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Yesterday was World Mental Health Day (#WMHD2019 or #WorldMentalHealthDay) and there have been so many awesome posts on social media, websites, TV and programmes about mental health. People have been sharing their personal experiences of Mental Health, the obstacles they have overcome, the battles they still fight every day and how their lives have been affected.
Over the past five to ten years mental health awareness has really come on. The phrase “it’s ok to not be ok” is one that I never heard growing up, people are much more comfortable talking about mental health, offering support to others and hopefully asking for help.
Mental health is complicated. Improving and maintaining mental health isn’t easy, and there are countless ways of doing that. And it’s important that we all find the best way for us to help maintain our own health. That could be playing sport, a hobby, a social group, counselling, going to the gym, gaming, work, medication, spa treatments, baking, knitting, gardening, sex or something completely different.
Sex is good for your mental health? Yes it is, but this is not to talk about sex and claim a blow job can solve your anxiety attacks or is some miracle cure – it isn’t! Indeed for some sex is the cause of their mental health issues, this is a blog post to share some stories of my experiences not to be taken as any advice or as offering any solutions.
A part of people’s mental health is their sexual fulfilment, some people don’t need to have sex very often – once or twice a year and they are chilled and relaxed as anything. Others, they need to come at least two times a day or they get really cranky!
And sexual desire is such a strong emotional need in people, it is hard to ignore. Ignoring it can lead to problems in the short term (until you shoot) or even long term mental health problems if you don’t feel satisfied.
For some people a wank to some horny pictures or videos provides short term relief, but they want or often need something more. They need to not just see someone get tied up and choke on a fat dick they need to experience it, to feel it.
But for so many reasons they can’t – their partner isn’t into bondage, they aren’t aggressive enough, they don’t have the leather that makes your dick drool, they don’t have a dick, they aren’t very sexually active, you want someone outside the relationship to take control and ‘abuse’ you (quotes to indicate consensually), you’re too embarrassed/ashamed to ask them, you don’t know how to meet up with someone who does this, you are worried about STI’s and safety, you are single and don’t want anyone to know about your kink, your not sure if you will like it and want to know its ok to say no I changed my mind, you feel your kink is socially taboo, you feel you are too young / old / thin / fat / tall / short / not muscular enough / too musclar to find anyone to play with, why would anyone want to play with someone inexperienced who hasn’t done anything before?
All of these and countless more are reasons clients have booked sessions with me.
All of these are completely valid ways to feel because they are your feelings – if you think you are too fat but I think you have the sexiest body and I tell you will that make a difference in your head? Probably not. If someone else tells you you look like a fat pig will that make a difference in your head? Absolutely. A very negative one!!
One of the things about booking with me, and I hope most sex workers, is that we only make you feel sexy! And in my job, I get to give you one of the most powerful tools in helping maintain mental health – touch!
So yes, sex workers are also mental health workers in some ways. Most of us aren’t qualified in any form of psychological treatment or understanding, but we are very well qualified in good times, in physical times!
So I wanted to share some general stories some of my clients have told me over the years. Examples showing how sex work has had a positive impact on their mental health.
A common reason clients visit me is they have harboured kinky desires for as long as they can remember. But they haven’t been confident or felt embarrassed in exploring them. This frustration has built up a little in their head, they have an itch … just a small one, but this tiny itch doesn’t seem to go away. So one day they pick up the phone and build the courage to say out loud to someone what they desire … the nerves, oh my god you can hear the nerves. Sometimes they are physically shaking on the phone, they say they can’t say because it’s ’embarrassing’. I always say I will never judge, criticise or mock you and I am the one person you can tell this secret to. I am the person you can confide in and know its safe.
The buzz they often get from that, knowing that someone has said “yeah, that sounds horny I look forward to doing it!” is immense. But that is nothing to the rush that can come when they get to experience it!
I remember a few times at the end of a session during aftercare (which takes as long as we need) a few clients have just sat on the floor / chair in a slightly dazed world of sheer bliss. The endorphins are cascading, they are just flying on another world. And that takes some time to come down from, the rush lasts just a few minutes or hours but the overall feeling, clients have told me that can go on for days or even weeks. That release of emotion and energy is a wave that they can just ride on.
I always remember one of my eldest clients would come for occasional sessions when he could, each time making a joke this one could be his last before dying – he was nearly 90. After his second session, he said something to me that has really stuck ever since. He said that when he is on his death bed, when he is looking back on his life he wants to be able to look back at the experiences he had in his life, the memories of special moments that made him feel alive. He told me those times with me, the ones he could never tell anyone about, those were the ones he truly felt alive and would never forget. Material things are important, but when you are reaching the end of your life you realise that the size of your bank account doesn’t really matter at all … but enjoying your life, “living in those moments” means everything.
I’ve had several people come for a series of sessions, some over a few weeks, some over a few months or years. But they have all had one thing in common … a desire to explore their kinky side. But not really sure how.
When anyone looks at my website, twitter etc and decides they feel confident in paying me to do this it is both a huge honour and responsibility for me! And one that I take seriously, it has to be a positive experience for them. They are starting down a road with a map they may not be able to read or so many routes to go down they don’t know where to go.
To see people come, so nervous, talking those first steps and then seeing them going to some of the biggest fetish clubs and events in the country, to building their own kink lives both online and in person. To see how happy they are, enjoying their newly found confidence and interests in kink, leather, rubber, puppies, big ass toys is incredible. I may not benefit ‘financially’ from these people any more, I have done my job, but I still get so much joy from seeing those introductions did something so positive for them.
I have married clients with families that are their worlds. But they have this itch, something that they need to explore. A place they need to escape to, to leave their daily lives at the door and just let go of all responsibility and control. I may only know them by an assumed first name, they only know me as Sir. But I also know that since they began seeing me their lives have improved immensely, they feel less stressed, less anxious, less depressed.
A little valve is opened every so often to let out all the negative emotions and feelings. These men are so dedicated to their partners they would never want to cheat on them. They don’t want or need a relationship with someone else, they just need some physical release and action that is outside their daily lives – they need to escape for a few hours. Sometimes after a session ends they have feelings of guilt wash over them, but they know I am here to talk to them about it if they wish in the hours, days or weeks afterwards. Not as a counsellor, but as someone who has shared some experiences and has an understanding of others in the same situation as them. But they have all said that guilt gives way to happiness, happiness in being able to continue with their lives and loved ones without worry or compromise. Knowing that they won’t be found on Tinder, Grindr, Recon or having to escape somewhere with the worry and risk of STI’s they would have to explain.
And finally, there have been a couple of moments that have meant more to me than anything. Some very different long term clients who I have got to know quite well. After sessions, we always enjoy a chat and a brew – putting the world to right. Every so often we will be discussing life, sessions or wherever the topic has taken us, and then they just happen to mention I had saved their lives.
One day while at home they did a search on Google for some advice or help, and for whatever reason found my website and booked a session. Then several months or years later after a session they tell me that they were planning on killing themselves. In one case a few days after their session with me.
But seeing me, for being able to enjoy some time, the physical experience and touch was so powerful for them it was transformational for their mental health. The clouds started to clear, very slowly (but enough) at first, but then they just started to blow away. Oh they come back, but never as thick or dark as before. But they feel much more able to work through the dark times now.
Knowing that doing something you love to do has helped people is amazing and something special.
I’m not saying visiting an escort will solve mental health! I am saying, for some it helps them. And I am also saying if you are struggling to any degree reach out to someone.
That could be a friend, a colleague, a therapist, a bartender, a fuck bud, a Master, a boy, a dog (bio or human), a helpline, a social media post, or yes a sex worker.
Whoever or whatever that help is please reach for it. If you feel there is no escape, if you feel that suicide is your only way out please pick up the phone and call 116 123 and talk. You won’t be judged, you won’t be traced, you won’t be told “don’t do it”, but you will be listened to. Before you do whatever it is you want to do please do me a favour, just wait five minutes. And in those five minutes call 116 123 and have a chat.
See how you feel afterwards.
If you need to talk to someone then in the UK you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 any time – any time of day or night any day of the year. Mental health doesn’t have a day off just because its Christmas or a bank holiday.
There is an assumption that you can only call them if you are really depressed, really suffering or even suicidal. These are all myths! Anyone can call them at any time, if you are just having a stressful time and want to talk to get it off your chest they are there to listen. They may be able to point you to organisations or sites that help, but they aren’t going to judge you, to tell you to pull yourself together, they are there to listen to you and give you the time and space to say what you want completely confidentially.
And by confidential it really is, the volunteer at the end of the phone has no way of seeing your phone number.
It’s good to talk.
This year I returned to Folsom!
But not Berlin, which is what most people in the UK think of when I mention Folsom. I returned to the original San Francisco Folsom Street Fair, my 4th visit to this iconic event. The worlds largest leather/kink event attracting around 250,000 visitors (for reference that is ten times larger then Folsom Europe).
I’ve never done Folsom East or Folsom Berlin so cannot compare the events, but I know a lot of my European friends have never done Folsom, so I will give you my guide on what to expect and what is there.
Folsom is very much a mixed event – different kinks, fetishes, fashions, gear, sexes, genders all on display! And that for me is what makes it so great – the huge spectrum of people who attend.
And with that many people attending it needs a lot of space – 13 city blocks near the centre of SF! People say it gets busy … really busy, but I think first-timers can often underestimate just how rammed it can be. By the time I left mid-afternoon the queues to get in were stretching over two blocks! Some of the popular areas of the fair were packed, if you don’t like crowds definitely get in early!
There is no ‘ticket fee’ for entering the fair, just a requested donation. If you donate and get a sticker to wear your drinks are $2 cheaper! The suggested donation on entry is $10 – $15, and to make life easier the volunteers accept cash or debit/credit card.
Folsom Street Fair Events (the organisation behind it all) in 2018 donated over $250,000 to its beneficiaries, has so far raised over $7 million since it started in 1984.
Throughout the event, there are places to get drinks at three types of bars – beer, cocktails or soft drinks. Whatever your beverage preference you can find something to enjoy, and by buying drinks you are also helping to raise further funds to support local organisations! Charitable organisations (referred to as a 501(c)3 organisation in USA) can apply to become a Beverage Partner for the event. If successful the organisation provides volunteers to staff and run a bar, and in return, their organisation receives financial support from Folsom. When you buy a pint you could be helping a local HIV charity or Rugby club for example.
In addition to the bars, there are 7 huge water towers around the site to fill up your own water bottle (free of charge), and there is also a Sunscreen Station to get and apply plenty of sunscreen – though I suspect an optional fee to have applied by a porn actor would have been another a good fundraiser.
Folsom is mostly a social event – show off your gear, get to see hot guys and girls in gear. To see some amazing demo’s – bondage, flogging etc all on display. There is more going on of course – companies selling awesome kit and gear, community organisations promoting their services. Companies you may have heard of, stands include Tykables, Grindr, Recon, Bad Dragon, Mr S Leather, Sheets of San Francisco, Boy Butter, KinkBnB, Nasty Kink Pigs and so many others!
There is a dance arena but that doesn’t interest me at all, so never ventured down into it, but it is there for those who want it. And then as modern events do now they have a ‘Main Stage’ area. It is mostly live bands, some sash queens on parade and hosts introducing everyone and keeping the crowds entertained.
I always advise people to arrive at 11 am, as I say it gets busy! And if you want to do any shopping on the stalls, play with the pups, meet some porn actors etc you need to do this before it gets crowded! This year the temperature was a little lower than previous years, I’d say around 20 – 25 oC. I was in full leathers – so very much a good thing for me! Previous years it has been mid/high 30’s! Which is really far too hot for fetish gear – but good for those who like to wear just jocks or get their cocks out (watch out for that sunburn!)
As any Leather event should have – the Bootblacks have a stand. There is a $10 fee (donation to a local charity) to book a slot and then recommended tips for the bootblacks. Because the service can take a while, and many don’t want to queue for an age they have a great ticket system. You pay your $10 donation and are given a numbered ticket, you can either wait to be called or go off around the fair and come back. Whenever a chair is free they call out for the lowest number, so if you go to the stand early in the day and head back a few hours later you are pretty much guaranteed to be sat next.
While my jeans need a decent deep clean and condition I opted to have my boots done, Unicorn boy (u.b.) did an awesome job – and good luck with the SF Bootblack 2020 contest!
There has been much made of recently about Pride events being “family-friendly” events, and even some trying to ban Fetish gear. Folsom is very much not a family event – and nor should it be! It is an event based around fetish and sex.
The nature of the event you are going to get a lot of non-kink people who want to go and see the perverts and players. It may not be quite as debauched as it used to be, but you could still piss on people in a paddling pool, see countless guys with dicks out jerking off, see guys drinking piss directly from the source or in one video going around twitter one guy over the shoulder of another getting fisted.
Any event like this you cannot go and be surprised if your photo ends up on the Internet somewhere. On the way in they have huge signs about consent which was good to see. And we saw some excellent examples of people both following and ignoring these. For example a well endowed young lad (about late 20’s) was asked if he could have his photo taken by someone, he agreed and posed. Photographer then decided that consent meant he could grab hold of the guy’s hard dick – he was very quickly and directly corrected on that! The lad handled the situation really well, and was great to see him have the confidence to do that. Whilst gear, nudity or attendance does not give consent it is a sad fact that you must also be prepared to deal with people who don’t understand that.
And this consent issue is why I haven’t been able to share many photos from the event – it would be so hypocritical of me to do so. Be like the photo of the old dear watching the Pope go past – don’t enjoy the whole event through a lens.