the company were often surprised that our appreciative, though often embarrassed, audiences overlooked the underlying theme of the piece — the loneliness and emotional fragility of the outwardly confident Pornstar, suffering the guilt attached to being a sex worker. Such was the general misunderstanding that I was often assumed to be a sex worker myself.

Even people who got the point assumed that I must have had at least some experience in the sex industry. This was illustrated after a Sunday matinée of The Dyke and the Pornstar at the Sydney Mardi Gras festival, when our stage manager arrived in my dressing-room with a note addressed to ‘The Pornstar’. The writer, Sarah, told me that she had never been more moved by any performance she had ever seen and had spent most of the play in tears. She wished to talk to me about it, and enclosed her telephone number.

I rang Sarah. She turned out to be a dominatrix with her own sex establishment in a rundown part of the city (‘We have to keep a low profile, I’ve been raided more than once’). Did I wish to visit and talk more about the play? You bet — you can’t buy that sort of research! I thought.

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