SEX AND RAGE! is an organisation based in London and led by sex workers, resisting stigma and shame through providing innovative sex education. They run a range of events from workshops to strip nights- all in pursuit of creating safe, inclusive spaces and normalising conversations about sex.

Just by checking out their website, it’s immediately clear that Sex and Rage are serious about what they do. When reading co-founder, Black Venus’ blog post,‘Our Revolution of Love’, her undeniable passion flows right out of the words, through the screen and into the heart of the reader.

Sex and Rage is all about openness- it’s about not denying the importance of  sex, emotion and pleasure in the context of a revolution. Although I missed their latest lesbian strip night as I was playing the role of dutiful daughter at my mother’s 63rd birthday party, I still got the chance to have a thoughtful conversation with Sex and Rage’s co-founder, Black Venus.

Hi Venus!

Hello! How’s your weekend away?

It’s pouring it down and freezing cold. I thought this weather was finally over!

There’s always a moment around February where everyone thinks Spring’s breaking through and then March hits and it’s snowing.

I’m fooled every year. How was the Sex & Rage strip night?

It was so good! It was gutting that you couldn’t be there, next time!?

100%. I came across your Instagram page and I immediately knew I wanted to talk with you, you come across really well online. So tell me about how Sex & Rage started up. What’s the story?

So… I’ve been in the sex industry for ten years. I started stripping and then gradually got into fetish work and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

I’m also a martial artist which I’ve been doing since I was a child. So I facilitate a lot around self-defence, protecting women, and sexual minorities and how that moves into a psychological space. 

My business partner, Gin, has been in production events for probably 10+ years. She’s always worked in the area of activism and has run events for vulnerable people- so she’s very interested in creating safe spaces.

We came up with this idea a few years ago to create a space where conversations between sex workers and non-sex workers could take an educational approach, in terms of de-stigmatising the work, and creating contact between sex workers and non-sex workers.

We take a kind of creative approach, it has always been a space around catharsis as opposed to trying to break ideas down in a more practical ways- starting with feelings first. Although we do have panels and conversations around things like the history of sex for example, we’re primarily very interested in exploring things in a more emotional way because these are such delicate conversations.

Sometimes people have good intentions but they lose it in the emotion and trauma that they feel when talking. So these conversations need to be given a lot of space. We try to think outside the box in the ways that we can bring these conversations to the general public whilst also keeping our community safe.

 

Black Venus: Sex and Rage
Black Venus, co-founder of Sex and Rage. Photo source: sexandrage.com

 

We need to appeal to the mainstream in order to de-stigmatise. You can’t just speak in an echo chamber you have to get to the bottom of things and do that through reaching people emotionally.

 

So we started in 2019 at a space in Covent Garden. It was a week long event of screenings, poetry nights and we had a party at the end. All of the topics were facilitated by sex workers or sex educators. It was mixed medium- so we had meditation classes but we also had bondage classes. We were showing this broad range of this culture I guess- subversive cultures of sexuality. For a queer audience mainly.

But it’s very important to us to appeal to the mainstream as well. So much of our work gets censored, and de-platformed. It’s about asking why these things are considered so subversive. We need to appeal to the mainstream in order to de-stigmatise. You can’t just speak in an echo chamber you have to get to the bottom of things and do that through reaching people emotionally.

People have often seen sex workers as either people that need saving or people that need punishing. Putting us in boxes like this is harmful for sex workers but also for women and  for sexual minorities. All of these groups experience violence because there’s lots of crossovers between them.

So for a few years we were doing workshops and events like that and then recently we’ve started doing lesbian strip nights- which is to support queer sex workers and to support the community as well. It’s kind of  non cis/male centric night, it’s more lesbian/dyke heavy.

Our feedback from that event was that people realised that they hadn’t really had access to a space like the before because lesbian bars are erased all the time– there’s only about 3 in the UK. So it fills the need there, but it’s also for the dancers ourselves.

Being a queer sex worker comes with its very own interesting set of rules that you have to kind of navigate if you don’t fit into the stereotype of what it mean to be desired. So these nights are first and foremost for the dancers, but also for the crowds and the community we’ve seen come out of it- we have very interesting mix of people and it’s so beautiful to bring people together in this way.

 

We have to be patient, because most people have only been raised to see sex work through the lens of it being something demeaning or violent. They don’t understand how it can exist in a more neutral way.

 

Sex and Rage – photo source: sexandrage.com

 

I love that – I was thinking earlier about what you just said- when it comes to educating people who aren’t in the sex work community, and reaching the mainstream. I think that’s such a challenge but it really needs to happen.

Yeah, it’s really difficult- I think there’s a lot of different reasons why people might be against sex work and reluctant to change their minds about it. We have to be patient, because most people have only been raised to see sex work through the lens of it being something demeaning or violent. They don’t understand how it can exist in a more neutral way. In reality there’s violence in everything.

It’s about not seeing things in either a positive or negative way. We try to steer clear from that. A lot of people have different opinions about sex work, including sex workers themselves. Some of them hate it, some of them love it; I think the point is to not judge or prioritise any one of those voices but to just look at those voices individually.

Everyone has different needs and that’s what a lot of sex work advocacy groups talk about, like Swarm and ECP. A lot of politicians don’t get the approach that these groups take, because they’re not coming from a bias perspective, their aim is just about listening to sex workers and what their needs are, as opposed to being pre-moralistic about it it.

So I think we just want to get people to question why they feel a certain way about things. I think doing that involves looking at sex work the context of sexuality in general as well and realising where the crossovers of oppression happens. Understanding the reticence to speak about certain sexualities or certain kinds of jobs.

We want to liberate people from these traditional and harmful concepts of sex and sexuality that impact sex workers most prominently but also all of us in general.

 

Sex and Rage panel talks, 2019. Photo source: sexandrage.com

 

I think the way we go about making change is by not only getting people to question their ideas about sex, but getting people to question their beliefs about everything is general

 

Yep. The concept of sex being shameful is very damaging in my opinion. You talk about resisting shame being part of your main mission. Sensuali is also about de-stigmatising shame. I think our society is ridden with shame, especially for women and it really divides us.

100%. I think women (and I guess everyone) have come to see ourselves in a certain way. A lot of these things are projections, and it’s not just around sexuality. We have to kind of scour through everything in general to understand ourselves fully. I think we have to look at how female sexuality has manifested in tangent with men’s sexuality.

There’s so much to unpack, to really reverse the pre-existing ideas that have been so deeply ingrained in us. Tell me more about how you go about doing that and educating people.

I think the way we go about making change is by not only getting people to question their ideas about sex, but getting people to question their beliefs about everything is general, because so much is tied to our sexualities- not meaning who we fancy but how we express our sexual desires and how we’re allowed to express them.

We should use sex as a way to question everything about our lives, the things we do and don’t put our energies into. So that we can bridge gaps in humanity. 

That’s really interesting, I guess making people question other things as well, helps to reach the core issue of people being generally close-minded. Once you get people to understand that nothing is set in stone, to be more existential I guess- then you’re getting to the bottom of the problem.

I’ve recently been feeling that part of society at the moment is progressing a lot and minorities feel more empowered.  But what about the haters? What about the clients, for example, in the context of sex work? How do they view us- are they on the same train of progression as us?

Is it healthy to have such a divide on how we view things? Just because wfeel empowered, does that help reduce hate-crimes inflicted by the people who aren’t on our wavelength? So how do you go about educating the haters- is that something we should spend our time on?

I think it’s better to look at people who are neutral and haven’t made their mind up about things. I don’t think the change  happens by going to people who are completely swerf-y, you just can’t approach people like that.

You can approach people who are slightly softer with it- often younger people, or people who have been through a trauma process, and are now at the point of thinking about how their trauma has impacted their sense of self. Those people are really important to talk to, because they are the people who will make change. They think. You know- you can’t talk to an idiot.

But there are people out there who you can connect with. And thats how you end up changing wider society. As for the people who don’t listen and are set in their stigma and self shame, maybe one day their children will be influenced by somebody who actually ended up finding a space where they could talk about their sexual desires and the things that prevented them from being able to express them. It’s not about thinking about society now, but thinking about society later.

 

sex and rage: lesbian strip night
Sex and Rage lesbian strip night (2023). Photo source: instagram.com/xrage0001/

That’s a great point, reaching the people who are in the middle ground. So as for you, were you always drawn to the concept of desire and eroticism?

Yes, Where I was a teenager I loved Anais Nin and the beat poets. I know some of it’d a bit problematic now…like very bait now and when I go back and read it I’m like ‘hmmmm!’

Yep! Anais Nin, our problematic queenie. I just read ‘Henry and June’.

The way they approach writing is disjointed but that’s what sexuality and life is like. Connecting the dots and letting things happen. Instinctive writing. Delta of Venus was important to me because she addresses taboo subjects but without shame.

And it’s interesting when we think about fetish – all these things we think are new now, but they’ve been around for thousands of years, so whether we want to look at them or not they’re going to be there…

 

When you start looking at the history of sex and sexuality- people were so different in each era because of how they looked at sexuality, it impacts everything- politics, philosophy.

 

Exactly! This stuff will always exist. I feel like there’s a big overlap between artists and sex workers- I feel that they’re very intertwined. I believe that many sex workers who are sex workers out of choice rather than lack of, often are people who think outside of the moral codes of society, and see past the stigma that today is placed on sex work. 

However, to me right now I feel it’s harder to meet dynamic creatives in London because the city is getting so much more expensive, the people that make it interesting are leaving. How did you find creating the community that you have today?

Now that I look back, it was really difficult from the very beginning. It was only through real perseverance  that we got where we are today.

We had a lot of challenges in 2019 at the very start. Then the pandemic happened, so we did one online event and it turned out really well, we had an international audience; it gave us a reason to keep going by knowing that we were in a literal pandemic and still so many people showed interest and came to the online event.

But we’ve also had support- we’ve had some funding grants. We’ve just been really consistent I guess. I think listening to people’s feedback is really important to us. If someone sends us an email, we truly take it on board and think about how we can adapt. Me and Gin work well together at resolving things. It’s been 4 years now so we’re slowly slowly getting the things we set out to do.

 

 

Sex and Rage, lesbian strip night (2023). Photo source: instagram.com/xrage0001/

 

That’s so cool- congrats! Where would you say that you draw inspiration from for Sex and Rage? 

Audre Lorde would be one for both Gin and myself. Pat Parker- I’m just looking at some of their poetry now! I think I’ve always been interested in mythology as well. So a lot of figures like Inanna-Ishtar and mythological narratives- I like things that are archetypal. Also, Enheduanna, she was a priestess, one of the most powerful women in Mesopotamia. Check it out.

So for me personally I’m into that kind of thing, metaphors. Looking at archetypes and how we can look at things that are universal- that aren’t necessarily located in time and place. When you start looking at the history of sex and sexuality- people were so different in each era because of how they looked at sexuality, it impacts everything- politics, philosophy.

 

Thats so interesting- I honestly never really thought about that in the way that you just expressed it. So for our time period, our era now, what do you think could be improved in the sex community?

I’ve heard quite a few things- there’s a tendency for a lot of harm to be done and that has been done, and I think we need to be  extra careful with our community and with looking out for people. We need to be honest – unless we can admit problems, we can’t fix them.

We protect ourselves, but when we do that, we don’t make people take accountability- I think we have to be careful of that in kink spaces. 

I think anther thing would be that everything is so digitalised now, and thats actually quite unsafe. I think in terms of creatively and what we’re putting out there, sometimes we just do things because we want people to consume, as opposed to taking care over what they’re consuming. 

We make stuff just to put it out there or just because we know it’s going to get attention, I know I’ve done that before- I think we all have done it- but it’s about taking accountability for when we do. 

 

Yeah, I feel the sex industry is in a very interesting place at the moment- we’re becoming more liberated for sure, but also there’s a regression and there’s a class divide between sex workers. I think we should be more gentle in deciding who does and who doesn’t deserve the title of ‘sex worker.’

Yeah, I’ve seen classism, but I’ve also seen sex workers from all disciplines having more conversations. I know at Sex and Rage we have all different people come. And I think that was important as well- to find the common ground. There is something that brings us together. 

 

What are your hopes for the future of Sex and Rage?

I want it to become an even stronger platform. I really want people to see the overarching vision, which is to challenge all kinds of ideas of what freedom looks like, so that we can see that sexuality ties into everything.

I’d really like to see conversation around sexuality and politics, history, philosophy, as well as having events like parties or having really open minded creative sex education. Basically, I want a constant conversation in lots of different forms about sexual expression.

 

I love how you blend the education with the parties. It makes it very appealing to all types of people, and your online presence is really cool looking.

Thanks! Yeah, I think lot of sex that we have is recreational- sex is about pleasure.  I think it’s important to sometimes have less serious events that bring it back to that as well, which is why I think the parties and stuff are good. It has to be fun otherwise what’s the point!

 

Nicely put. Thanks so much for this conversation, you have honestly taken my thoughts to places they haven’t been before. You’ve clearly accomplished amazing things, and I’m sure there’s more to come…

I really appreciate it! Come to one of our events- we have a poetry night in a couple of months! We also are doing some more workshops in the future and some film screenings!

 

I’ll be there.

Check out the Sex and Rage Instagram to keep up with news and future events.

Interview
activism
Feminism
history
queer
Sex Work
Iso

Iso

Author

Iso is a writer and filmmaker based in East London. She is passionate about all things erotic and leads a sexy, shame-free life in hope that she can inspire others to do the same. Originally from a Northern seaside town, she is naturally drawn to the best things in life: candyfloss, trashy karaoke bars and heart-shaped sunglasses.


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